It’s alive! The classic horror line from Mary Shelley’s iconic novel encompasses so much more than just noting the doctor’s dark discovery when it comes to Landless Theatre Company’s newest production: Frankenstein. A world premier of Richard Campbell’s Prog Metal Opera graces the stage for a mind-blowing, face-melting, phenomenal experience that brings a revitalized life to the monster and his creator. Directed by Melissa Baughman, this stunning sensation is a must-see; the sheer talent alone will literally leave you in awe. With incredible costumes and an orchestra to die for, this rock opera is a rare delight for musical, opera, and classic literary fans alike.
Costume Designer Elizabeth D. Reeves brings a Victorian sense to her style of design while adding the element of dark fantasy to the work. Victor and Walton don similar attire, each distinctive in their own right making Walton (the narrative character) look like a salted journeyman, tried and true of the weather from his dashing coat down to his heavy boots. Reeves’ most stunning visual success is the garish pink corseted gown befitted to Victor’s childhood sweetheart. It’s a revolting shade of cotton candy with black smudges laced throughout but is a seamless fit to the topsy turvy nature of this production and no other dress would like quite as complete. Musical Director Jack Sossman showcases superior talent while manning the live rock orchestra onstage. From that first stricken chord, the sound is extremely intense; not only just loud but loaded with the emotional tone that carries throughout the entire production. The swells of the music carry the sensational vocals of the four lead performers with a ferocious raw feeling to them, enhancing the deep churning notions of pure enigmatic emotion in this show. Sossman personally takes up the rhythm guitar, theramin, and synth throughout the opera; giving an amazing performance. With just eleven songs this orchestra has a solid handle on how to lead and follow these operatic singers to the line; utter aural brilliance. Sossman, working with Director Melissa Baughman, culminates such fierce emotions into the songs, delivering blow after harrowing blow of this foreboding reality from their four featured singers. There are moments when unearthly sounds, so serenely perfect and yet so thoroughly haunted, escape the lips of these performers that you truly wonder if this musical were conceived here on earth.
As the leading female character, Elizabeth (Irene Jericho) is featured as a lover to Victor. Jericho’s unique dulcet vocals carry sublime melodies during her moments of solo featured in “House of Sorrow.” And when she blends harmonies with Victor for their duet “The Veil” there is a glowing warmth that twines their voices together in terrified love and desperate need. Jericho has an impressive range with a very modern sound to the way she delivers this range and her fully sustained notes. The voice that stuns everyone into silence is the rich contra-base sound of The Creature (Greg Bowen). When Bowen’s voice is first heard it comes quite literally out of nowhere; a complete shock. But his voice is so deep and so rich and so powerful that it possesses and entrances your ear and literally gives you chills! His tragic story resonates through in “Fallen Angel” and in this moment his frame is backed up against a shadowy silhouette of broken wings, creating a visual and musical moment so stunning that it melts your mind to take it all in. Bowen has an incredible mastery of his grotesque physicality, lumbering, shuffling as a reanimated corpse would, and his makeup is truly frightening. When Bowen’s voice duals against Victor during “Retribution” it’s a haunting moment of raw exposed nerves; utterly phenomenal. Vying for lead singers are Walton (Robert Bradley) as the narrative character and Victor (Andrew Lloyd Baughman), The pair have an incredible, almost unbelievable talent, that makes you wonder why they aren’t pursuing the MET. Baughman’s range, spiking close to that of a mezzo soprano is stunning and so richly loaded with emotions that you feel all of his pains; sorrow, remorse, regret, twisted confusion all blasting out to the audience in belt after belt. His solos, featured heavily throughout, but particularly for “Modern Prometheus” and “House of Sorrow” feature furious blasts of exposed nerves, blending sorrow with vengeance and regret with disgust. His voice is intense and when he blazes to the high notes he sweeps you away entirely.
Bradley, having a fierce and commanding stage presence with his narrative aspects, molds the story of Victor and transforms it to his own. His eyes are almost demonic as he gazes out to the audience, locking onto every word he sings and pushing it forth with a desperate need. This ferocious stare combined with his stunning vocals pulls the audience along on his journey, like a tortured siren dragging us to the depths. In “Beyond the Night” and “Walton’s Reprise” his tone carries the ominous foreboding and tragic aftermath of the story that lies ahead and what has fallen behind, respectively. And when he belts in the upper range, it’s another complete mind melting moment. When Bradley and Baughman blend voices for duets during “Shadow of the Beast” and “House of Sorrow” it is a fierce vocal eruption loaded with anguish, both men belting at the top of their range and the top of their lungs, delivering each note with a vehement world of emotions, all letting loose at once. They are the epitome of rock opera singers and do the score and lyrics a sensational justice. Get to see Landless Theatre Company’s Frankenstein before the life wends its way from off the stage and vanishes into the cold dark night. Running Time: Approximately 65 minutes, with no intermission. Frankenstein plays through June 30, 2013 at GALA Hispanic Theatre in Tivoli Square — 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. Tickets are available for purchase at the door, or online. LINKS Part One: “Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein: Making a Monster Rock Opera”: Meet Robert Bradley Part Two: “Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein: Landless Making a Monster Rock Opera:” Meet Andrew Baughman Part Three: “Richard Campbell’s Frankenstein: Landless Making a Monster Rock Opera:” Meet Irene Jericho. http://youtu.be/GV3Or0tkmFo