Theater Review: “Glitterus: Dragon Rising” at the Baltimore Rock Opera Society
As you hear a ballad sung by a dragon, witness a dynamic and fun fight scene between the dragon and a powerful wizard, resonate your whole body with a heavy metal guitar as the dragon, Glitterus (Jayné Harris), is defeated and screams “I’m succuuuuuuumbing” as she walks out in the opening moments of a show you know it’s going to be epic. Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS), the company created by and for lovers of wacky, fantastical rock operas of immense proportion, is back in action with a quest for mighty dragon eggs to restore balance to the world before the cataclysm destroys everything.
Through emotional ballads, quirky characters, stellar songwriting, comedic prowess, and plenty of sexual innuendo, the journey to restore balance could be more about grace, humanity, friendship, and rejoicing. .
Only mystics can hear the song of Glitterus. He summons them and imbues them with the power to vibrate and affect the elements of the process. They must gather together and search for the missing dragon eggs, or the mighty Lord Vin (Shosanna Davidoff-Gore) might get ahead of them. Sheltered in Vin’s metal dome, Guard Captain Brigid (Liz “Nic Cole” Unaeze) just wants to be taken seriously. When she is suddenly overwhelmed by the song of Glitterus, it begins a change in her, revealing her true potential and ends up sacrificing herself to save humanity. Through emotional ballads, quirky characters, stellar songwriting, comedic prowess, and plenty of sexual innuendo, the journey to restore balance might be more about grace, humanity, and rejoicing.
Powerful performances from Vin, Glitterus and Brigid demolished the house. The vocal tone, strength and sheer energy of these singers knocked me over and made me run away. I’ve been humming Brigid and Vin’s duet “I just wanna live forever” since the curtain call. The Mystics – Valstead (Carly Pursley), Mixi (Kat Duque), Ketya (Greg Bowen) and Ahlia (Michelle Shellers) – are also to be commended for their harmonies, playful energy and teamwork to cover any mismatch in the transitions. Their performances brought the passion and fantasy needed to ground the journey. The long, spidery arms, glowing eyes, and otherworldly riffs of party demon Zeth (Isaih Dorsey) stole the stage and made you root for the bad guys. Maldek (Zilch Powers) and his toilet paper headgear were all sycophantic, power-hungry underlings, while Baltheo (Aby Warren) contrasted as a rebellious entertainer and occasional storyteller. The motion crew (Lake Potter, Samantha Ankrom-Chickering, Lindsay Landolfi and Sam Brunner) walked across the stage beautifully and their bodies were fully engaged in all of their scenes. The ensemble (Patrick Staso, Licoln Goode, Markayla Black, Trevor Lynas and Steven Pingel) have worn many hats and performed well in each of their roles.
Director Amanda Rife did a good job pacing the scenes and I enjoyed the stylistic movement. The fight choreography was enhanced with thoughtful lighting and sound accompaniment. The dynamic group (Darmock, John De Campos, Josh Weiss, Sebastian Ochoa Arguijo, Kelly Jentis and Jacob Deaven) nailed every song and provided sonic decadence. There was effective use of LED lights (Alan Shnittman) in costumes and props (Michael E. Bull), including dragon eggs – translucent orbs that glowed from within and changed color throughout. the evening.
The screenplay (Jamie Ginsberg, Sarah Doccolo, Lance Bankerd, Greg Bowen and Amanda Rife) was based on excellent writing that guided the story precisely with witty lines. Sincere relationships were tenderly expressed, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the insinuations. The music and lyrics (Jay Weixelbaum, Joseph Mulhollen, Greg Bowen, Erica Patoka Cerquetti, Darmock and John De Campos) shredded and expanded the story where words failed.
The costumes (AG Sherman) paired with the wigs, hair, and makeup (Cheri “CF Styling Inc” Felix) very clearly set each character apart, showcasing each country’s unique customs. I especially liked the Mystics, whose elemental-inspired outfit was beautifully detailed and evolved with the characters. The lighting (Chris Allen) was everything you would hope for at a rock concert, and there was even smoke and a tiny bit of pyrotechnics for good measure. The play between the set (Kate Smith-Morse) and the lighting, especially a volcano that changed color under UV light, was lovely. Projections of Johnny Rogers filled the space and were perfect for giving a sense of the metal dome and even the giant trolls.
One of the most compelling characters was the Fortis creature, designed by Justin Sabe. The set acted like shrubs and vines, flowing across the stage like a living, giggling plant. The vocals of Fortis – Kerry Brady and Tina James – also incorporated sign language into the chorus of their song. The entire image was a unique use of movement and blocking.
Although overall the show was a spectacular event, some aspects suffered from underdevelopment. Some of the design choices, particularly the patterned trees in Metal Land, or the stained glass backdrop, didn’t fit conceptually with the story’s settings. There were some issues with some props and projections. My biggest concern was the scene changes, when the band stopped playing and the energy was immediately sucked from the audience into the void of a blackout. Naturally, with a production of this scale, scene changes can take a while, but I wish there was coverage with pre-recorded or live music. This would have kept the audience engaged in the action and allowed the pacing of the play to remain consistent. Opening night can often induce jitters and hard times, so I’d love to be back at the end of the run to see what’s evolved and how the performers have settled into the fun of the show!
The highlight of the show was the gigantic shimmering hot pink dragon puppet that graced the stage for the finale. Designed by Sam Hanson, this incredible work brought the ferocious creature – on which the laurels of this production rested – to life on a truly breathtaking scale. This is where BROS really excels. To think that all of their shows are created through volunteer efforts speaks to the commitment, tenacity, and creative genius that swirls in the BROS community. It’s a wonderfully unique experience to see a BROS production, and “Glitterus: Dragon Rising” definitely arrived in style.
Duration: Approximately two hours with an intermission.
Notice: Contains strong language and sexual references and is not suitable for young children.
“Glitterus: Dragon Rising” runs through June 4, 2022 at Zion Lutheran Church, 400 E Lexington Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. For tickets and more information, click here. Please direct all content questions to [email protected]