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‘Gründlehämmer’ at Baltimore Rock Opera Society

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In a world where the sacred legend of rock and roll is no longer sacred nor safe…there lays a kingdom…the kingdom of…BROTOPIA!! Reinvented for its 5 year anniversary, the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, known better as The BROS, have remounted their inaugural rock opera Gründlehämmer here in Baltimore before it takes to the road on tour! Directed by Aran Keating, this original masterpiece is living the glory with modifications of 2014 for all to experience. A wicked rock opera with fairytale legends wound up into one intense experience, this sensational show will have your blood pumping for more!

Halvor (Danielle Robinette). Photo by Heather Keating.

Halvor (Danielle Robinette). Photo by Heather Keating.

Remounted five years after its inception, Gründlehämmer packs a wallop of good fun hardcore rock entertainment for those that are fans of epic adventurous tales and legendary guitar riffs. The original script and conceptualization was provided by Eli Breitburg-Smith, John DeCampos, Aran Keating, Dylan Koehler, and Jared Margulies; now revamped slightly to captivate new audiences as well as bring a refreshing revitalization to the initial fan-base from five years ago. With all their own original compositions the BROS are delivering exceptional quality and creativity in this production; a raw passionate labor of love for their craft and their creativity exploding upon the stage.

Scenic and Propshopolis Guildmasters Joe Martin and Anna Platis are responsible for the incredibly detailed setting that is known only as Brotopia. This in fact is the show’s only downfall because the scenes are so intricate, complex, and stunning in both complexity and size, that the change-over from scene to scene bogs down the natural flow of the show. That said “The Hammered” band, featuring band Leader John “Doozer” Decampos, creates impressive little tunes that carry these long stretches of inaction to keep the audience with the show.

Joining Platis in the Props department is Chuck Green, spearheading the conceptualization behind the show’s title weapon. Laying eyes on it for the first time when it finally makes its appearance is a moment of breath-taking awesome that is often only achieved during heightened states of mania, like at a rock concert when the lead guitarist leaps out into the crowd and starts wailing away. The overall aesthetic to the production is not only impressive but vividly portrayed; legendary fairytale elements spawned to life in the minds of Martin , Platis and Green.

Costumes galore further enhance the spectacle of this production keeping the fantasy element alive as the show introduces more and more character. Costume Designers Taylor Carlton and Eliza Vlasova really cement the notion of a Renaissance fantasy world in their outfits. Carlton, responsible for the peasant-like and humble trappings of the ‘good guys’ gets a moment to shine with the impressive and majestic outfit afforded to Halvor, guardian of awesome. Vlasova inspires fear into the citizens of Brotopia  as the costume designer for the “bad guys” creating an epic dark look for Lothario and his goons.

There are so many elements in this production that create the sensational spectacle that has come to be expected with any production at BROS that it would be nigh impossible to list them all, but all they landmark and signature components are included in this performance including shadow puppets, peculiar creatures, eccentric and out-of-this-world looking instruments, and a mind-blowing light show that keeps the audience in a perpetual state of rapture. Thrill seekers, this is the show for you!

The musical performance given by “The Hammered” featuring three insanely talented guitarists— Chris Baines and John “Smelly” Smeltzer on leads with John “Doozer” Decampos on rhythm— will rock your body, blow your mind, and leave you fist pumping for more. The epic riffs that roll flawlessly from those tightly plucked strings create a pulse that has to be felt to be believed. The finale alone, “Final Battle” is such an intense surge of fiercely dueling guitars that you feel as if the music is tearing through you. The Hammered band does, however, know how to balance this extreme display of rock and roll with quieter sounds and gentle music that is soothing and tranquil; a perfectly well-rounded musically theatrical experience.

Talent by the truckload can be found in this production; a strong and fierce ensemble matched with thunderously powerful soloists, all culminating in one impressive rock opera that is loaded with emotion. Playing the horrific Gründle, Nairobi Collins gives a masterfully grotesque performance that will make your skin crawl. His rich gravelly voice is perfect for this nightmarish fiend whose presence stalks the lands of Brotopia forcing its citizens to forge their lives in fear. Doubling as the equally atrocious Minotaur, Collins has plenty of opportunities to make the audience loathe him; a task at which he excels.

Malodrung (Phil Doccolo) is the dimwitted leader of the thugs in Lothario’s command. With his nasally voice, Doccolo gives the perfect rendition of a hapless henchman, gritty and filled with a passionate evil but far too incompetent to be of any true use. His guard squad (Eric Poch and Mark Miller) are a league of brutes with booming voices that bark their way up and down the stage and even during the intermission, keeping all the denizens of the theatre frightened.

The supreme evil comes incarnate in the form of Lothario (Greg Bowen). Just to lay eyes on him sends shivers up your spine as Bowen has mastered this nefarious terror from the way he strides onto the stage right down to his nightmare-inducing grin. Flanked by his hoard of vamps, which inspire their own brand of grotesque terror, an unsettling chill crosses your flesh every time Bowen stalks up and down the main aisle of the house to the stage. There is something truly sinister about the way Bowen carries the character both physically and vocally; his rich bass tones melting the audience into quivering putty just from his speaking voice; mercy to everyone once he starts singing. Imbuing songs like “Gründlehünter” with the fiery passions of hell, Bowen gives a paralyzing performance that is hands down one of the finest in the show. The ability to embody such a force of evil and still carry musical perfection in his voice is an astonishing feat that Bowen accomplishes in this twisted character.

While Lothario may be the supreme evil force in this show, his character is balanced by a force of guiding light in the form of a rock-n-roll goddess, Halvor (Danielle Robinette). Having an extremely powerful stage presence, Robinette receives thunderous applause for her raging attitude or righteousness. When she takes to power-belting and blasting her solo “”The Wings of Pegasus” the entire production surges with a wave of energy that invigorates the characters and the audience; even the band feels stronger in that moment. Inspiring a plethora of strong emotions, Robinette’s performance is beyond impressive.

Gunnora (Moira Goldie Horowitz) spends most of the musical dithering in her ‘brother’s’ shadow, but as the show races to its conclusion, Horowitz’ vocal prowess is brought to light. Finally getting to unleash this operatic sound at the end of “What Will the Morning Light Reveal?” Horowitz blends the classical sound of her voice against the true style of softer rock making this a truly captivating moment. Her duet with Benedon (Christopher Krysztofiak) during “Vengeance” showcases her vocal versatility; a splendidly powerful moment that she reinforces with a heavy dose of emotional energy.

Krysztofiak, the legendary hero of the tale, undergoes the hero’s transformation. Starting off as mild and weak in character, though his voice is always quite strong, the young lad grows from simple farm boy to valiant warrior with vengeance on his mind. The song “Vengeance” courses through him like a man possessed, changing his vocal quality to something heavier and more raw. The showdown that occurs just after “Here Ye” is a furious battle between Krysztofiak and Bowen; resulting in one of the most intense moments in the show; with a perfect vocal build to that moment found in the aforementioned song. Truly embracing the role of the ever-growing hero, Krysztofiak wins the audience’s approval with his performance.

Center- Lothario (Greg Bowen) with Benedon (front right, Christopher Krysztofiak) and the ensemble of Gründlehämmer. Photo by Heather Keating.

Center- Lothario (Greg Bowen) with Benedon (front right, Christopher Krysztofiak) and the ensemble of Gründlehämmer. Photo by Heather Keating.

The show has a limited engagement in Baltimore before hitting the road for its first ever regional tour, and this is one show you won’t want to miss the chance to be a part of; a true unique vision that pulls all the great elements of spectacle and music into one amazing night of fun.

Running Time: Three hours, with one intermission.

Gründlehämmer plays through March 23, 2014 at the Baltimore Rock Opera Society at 2640 Space— 2640 Saint Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online or at the door.

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2 Responses to ‘Gründlehämmer’ at Baltimore Rock Opera Society

  1. Jill Vanderweit March 22, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Grundlehammer was EPIC! Loved the singing, the band, the costumes, the set, the Brotopian world! I won’t forget how hard I laughed during The Boning Song. But at 3 hours, I felt like I was watching Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle. Tightening up the scene changes and a little editing of Act I would make this saga even more rock-worthy!

  2. Dave March 24, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    This is an experience that blew me away. The amazing singing, giant monsters and metal guitar. This was the amongst the sot i ahem had in Baltimore or seeing a live performance. Pure entertainment.