“Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein: Landless Making a Monster Rock Opera”: Part 1: Robert Bradley by Ally Jenkins

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After a brief hiatus from producing theatre in DC, Landless Theatre Company is back to the grindstone with their most ambitious project to date: Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein, a World Premiere “Prog-Metal” Rock Opera based on Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, to be presented at Gala Hispanic Theatre at Tivoli in June. Composer Richard Campbell is an up-and-coming UK-based musician, and his original Frankenstein concept album can be found on iTunes and Spotify. He even plays all of the instruments on the album!

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Landless is no stranger to rock musicals, but this particular score involves extremely technical instrumental and vocal work. Director Melissa Baughman reached out to the local Metal community to fill some of the featured roles; one such musician is Robert Bradley, frontman of the local Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band Aries.

Robert Bradley. Photo courtesy of Landless Theatre Company.
Robert Bradley. Photo courtesy of Landless Theatre Company.

Robert Bradley stars as “Tom Walton,” a young sea captain who serves as Victor Frankenstein’s confidante, and as a narrator for the opera. Bradley’s band Aries has shared the stage with such legends as Sebastian Bach, Dio Disciples, and Symphony X and were recently 98 Rock’s Band of the Month for December of 2012. In local theatre, Bradley recently played the lead role of “Kar” in Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s Valhella (for which he was named a 2012 Best Musical Actor on DCMetroTheatrearts).

We asked Bradley a few questions about his upcoming performance:

Ally: Why did you want to be involved in this production?

Robert: I am a big fan of progressive/power metal and the music seemed like it’d be a really fun challenge!

Introduce us to your character.

Walton is a sea captain who comes across Dr. Frankenstein in the Arctic. Upon meeting Frankenstein, he realizes they are alike in the sense that both of them were explorers, both had a wild sense of ambition that drove them onward in their respective quests. Walton is the narrator of this opera. The audience will see him realize the error of Frankenstein’s ways which helps Walton change his own priorities and sense of adventure at the end of the story.

How do you relate to your role?

When I decided to become a vocalist, I wanted to become a successful performer at all costs. That meant going to every expert I could find, studying as much as possible, and performing as much as I could. I suppose I had a similar fire inside me that Walton did. Over the years, with a number of trials, issues, and problems I’ve faced as a result of my brashness, the last few years have brought me a lot more perspective.

What personal experiences did you bring to your performance?

Metal music and the stage are home to me, I’ve been singing different genres of it for years. When I am performing, I come alive and I want to show people what my years of hard work, sweat, and tears have come to. Performing is what identifies me, so when Walton is explaining his sense of wonder and determination, it’s parallel to my desire to do the material justice in the most exciting and expressive way possible. For me, nothing is more exhilarating than holding a crowd in the palm of your hand using the skills you’ve worked so hard, and so long, for.

What experience do you have with prog-rock or metal music?

I’ve performed in prog metal acts for a few years. I’m also a pretty big nerd of the music. My bands have had the honor of sharing the stage with some big prog metal bands such as Symphony X, Stratovarius, and Pagan’s Mind. Needles to say, it’s a genre I’m very passionate about. Queensryche is one of my favorite bands. Operation Mindcrime is the only album I keep in my car in case my phone dies haha. I’ve had the honor of working as a stage hand on their last tour and I wear a Queensryche necklace at just about every show I perform at.

What are your thoughts on Mary Shelley’s novel?

It’s certainly stood the test of time. It’s a classic tale. It was also a landmark due to the fact that such a widely popular and shocking book was written by a woman which, at the time was unheard of.

Richard Campbell is an exciting new young composer from the UK. How would you describe his composition and score?

Symphony X comes to mind immediately, I would say it’s a mix of them and Jesus Christ Superstar. Lots of complex time signature changes and key changes, it’s impressive metal music for sure.

Robert Bradley singing 'Stop Brothers.'
Robert Bradley singing ‘Stop Brothers in “Valhella’ at The Baltimore Rock Opera Society. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Rock Opera Society. 

Melissa Baughman has a history of directing rock musicals, including the 2008 Best Musical Pick of the Capital Fringe. How would you describe her directing style?

She’s a metal head just like us! She’s direct in what she wants but is extremely easy to work with. We genuinely are having a great time working out what is, in essence a pretty damn complex opera, although working together, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

How has this experience made you a better actor and what did you learn about yourself as an actor being in this production?

Being the narrator, we’ve had to take a lot of liberties with what I’m singing. I’ve got a lot more time on stage and a lot of that time is spent without singing to hide behind. In this opera, I’ve had to learn the effectiveness of stillness during parts of the play where I’m not using my voice, and for the long sections where I AM using my voice, I have to keep things interesting and prevent my performing from becoming redundant. It’s been a huge learning experience.

What’s next for you on the stage?

After this I’ll be performing as the lead villain in 1814! The Rock Opera!, as Admiral Cockburn in the DC Fringe Festival throughout July. Aside from that, I might be taking a short break from theater to focus on my band, Aries, to put us on tour, and to record our next album. Hard to tell though, these rock operas have been pretty amazing, only time will tell!

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Landless Theatre Companys production of Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein plays June 8-30, 2013 at Gala Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online. For more information, visit Landless Theatre Company’s website.

Robert Bradley sings Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills”: