When you hear a ballad sung by a dragon, watch a dynamic and funny fight scene between the dragon and a powerful wizard, have your whole body resonate with heavy metal guitar when the dragon, Glitterus (Jayné Harris), is defeated and screams “I’m succuuuuuuuumbing” as she exits all within the first few moments of a show, you know it’s going be epic. Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS), the company created by and for lovers of zany, fantastic, and face-melting rock operas of immense proportion, are back in action with a quest for powerful dragon eggs to restore balance to the world before the cataclysm destroys everything.
Through emotional ballads, quirky characters, stellar song writing, comedic prowess, and plenty of sexual innuendo to go around, the journey to restore balance might be more about grace, humanity, friendship, and revelry.
Only the Mystics can hear Glitterus’ song. It calls to them and imbues them with the power to vibe and effect the elements in the process. They must join together and search for the dragon’s missing eggs, or else the mighty Lord Vin (Shosanna Davidoff-Gore) may beat them to it. Sheltered in Vin’s metal dome, Captain of the Guard Brigid (Liz “Nic Cole” Unaeze) just wants to be taken seriously. When she suddenly is overtaken by the song of Glitterus, it begins a change in her, revealing her true potential and eventually sacrificing herself to save humanity. Through emotional ballads, quirky characters, stellar song writing, comedic prowess, and plenty of sexual innuendo to go around, the journey to restore balance might be more about grace, humanity, and revelry.
Powerhouse performances by Vin, Glitterus, and Brigid tore the house down. The vocal tone, strength, and total face-melting energy of these singers knocked me down and spirited me away. I have been humming Brigid and Vin’s duet “I just wanna live forever” since curtain call. The Mystics—Valstead (Carly Pursley), Mixi (Kat Duque), Ketya (Greg Bowen), and Ahlia (Michelle Shellers)— must also be complimented for their harmonies, their playful energy, and teamwork to cover for any lags in transitions. Their performances leant the necessary passion and whimsy to anchor the journey. Party demon Zeth’s (Isaih Dorsey) long spider arms, glowing eyes, and other-worldly riffing stole the scene and made you root for the bad guys. Maldek (Zilch Powers) and his toilet paper head-piece was every part the sycophantic and power hungry underling, while Baltheo (Aby Warren) contrasted as a rebellious artist and occasional narrator. The movement team (Lake Potter, Samantha Ankrom-Chickering, Lindsay Landolfi, and Sam Brunner) flowed beautifully across the stage and their bodies were engaged fully in all of their scenes. The ensemble (Patrick Staso, Licoln Goode, Markayla Black, Trevor Lynas, and Steven Pingel) wore many hats and acquitted them selves 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 punched up by some thoughtful lighting and sound accompaniment. The dynamic band (Darmock, John De Campos, Josh Weiss, Sebastian Ochoa Arguijo, Kelly Jentis, and Jacob Deaven) nailed every song and provided sonic decadence. There was an effective use of LED lights (Alan Shnittman) in the costumes and props (Michael E. Bull), including the dragon eggs—translucent orbs that glowed from within and changed colors throughout the evening.
The script (Jamie Ginsberg, Sarah Doccolo, Lance Bankerd, Greg Bowen, and Amanda Rife) was based in excellent writing that guided the story sharply with witty retorts. Heartfelt relationships were tenderly expressed and I could not stop laughing at the innuendos. Music and lyrics (Jay Weixelbaum, Joseph Mulhollen, Greg Bowen, Erica Patoka Cerquetti, Darmock, and John De Campos) shredded hard and developed the story where words were not enough.
Costumes (AG Sherman) coupled with wigs, hair, and makeup (Cheri “CF Styling Inc” Felix) very clearly set each character apart, showcasing the unique customs of each land. I particularly loved the Mystics, whose elemental-inspired garb was superbly detailed and evolved with the characters. Lighting (Chris Allen) was everything you hope for at a rock concert, and there was even smoke and a tiny little bit of pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure. The play between the set (Kate Smith-Morse) and lighting, in particular a volcano that shifted colors under UV light, was lovely. Projections by Johnny Rogers filled the space and were perfect for giving a sense of the metal dome and even featured giant trolls.
One of the most compelling characters was the creature Fortis, designed by Justin Sabe. The ensemble acted as shrubbery and vines, flowing down the stage like a living, giggling plant. The voices of Fortis—Kerry Brady and Tina James—also incorporated sign language into the chorus of their song. The whole picture was a unique use of movement and blocking.
While overall the show was a spectacular event, there were a few aspects that suffered from underdevelopment. Some of the design choices, particularly the patterned trees in the land of metal, or the stained glass backdrop, did not mesh conceptually with the settings within the story. There were a few problems with some of the props and the projections. My biggest concern was with the scene changes, when the band stopped playing and the energy was immediately sucked from the audience in the vacuum of a black out. Understandably, with a production of this scale, scene changes may take a while, but I wished that there had been a cover with music either pre-recorded or live. It would have kept the audience engaged with the action and allowed the pacing of the play to remain consistent. Opening night can often induce some jitters and rough spots, so I would love to be back at the close of the run to see what has evolved and how the performers have eased into the fun of show!
The showstopper was the gigantic, hot pink, glittering, light-up dragon puppet that graced the stage for the finale. Designed by Sam Hanson, this incredible work brought the fierce creature—on which rested the laurels of this production—to life on a truly mind-boggling scale. This is where BROS really excels. To think that all of their shows are created through volunteer effort is a testament to the commitment, tenacity, and creative genius that swirls through the BROS community. It is a wonderfully unique experience to see a BROS production and “Glitterus: Dragon Rising” definitely arrived in style.
Running time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.
Advisory: Contains strong language and sexual references and is not appropriate for small 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 address all content questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.