Raucous. Rowdy. Rebellious, with a yell: this isn’t your 7th grade version of American history. 1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera highlights three important things about the US of A. It kicked England’s ass back in the day. Its patriotism is better than your patriotism. And, its national pastime is really Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Admiral Cockburn and the Invincibles (Robert Bradley, Greg Bowen, and Patrick Kavanaugh), looking like the Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath had a love child, are bloody, bad Brits whose Punk overpowers American Folk. They burn the White House, trample the countryside, and threaten the treasured harbor of Baltimore.
But, America eats resilience for breakfast.
Dolley Madison (Laura Komatinsky)—glammed out like Pat Benatar—salvages George Washington’s portrait during the infamous White House sacking while singing “I’m No Cupcake.” British General Robert Ross (Derek Vaughan Brown) lauds his country in “Empire of Love.” It sounds as if he’s leading a Kansas/Lynyrd Skynyrd militia.
But Major George Armistead (Corey Hennessey) and Mary Pickersgill (Moira Horowitz) steal the show with their “Big Ass Flag,” which is just indecent enough (like Tawny Kitaen writhing on the hood of a car) for a song about the making of the Star Spangled Banner—one big bolt of material long credited for upping American morale in a nearly forgotten war.
1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera
by David Dudley and Dave Israel
at Fort Fringe – Baldacchino Gypsy Tent
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
The final battle, the Bombardment, pits the American sound against the British sound. It’s like Nugent vs. Idol or Kiss vs. Queen or The Who vs. The Guess Who. You already know who will win, but that’s not the point. The point is insane fun, and influences from Ziggy Stardust, Def Leppard, Poison, etc, are found at every turn as post-Revolution America trudges forth into a more realized nation.
Too many talents float through this show for me to acknowledge them all, and I suspect the best vocalists of the Fringe can be found here. But the band often overpowers the voices, making the lyrics hard to decipher. Not a huge problem and one that will dissipate with refinement and a bigger venue, which is where I want this show to go.
Maybe Broadway or open air Amphitheatre, with a big ‘ole backing orchestra, some high-flyin’ fireworks, and, of course, a big ass flag.
For being bold and uninhibited–inventive even–like the best rock concerts, I give this 5 stars.
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