October 27, 2003
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Somewhere in the convoluted story of a scary monster, his haunted inventor, and a sea captain named Walton, there might be a successful musical. The world premiere of Frankenstein, The Rock Opera, at Davidson College is a first step toward that production.|
Jon Greenlee, Davidson student Ty Morse (’04) and Davidson alumni Justin Perkinson (’01) have undertaken the daunting task of writing music and lyrics to this original show, based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. The ambitious production sports three dozen songs, a nine piece orchestra and 16 actors.
Victor Frankenstein created a monster out of the parts of dead bodies while he was a student in Ingolstadt, Germany. Frightened by his creation, he abandoned the monster to its own fate. Enormous and ugly, the monster is taunted and rejected by normal people. He eventually vows revenge on Frankenstein.
The story is told in a past and present time frame that casts confusion on the chain of events, and interrupts an emotional connection between the audience and the characters. We never know why Dr. Frankenstein created the monster. We are not given enough time to sympathize with the monster before he becomes a killer. We have no idea how long or why Dr. Frankenstein’s lover Elizabeth has waited for him.
Director Joe Gardner’s scenic design is visually appealing, and casts a mood of excitement, but it doesn’t successfully delineate the multiple locations the story insists upon. A rocky cliff works as the harsh shore of the Arctic, but doesn’t translate to the town of Geneva, despite distinctive lighting by designer Ronnie Higdon. The vocal component of the music often sounded atonal, despite Rick Dior’s lively percussion playing.
Issues of time and place and story were obscured by a problematic sound system that crackled, moaned and finally blanked out on Dr. Frankenstein, played with a "the show must go on attitude" by Bryant Kirkland, despite a dead mike. Kirkland’s stage movements were frantic, perhaps in a futile attempt to cover as much of the enormous stage as possible. Awkward pauses between numbers interrupted the flow of action.
The monster is a mutant gem. Played by Alan Stevens, he looks like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler underwent surgery to resemble Michael Jackson. He has the potential to become a camp icon. Like any successful musical, Frankenstein, The Rock Opera has conflict, a love interest, and a score. What it needs is finesse.
Lynn Trenning, October 27, 2003