Capital Fringe Review: ‘1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera’ by Keith Tittermary

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1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera
Music & Lyrics by David Dudley and Dave Israel
Book by David Dudley and David Israel
Additional Lyrics by Erik Sunday

The 2013 Capital Fringe Festival kicked off its opening night in a hot tent at Fort Fringe, but the heat was not because of the temperature, but rather the boisterous music that came from the rocking opera, 1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera. 

O, say can you sew?: Major George Armistead urges local seamstress Mary Pickersgill to make a gigantic version of the Stars and Stripes in “Big Ass Flag.” Photo by Eldon Baldwin.

O, say can you sew?: Major George Armistead urges local seamstress Mary Pickersgill to make a gigantic version of the Stars and Stripes in “Big Ass Flag.” Photo by Eldon Baldwin.

The show musicalizes the main conflict in Baltimore and the burning of Washington through a variety of musical motifs that take you back to the metal sound of the late 1980s. The songs are homages to Poison, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and each one sung with great enthusiasm and drive. Laura Komatinksy, as Dolley “The Dominatrix” Madison, belts out her number, the aptly titled, “I’m No Cupcake”, complete with a Greek chorus of punk dancers. Komatinksky’s vocal skills are the best of the very talented cast and she wails through her number like an in her prime Joan Jett.

The best number out of a standout of numbers was the duet between George Armistead (Corey Hennessey) and Mary Pickersgill (Moira Horowitz), “Big Ass Flag,” that involved an audience sing along that would have made Francis Scott Key write a very different national anthem.

The beauty of seeing something good at any Fringe Festival is to see its potential. The book may need a little work, and probably could stand for some dialogue (I know then it wouldn’t be an “opera”), but I think there is a compelling story there to be told. There is one brief video narration to open the opera, that is a nice mash-up of Monty Python and the opening scroll in Star Wars, but if the writers continue to develop this (and I hope that they do), more of this would be helpful.

The only drawback to the evening was the sound balance. The first few songs were very difficult to understand, but fortunately for us, the complete lyrics are printed in the program, and it is very helpful to use to follow along. The “faux” album covers in the program were a nice touch too. The sound got better as the show progressed and I can tell it is only going to get better.

Anytime someone sees a musical, the unsung hero is always the band. Well, this band is the star of the show. Composers David Dudley plays guitar and bass while his writing partner, Dave Israel plays keyboards, and guitar, and mandolin, often at the same time. Also, drummer Jim Schaffer should get a medal of honor for playing very different styles perfectly without missing a beat (literally).

If you like Poison, and you are looking for “nothin’ but a good time,” you should check this out, and prepare to sweat, because the music is hot.

Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission.

1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera plays through July 26, 2013 at Fort Fringe – Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar – 607 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC 20001. For tickets, purchase them online.

LINKS

Review of 1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera  at Silver Spring Black Box Theater on 8/23/14 by John Stoltenberg.

Check our Fringe preview Article of the show.

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