In a busy theatre season that started with astounding performances of such legendary shows as Les Misérables, Hair and Equus, does an all-new original adult-themed musical even have a chance?
You bet your sweet ass it does. It’s the big gay musical we’ve all been waiting for.
How could it not be a hit with such attractions like a gay vampire, a flight-less tap dancing bat, a brief cameo appearance by some space bears and a whole lot of sex, blood and rock and roll.
Raise The Stakes, a new R-rated musical comedy assembled by Windsorites Taylor Lavigne and Mike Karloff held its world premiere at Olde Walkerville Theatre on Thursday night and the duo has created a monster.
So grab your balls (or the balls of the person closest to you) and get ready for the ultimate, most uninhibited theatre experience Southwestern Ontario has ever seen. It’s a play that climaxes in all the right places and I’m confident it will leave you feeling satisfied on all accounts.
The story centres around four Gargoyles who tell the “real” story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. They sit atop the Count’s castle and guide the audience through a gay Broadway musical romp. And that’s actually how it all begins, with the outstanding musical dance number Big Gay Musical – a routine which borrows slightly from the opening dance sequence in The Producers. It’s big, bold and absolutely bloody brilliant.
After a bit, we get introduced to Dracula, the undead vampire who’s looking forward to his reawakening. But it turns out Drac isn’t the same monster we’ve been accustomed to – he’s gay and proud of it. Drac ends up falling for Jonathan, a bus boy who came to the castle to kill him – and that’s when Drac’s world starts to collapse. Around him are many of the characters we’ve known over the years, like Van Helsing, Mina and Jonathan, but there’s also new additions like the insatiable man-bat Pookie, who’s about as flamboyant as they come.
Raise The Stakes is loaded with plenty of well-written original musical numbers by genius Mike Karloff, a University of Windsor music faculty member and the music director behind the popular St. Clair College Music Theatre Program. Mike left nothing to chance and gives the audience everything it could possibly imagine in one evening – it’s like having a musical orgasm.
Along with Big Gay Musical, watch for soon to be classic sing-alongs like Pookie, Raise The Stakes, Bad Ass Bitch and the humourous ballad The Monster In Me. The songs, combined with stunningly crafted choreography from Kristyn Wiklanski, give the show an Evil Dead, South Park and Rocky Horror vibe.
It’s the kind of show we should expect to see at Mirvish in Toronto at some point. It’s that damn good.
When we left Olde Walkerville after it was over, I had a feeling we just witnessed the beginning of a new kind of Rocky Horror Show – something much bigger than Windsor, Toronto or even Canada can hold back. It must have been how the very first audience felt the first time they saw Rocky Horror at the Royal Court’s 63-seat Theatre in 1973. They had no idea what was “coming” their way and judging by the endless laughs, thunderous cheers and blushing faces, the Olde Walkerville Theatre crowd was just as surprised by what they saw.
Director Taylor Lavigne has written and assembled a timeless comedy masterpiece that Windsor will be talking about for years. It takes an eclectic genius to write and coordinate such a work and after watching the first night of Raise The Stakes, Taylor is worthy on all accounts.
The cast and crew behind this production were flawless, entertaining and masterful. There is absolutely nothing to complain about.
It was truly an ensemble piece and a celebration for all involved, but I’d be remiss if shout outs didn’t go to the four gargoyles who led us through the entire show (James Neely, Eric Branget, Natalie Culmone and Chelsea Jayne Bray), as well as Dracula (Pierre Angelo Bayuga), Pookie (Greg Carruthers), Van Helsing (Anthony Botelho). Mina (Morganna Sneddon), Igor (Chris Vergara) and Lucy (Emma Heidenheim).
And, yup, we agree with Bram – Space Bears Rule!
Original theatre doesn’t get much better than this and thanks to Taylor and Mike, Windsor gets to experience it first. The show runs for another six nights (Oct. 19 to 21 and 25 to 27). Tickets start at $27 (plus service charges) and are available online at oldewalkervilletheatre.com.