NEW YORK — There may be no better place to perform a new musical based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” than at the Belasco Theatre. According to Broadway lore, the ghosts of theater impresario David Belasco and his mistress, who is often referred to as “the lady in the blue dress,” haunt the theater.
“Apparently I resemble her,” says Melissa Errico, who’s headlining the show, which opens Aug. 19, as Mina (the fiancée of the young lawyer Jonathan Harker), who is seduced by the Transylvanian count. “I’m hoping we can be friends.”
This story first appeared in the August 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
She has already tried the olive branch approach. “I told the ghosts, ‘We’re a great company — you’re going to get along with us.’”
And so far, the mishaps have been minor. A pipe broke in the theater and postponed the musical’s first performance. When the firemen arrived, “They said ‘Belasco strikes again,’” explains Errico, slightly befuddled. “Even these practical fireman knew about it.”
During a dress rehearsal, the set flew off the stage — with Errico still on it. “It went 50 miles per hour. It scared the hell out of me.” But instead of screaming, “I went ‘Ooohh.’ I didn’t want to hurt my voice.”
Still, the presence of ghosts doesn’t make her too squeamish. “I’ve always had a supernatural side,” she says. “And theater actors have a certain madness. God knows we’re not in it for the money.” She points out that her salary for the Off-Broadway production of Wallace Shawn’s “Aunt Dan and Lemon” was $220 a week; for a recent revival downtown of “Finian’s Rainbow” she made $300 a week “before taxes.” (Sarah Jessica Parker financed a soundtrack of the “Finian’s Rainbow” production herself, because she saw the show and thought her son would like the CD. “He loves show tunes,” says Errico. “That was a real Princess Diana move.”)
With “Dracula,” at least, Errico gets car service between the theater in Midtown and the NoLIta apartment she shares with her husband, Patrick McEnroe, a sportscaster and brother of tennis legend John. And at least the producers promised to decorate her dressing room.
“It was in my contract that they would furnish it with what was available, and then nothing was available,” the actress says. So she bought some 19th-century “Dracula” period art at Allposters.com, picked up a couch at Jennifer Convertibles and bought a lamp at The Bombay Company.
Making the best of it all comes from the resourcefulness of being an actor. Errico has had her ups and downs — she was heralded as the next big Broadway star in 1996 with a production of “One Touch of Venus” at City Center, and then suffered a big flop two years later with “High Society,” based on the movie “The Philadelphia Story.”
“I was sorry that that show didn’t go where I wanted to go,” she says. “Sometimes the world doesn’t align with your plan.” She moved to L.A., filmed a few pilots (including Alicia Silverstone’s “Miss Match”) and a couple of movies (she played Angelina Jolie’s best friend in “Life or Something Like It”), but decided to return to the musical theater. Her marriage to McEnroe has taught her to deal better with disappointment.
“There are very few pessimistic tennis players,” she explains. “They always get up and go.”
“Dracula” marks her most technically complex, not to mention sexy, show. There’s a scene, for instance, where she drinks blood from Dracula’s chest. “It’s like a minty red thing,” she explains. “I asked them to add chocolate — I don’t like the taste of mint alone.”
People fly and levitate all around her. “But do I glow or float? No,” Errico adds. “I do a little nudity. I scream. My bed tilts at one point. But for the most part, I’m on land.”
— Marshall Heyman