A silent horror movie classic inspires Crown City Theatre’s excitingly original Nosferatu, A Symphony In Terror, arriving just in time to greet the Halloween season with its stunning blend of movement and dance performed to a gloriously symphonic soundtrack.
Meet Count Orloff, early 20th-century filmmaker F. W. Murnau’s unauthorized take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, bent on terrorizing Wisborg, Germany as he already has his native Transylvania.
Before he can do that, however, the Count (a gender-bending Michelle Holmes) must secure lodgings in his new home-away-from-home, and this is where our naïve hero Thomas Hutter (Michael J. Marchak) comes in.
Summoned to Transylvania to assist Orloff in his real-estate dealings, Thomas soon finds himself not only missing his lovely bride Ellen (Alina Bolshakova) but in serious danger of losing his life … or at the very least, significant quantities of blood.
You don’t have to be familiar with Nosferatu The Movie to relish director/adapter William A. Reilly’s dazzling live recreation of Murnau’s silent masterpiece, one in which 1922 movie footage, Chris Thume’s original black-and-white video, and silent-movie-style title cards (all of the above designed and edited by Daniel Donado) provide backdrop for choreographer Lisaun Whittingham’s inspired blend of movement and dance, both balletic and folk.
Soaring orchestral tracks by Lizst, Berlioz, Prokofiev, Schubert, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Wagner, and more (kudos to sound designer/editor Joe Shea) make this Nosferatu a bona fide Symphony Of Terror.
Crown City favorite Marchak gives his most remarkable performance to date as Thomas, a role he plays with subtlety, poignancy, and grace while revealing classical dance gifts opposite exquisite Lativa-born ballerina Bolshakova as his ethereal bride.
L.A. musical theater treasure Holmes vanishes inside Count Orloff’s creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky skin, and not merely because of makeup that renders her unrecognizable. Holmes’ body language is sublime, her performance a master class in acting without words.
Featured players Shalynne Armstrong, Matthew Campbell, Shayna Gabrielle, Kristian Steel, Rolando J. Varga, and Amanda Walter bring to life (and death) assorted villagers, voyagers, and vagabonds. (That the entire cast manage to time their movements to match title cards only we in the audience can see merits an extra round of applause.)
Zad Potter lights his simple but effective black-on-black set (scenic painting by Joanne McGee) with dramatic panache. (The blood-red effects are particularly striking.) Tanya Apuya’s costumes are equally imaginative, from peasant wear to vampire chic.
A prerecorded Saige Spinney narrates with ominous flair. Maddie Seiffert is swing. Original video design is by Chris Thume. Potter is stage manager. Michael Pammit is house manager.
As overused as the adjective “unique” may be, in the case of Nosferatu it most definitely applies. This one-of-a-kind Symphony In Terror is not to be missed.
Crown City Theater, St. Matthew’s Church, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.
September 8, 2016
Photos: Chris Thume