'Dracula' finds his funny bone at Apple Hill Playhouse

Musical puts new twist on an old tale at Apple Hill theater in Delmont

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You've heard of method actors, who immerse themselves in their characters to get ready for their roles.

In the Apple Hill Playhouse's production of "Dracula: The Musical?," Greensburg resident Andy Meholick plays Boris Renfield, an enthusiastic sort who has a penchant for devouring insects.

"Have I eaten bugs to prepare?" Mr. Meholick said prior to a weekend rehearsal. "Perhaps."

A few minutes later, he was on stage, giving the distinct impression that, yes, he was plucking a random arachnid off the floor and popping it into his mouth, before breaking into song about the wonders of New Jersey.

This is not Bram Stoker's "Dracula." It's the work of humorist Rick Abbot, and the comedic musical has become a Halloween favorite at Delmont's Apple Hill.

"It seems to be popular because it's a bunch of crazy, campy fun," said Joe Milliren of Irwin, director and choreographer for the show, which opens tonight and runs through Nov. 3.

"Dracula: The Musical?" closes Apple Hill's 2013 season with a production that features a mix of veteran performers and an influx of talent from the theater and music programs at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

Mr. Meholick, who also is production facilitator and front-of-house manager for Apple Hill, graduated from Seton Hill in May.

Fellow cast members Megan Henderson, Emily Urbaniak and Mike Hamilla -- he plays the title role -- now attend the university, as do stage manager Nick Totin and lighting designer Anna Provo.

Leechburg resident Rob Stull, a Seton Hill alumnus and faculty member, is musical director and Jessica Orlowski of New Kensington, who plays the onomatopoeically named Bubu Badoop, is another graduate of the university.

Pat Beyer, Apple Hill's owner and executive producer, studied drama at Seton Hill. She encourages the relationship that has developed between the college and community theater group.

"It's a good place to play, to try out something else in a non-threatening environment," she said of the opportunities for students and alumni.

In fact, Miss Henderson, Miss Urbaniak and Mr. Hamilla all started work on the spoof that is "Dracula: The Musical?" while performing Seton Hill's recent production of Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors."

Other "Dracula" cast members include Kim Hart of Greensburg and Rozella Hoffman of Latrobe as a couple who run a mental institution in 19th-century England.

"Count Dracula has moved in across the way," Mr. Milliron said, "and they've invited him to dinner."

Also showing up is vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing, played by Mike Marra of Lower Burrell.

"I think it's billed as 'riotously funny,' complete with one-liners and groaners," Mr. Milliron said about the play. He also directed Apple Hill's first performance of the play, some two decades ago.

Apple Hill Playhouse has been a Delmont fixture for nearly six decades, still based in the renovated pre-Civil War barn that started new life as the William Penn Playhouse.

Many of the theater company's resources go into maintaining and improving the facility.

"It's just a work in progress for the entire building," said Ms. Beyer, noting that the latest improvement is a covered porch built this year. The placement of the porch improves access to the theater and provides a sheltered outdoor spot for intermission, along with other uses.

For several decades, Apple Hill has joined with the nearby Lamplighter restaurant on Route 22 in Delmont to offer meals before the show, dating back to when "the dinner theater ticket was $3.80 or something," recalled Ms. Beyer, who bought the theater in 1982.

Today's pricing structure depends on the day of the week, matinees or evening performances, whether a comedy or musical is being presented, and if lunch or dinner is part of the deal.

Details: 724-468-5050 or www.applehillplayhouse.org.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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