03
Sep
13

Bat Boy: the musical!

 

Bat Boy: The Musical

Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

29 August – 7 September 2013

 

Reviewed by Jennifer Johnston

 

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No matter what you read up on regarding the story line behind a theatrical production/musical show, nothing prepares you for the story as it unfolds. Of course in reviews and media releases the plots and crucial scenes are not usually revealed, as it would ruin the outcome for the viewer. Thankfully, the PR released on Bat Boy: The Musical, which opened at Queensland University’s Schonell Theatre last week, had kept quiet about its plot and central characters.

 

All I knew beforehand was this was a dark tale of a half-boy half-bat discovered living in a cave in West Virginia. Based loosely on a story reported in 1992 in the Weekly World News about the discovery of a half boy / bat like creature, writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming wrote a stage adaptation. Laurence O’Keefe, an American composer/lyricist is responsible for the music and lyrics.  In 1997 in Los Angeles Bat Boy: The Musical enjoyed its world premiere.

 

The show has played  New York’s off-Broadway (2001) and London’s West End (2004).  Underground Productions (Qld Uni’s resident theatre group) present the Queensland premiere of the production, which opened on Friday August 30 and closes on Saturday September 7.

 

We were pre-warned of the many dark and mature themes and they were played out with dramatic effect. No I will not share them here, but suffice to say, my friend and I both jumped a few times and screwed up our faces during a couple of scenes, slapstick and camp horror themes affecting us.

 

Think of a boy who is half bat and half human and your mind conjures up images.  Patrick Aitken as Edgar, (the Bat Boy) with the help of some classic vampire inspired make-up (including fangs) was pretty convincing in the opening scene as a helpless and sullen bat, who (which?) somehow ended up in an underground cave, lost to society.

 

I often have an issue when directors choose an American based show using an Australian cast, as Aussie actors seem to struggle with maintaining an American accent. I almost wish our actors could by-pass the fake accent.  The opening scene with the family members who stumbled upon the cave shouted out in very strong interpretations of an accent, not always maintained throughout the night. No biggie.  But I feel Director Alex could make a decision there – yes or no to the accent.

 

Our Bat friend is removed from his underground cave to a small community, where we meet the Parker Family – Shelley (daughter) played by Alice England and Meredith (mother) Arlie McCormick. They take Bat Boy in for “observation.”  We  sense this is bible-belt, with the use of subtle humour and religious commentary peppering the dialogue.  Shelley and boyfriend Rick Taylor (played by John Vizcay-Wilson) entertain the audience with a slick rap number and Shelley manages to throw in a couple of tweaking moves – a topical effect.

 

The scenes jump from quiet dialogues to full cast songs. Full credit goes to Choreographer Bonnie Mullins. We see interesting use of dance and movement.  In one scene at the Slaughterhouse the townspeople of Hope Falls gathered to express concern at the lack of beasts “ready” for killing and sale.  The Black Ninjas (best way to describe the cast dressed and masked in black) provided interesting moments as they flowed in and out of scenes in silent “stealth mode.” Dressed no doubt to support the darker themes of the story.

 

As Director Alex Feifers said, “I often class this as gothic humour, between religion and ‘adult themes’, the dark but ever present humour shows throughout the production.”

 

Sheriff Reynolds (Alex Smith) dressed in a style reminiscent of Larry Wilcox from Chips – (an old TV show – maybe before some of your time – google him you will agree!) is the local law enforcement.  He finds himself caught up in the division between what is right in the town and the sentiment against the deaths, which Bat Boy is allegedly responsible for.  Up for re-election (yes topical again), he wants to do the right thing by his voters.  Not often do we see Sheriff Reynolds lift his mirrored sunglasses but we can guess where his allegiance lies.

 

Dr Parker (Chris Story) – Dad to Shelley and wife to Meredith – laments the lost love he and his wife no longer feel.  His jealousy prompts him into dastardly acts and we see a side of him that is evil and dark.

 

The opening scene after interval takes us to the gospel church where Reverend Hightower (Joshua Daveta) leads his congregation in some high powered gospel singing and spiritual healing.  I sense Joshua is in his element in this role (in another life he is lead singer in SOUL SIMPLE). Thanks to the pumping music from MD Nick Hollamby and band, the audience with whoops and calls were  jumping in their seats for this song.

 

There was plenty of parody and slap-stick, Shelley asks Bat Boy,  “How did you find me in the cave? “ Ahhh… I seem to see well in the dark,” he replies.  There is irony, sexual tension, love and jealousy. Mix this in with themes dealing with the horrors of humanity.  The townsfolk at one stage are crying out to Edgar to “Hold me Bat Boy, touch me Bat Boy, make it all turn out alright.” These are deep, short-lived demands, as they quickly turn on Bat Boy and demand his death.

 

Elements from the Vampire inspired fantasies (stirred along by Stephanie Meyers)  are played out in this production – surprisingly I thought – but maybe that is meant to add to the drama and mysterious allure of a Bat Boy.

 

My personal picks in performances were by Meredith, Bat Boy and Reverend Hightower. Better not forget a crowd pleasing moment where a six-packed adorned greek-god like fellow enters stage complete with horns, singing about “free-love”.  The audience went wild for him (sorry I could not locate his name in program).

 

This production has it all!

 

Support Underground Productions and fill the 440 seat capacity Schonell Theatre. It’s all about experiencing something different and unexpected.  Bat Boy: The Musical will give you that! And that’s all I will share.

 

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2 Responses to “Bat Boy: the musical!”


  1. September 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Thnx

    x

    Kind Regards,

    Jennifer Johnston

    Freelance Writer and Blogger

    Mobile: 0404 769 060

    email:jjohn44@optusnet.com.au

    blog: http://jennjaytales.wordpress.com

    skype: jenn.jay2013

    twitter: @jennjay84

    _____

  2. 2 Hannah Falconer
    September 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

    the “six-packed adorned greek-god like fellow” is Pan, the god of the wild (and also the God of panic). And just for the record, if you right an article about a show, you might want to correctly spell the lead actors name. It’s Patrick AIKEN not Patrick AITKEN.


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