Saturday, August 02, 2003

Bat Boy (Cain Park)

BAT BOY, a fun-filled flight of fantasy at Cain Park

The headlines in the tabloids state, “Batboy Found In W.Virginia Cave ,”
“Batboy Escapes,” “New Wave Of Batboy Sightings!,” and “ Batboy Attacks Girl, 10!”.

What is this all about? According to the Weekly World News, the Bat Boy saga began in 1992 when the 19-pound mutant, described by scientists as half human and half bat, was captured in a cave in Virginia's Shenandoah Mountains. Supposedly, the strange creature had enormous amber eyes that enabled him to see in the dark and oversized ears that worked like radar! The feisty creature was taken to a secret federal laboratory near Wheeling, W.Va., where experts from all over the world came to study him. In 1993 and again in 1994, government officials denied rumors that Bat Boy had escaped from the lab and was on the loose. His present whereabouts are unknown.

And what does that have to do with the theatre? Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming decided to write the story into a stage production. Laurence O’Keefe added the music and lyrics. The results? ‘BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL’ made its Off Broadway debut in 2001. It developed an instant cult following and was selected as the Best Off-Broadway musical that year.

The musical ostensibly tells the tale of finding the Bat Boy and his struggle to assimilate and gain societal acceptance against great odds. It takes on a ‘MY FAIR LADY’ meets sci-fi horror aura as Bat Boy is taught how to behave like a respectable citizen and finds out the “real” story of his conception. The moral? Who cares! It’s the over-all effect of the production that matters. You go to see ‘BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL’ to be entertained. It’s the National Inquirer version of theatre.

Director Victoria Bussert, not only has the talent to unearth wonderful unknown scripts, like ‘AVENUE X’ and ‘SIDE SHOW,’ but also todirect them with ingenuity. She has done it again. Add the creative bat-in-action/townsfolk-in-panic choreography by Janiece Kelley-Kiteley, and the power-packed (but often ear shattering) music by Leonard DiCosimo, and you have a fun, fun show.

As for the music, you’ve never heard any of it. And that matters little. You’ll laugh your way through such ditties as “Another Dead Cow” and “Show You a Thing or Two.” “Inside Your Heart” is the strangest love song every written. “A Home For You” and “”Let Me Walk Among You” are beautiful ballads. “Children, Children” is a hysterically funny, raunchy number featuring stuffed animals. (You have to see it to believe it.)

The cast is wonderful. There is not a weak link in the group. The ten actors/singers play about a zillion different roles, changing wigs and costumes and characters with lightning speed, while singing with aplomb, displaying enough energy to set a rocket in flight, while dancing like maniacs, and having one heck of a good time.

Gary Walker is Bat Boy incarnate. He hangs from the rafters, sings with gusto, textures the role with pathos, and captivates the audience. Adina Bloom is wonderful as his ditzy “mother.” She hits and holds high notes that could shatter a glass. Scott Plate is obviously having a ball playing Dr. Parker, a true melodrama character. Emily Krieger is both funny and tender as Bat Boy’s “sister” and lover...don’t ask me to explain that combo! Patrick Janson, Phillip Carroll, Alana Simone Purvis, Hannah Laird, Fabio Polanco and Mitch McCarrrell all are terrific in their gender-bender switching and fast- change roles.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL’ is the kind of theatre that will appeal to only certain audience members. You have to go to fun, realizing that you are participating in a tabloid fantasy and be willing to set aside all your traditional beliefs about what theatre should be. You need to just let Bussert, Kelley-Kiteley, DiCosimo and the wonderful cast take you on a fun-filled flight of fantasy. If some local theatre has any brains it will sign up the cast and put the show in an open-ended run. The cult following will develop quickly. Hey, Hanna Theatre or Kennedy’s Down-Under, are you reading this?
Thanks to Cain Park for continuing to allow Bussert to use her creative genius to bring this type of theatre to the area. Few other local entertainment venues would financially back and encourage this show.