Richard Campbell's Frankenstein


Editorial Review

It’s aliiiiive: ‘Frankenstein’ prog-metal opera makes debut

Landless Theatre Company produces British composer Richard Campbell’s new tribute to the classic monster.

A rockin’ monster mashup
By Maura Judkis
Friday, June 7, 2013

The story of Frankenstein is all about obsession. So it’s no surprise that Andrew and Melissa Baughman were as captivated with composer Richard Campbell’s prog--metal rock opera of the classic Mary Shelley tale as Victor Frankenstein was with his creature.

“Anybody that listens to that soundtrack becomes obsessed with it. It is very strange,” says Melissa Baughman, one half of the husband--and--wife duo behind the rock--musical--focused Landless Theatre Company.

That obsession is what made Frankenstein the perfect subject for a prog--metal composer. The genre requires a particular meticulousness and dedication of its musicians that parallel the mad scientist’s.

“Prog metal is intense, very calculated music,” says Baughman, who considers herself a lifelong metalhead. “It seems like a weird combination, but actually I think it’s a perfect marriage.”

The company’s “Frankenstein” is a world premiere originating from Campbell’s concept album of the same name, on which he played every instrument. Andrew Baughman, who is Landless’ producing artistic director and is playing the title role, discovered the album in a Spotify search for rock operas. He worked with Campbell, who lives in London, entirely over e--mail.

Turning the album into a staged opera was more demanding than they expected. “[Campbell] didn’t really have a score at first,” Andrew says.

Adds Melissa, who is directing the show: “In musical theater, the libretto will tell you what’s going on, but here, there’s a long guitar solo, and you have to be creative and figure [out] what’s happening. There was a lot of me sitting with headphones on and trying to meditate and imagine.”

Casting was easier. The Baughmans turned to the local metal community to find actors and musicians who would be willing to try something new.

“We specified that it was a rock opera, not a musical ---- the word ‘musical,’ it deters people,” Melissa says.

But the stagecraft of metal made it an easy crossover for Baltimore performers Robert Bradley of the band Aries and Irene Jericho of Cassandra Syndrome.

“It’s really dramatic; there’s no casual gestures. Everything is very intense and specific,” Melissa says. “I didn’t have to direct them very much with that stuff. It was natural.”

But for Andrew, a veteran actor but a relative newbie to prog--metal opera, playing Frankenstein has been a challenge.

“Of the rock shows we’ve done, this is the most difficult music,” he says. “Prog rock is really technical. The more you listen to it, you start to appreciate all the different layers of music.”

That intricacy, mixed with Melissa’s additions of shadow puppetry and “rocked--out Victorian” costumes, will be the bolt of lightning that breathes life into this premiere. Spoken like a true metalhead, Melissa has a prediction for the audience: “It’s gonna melt their faces clean off.”

Reader Reviews

Avg reader rating
Progressive metal and local theater at it's finest

THIS IS A MUST GO FOR THIS SEASON! I went on Satrurday the 15th expecting campy and cheesy musical theater. I was wrong! The band was tight, the musical score was stellar. The set was imaginative, if minimalist, and worked well with the subject at hand. The cast was just brilliant. PLEASE GO SEE THIS or you will Regret having missed a world first of this Metal opera and regional theater at it's finest!

A Rock Opera Not To Be Missed!

We saw this show Sat June 15th. Well worth the drive into DC. Easy access parking is a block away. Handicapped seating, if you need it, was easily handled. As for the show itself, the singers were all talented (and I have professional singing experience, so I know good singing when I hear it! Powerful, on-key voices, and complex harmony & time-signature work). They were also expressive stage actors while still doing all that awesome singing. The band was rockin' hard & enthusiastic! This show really makes you miss when rock operas were popular. It's a great fresh take on an iconic story. My only regret is we will miss the 22nd when Richard Campbell (the writer) comes over from England to see his creation! Don't miss out on this show!

Fast paced, well told, and spectacularly performed!

If you are looking for something unusual and beautiful to melt your face, look no further than Richard Campbell's "Frankenstein." Landless Theatre has done a phenomenal job, with stunning operatic performers, exceptional metal musicians, and a fittingly creepy minimalist atmosphere. It's a show not to be missed!

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