Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I spent this last weekend visiting an old friend and colleague, Phil Fratesi up in Baltimore. Sunday night we went to see Gründlehämmer, a rock opera produced by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS). The 3-hour long production was created by director Aran Keating, music coordinator Dylan Koehler, band director John DeCampos, and prop master and floor manager Eli Breitburg-Smith.

Phil’s son, Jackson, plays Mammoroth and the Gründle – the giant, grotesque, green and yellow, multi-armed, cave-dwelling monster – who guards the highly coveted musical weapon – the Gründlehämmer – using the torsos and limbs of its dismembered victims as instruments of musical power and strength. Jackson gives a sterling performance as Mammoroth, but his portrayal of the Great Gründle is outrageously magnificent!

Jacksom as Mammoroth

Jackson as the Gründle

The plot you may recognize. It is a familiar one: the kingdom of Brotopia, is forced into years of darkness and despair by a sinister ruler (Lothario) who murders the noble king.

Brandon Arinoldo as Lorthario

The infant heir to the throne, Benedon, (played by Christopher Krysztofiak) is miraculously rescued from his dead mother’s womb and raised by a family in a distant agrarian hamlet called Coxally Glen (those from Baltimore will readily understand the significance). Observing the child as he grows up, we watch as he is mentored by Gunnora (played brilliantly by Vanessa Eskridge) who imparts the necessary knowledge and skill to become the man he needs to be in order to slay the Gründle to obtain the Gründlehämmer, so that, he may successfully challenge the evil Lorthario to become the good and noble king he is destined to be.  Though the plot may be hackneyed (the confrontation and destruction of an evil antagonist), the spectacular and dramatic production is not.

Vanessa Eskridge as Gunnora

 The Death of Gunnora in the arms of Benedon

Gründlehämmer functions often at hysterical and hilarious extremes. Everyone in Brotopia has a stringed instrument of some sort or another that represents their trade or place in society . . . from shovel and pitchfork-headed guitars for farmers to various skull and axe laden stringed instruments for the villains. The storyline is not only epic and larger-than-life with multi-sub-plots, the sets and costumes are completely over-the-top . . . as is the complexity of the music and the extremely large cast and vocal and dance routines.

 Gründle with some cast members


Entire Cast

However, the real appeal of Gründlehämmer lies not in the excessive extremes of the imaginative and creative production, but in the viewer’s bond with the characters. Gründlehämmer excels at almost every level. It is an extraordinary social and theatrical event and experience . . . one I will never forget!

Jackson and Phil


mythopolis said...

It looks pretty crazy , and entertaining, I'm sure!

Dee Newman said...

Dan, you would have love it!