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The City Journals

Off Broadway Theatre’s ‘Dracula vs. Henry Botter’ casts a spell for hilarity

Oct 04, 2021 11:49AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Henry Botter (Cameron Liddle) and Heardirony (Jessica Duncan) are confronted by Dracula (Eric Jensen) in the Off Broadway Theatre production of “Dracula vs. Henry Botter.” (Photo by Nicholas Romney Brown/Off Broadway Theatre Inc.)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

It all started over 30 years ago when Off Broadway Theatre co-founder and director, Eric Jensen, was cast as Dracula in a parody show at Desert Star Playhouse. The spooky, yet silly character was such a hit with audiences and so much fun to play that Jensen decided to resurrect him in a series of Halloween-themed shows at the Off Broadway Theatre.  

Jensen has donned his cape over the years in comic parodies such as "Dracula vs. The Wolfman," "Dracula vs. Jekyll & Hyde," and "Dracula vs. The Addams Family." This month Dracula rises again to challenge a certain boy wizard in the Off Broadway Theatre production of “Dracula vs. Henry Botter.” The show will be presented on the stage of Draper Historic Theatre throughout October.

"'Dracula vs. Henry Botter' is so versatile," said Nikki North, one of the actors playing Professor McGonadull, along with a few other roles. "If you're a Harry Potter fan, you'll love it. There's lots of Harry Potter jokes. But it's so funny on its own."  

The show's premise is that Count Dracula has gone undercover as a professor at Dogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while trying to find the Vampire Stone that can make him impervious to wooden stakes and garlic. It's up to Henry Botter and his friends from the house of Gryffinmerv to stop him and save the day.

Along the way they are challenged by wizards from the house of Smithereens, especially the dastardly Snako Mouthoff, played by Tyler Newton. Newton is most looking forward to playing a scene in “Dracula vs. Henry Botter” where he and Henry are flying on their broomsticks. “That scene has some fun special effects,” Newton said. “The show is just goofy and fun,” he added. “Just a lot of laughs.”

At the same time, Newton explained, the script also has a message. “It’s about the element of friendship and sticking together to fight through the hard times,” he said.

Tonya Huso, as “Botter” author A. K. Lawlings, explained further that the theme of the show is about counting on your friends. “At the end, everyone encourages Henry,” she said. “You can do anything if you believe in yourself.”

Huso’s character acts as the narrator of the show, setting up the scenes and giving insight into the author’s mind. “I love having a chance to interact with the audience,” Huso said. “I get to break the fourth wall and really talk with them.”

For 15-year-old Cameron Liddle, playing the lead role of Henry Botter is an exciting opportunity to learn about comedy from Eric Jensen. “I’m learning about how to land a joke,” he said, explaining about comic timing and putting the emphasis on the right words in a given line. “He shows you. That’s what makes these shows so good, the comedy behind it.”

As in most Off Broadway Theatre productions, an element of improvisation is involved. “You always start with the script, then the cast members throw in jokes. Eric decides what stays in,” Nikki North said.

“We always have a part that is improvised,” added Jensen. “If one actor changes [a line], the other actors have to go with it. Because it’s locally written, you can change the show. We can change the lines.”

Jensen gets a twinkle in his eye when talking about playing Dracula. He has had to make some changes to the character’s appearance over the years. Instead of putting on a wig to play a Bela Lugosi-type vampire, Jensen started doing his make-up in the style of Max Shreck’s Nosferatu. He acknowledges the creepiness of the character’s appearance, which makes it all the more fun to send him up.

“The show is really made for kids and families,” Jensen said. He remarked that amid all the scary and gory haunted attractions in the Salt Lake Valley, he hopes that “Dracula vs. Henry Botter” will give families with younger kids something funny and seasonal to enjoy.

“Anyone who wants to come to the show in their Halloween costume is welcome to,” Jensen said. Kids wearing costumes will get candy. Audience members are invited to meet and greet the cast members afterwards for photo opportunities.

The Off Broadway Theatre will present “Dracula vs. Henry Botter” on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout October. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East. For tickets and more information, visit theobt.org.