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Bat Boy: The Musical | New Line Theatre

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From the town’s Cleaver-type family to the town’s busybody, each of the characters successfully create the stereotype assigned to them in spades.

 

Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe
Directed by Scott Miller
Through March 18, 2006

New Line Theatre scores another hit this season with its wacky musical, Bat Boy: The Musical. The show—which is licensed under agreement with Weekly World News—tells the (true?) story of Edgar, the part bat/part boy found in the caverns of West Virginia. While the tabloid stories ran rampant putting the bat boy in numerous scenarios, this show follows Edgar (Todd Schaefer) as he tries to find his place in modern society. The story is a fun, roller-coaster ride filled with hilarious twists and turns, as Edgar learns to adapt to his new family, a hateful little town, and his growing fondness for a local town girl that could result in a very sticky situation.

The town of Hope Falls is chock full of colorful characters that all work together in helping Edgar unfold his destiny. From the town’s Cleaver-type family, the Parkers, to the town’s busybody, Lorraine (Jeffrey Pruett), each of the characters successfully create the stereotype assigned to them in spades.

As Edgar learns how to take his place in society, he constantly has to deal with obstacles created by the local townspeople. It seemed that when Edgar puts out one fire, two more erupted. No matter what Edgar is forced to deal with, his one true passion is obvious: He just wants to be loved. While I could easily compare Edgar’s battles with the plight of the modern-day homosexual, I would digress. With all its social messages, the play should be taken for what it is: a big, fun night of fantastic entertainment.

What makes the story even more enjoyable is the accompanying soundtrack. With songs like “Let Me Walk Among You” and “Children, Children,” the tongue-in-cheek musical numbers are flat-out hilarious. The numbers really sizzle when the whole company is onstage, voices blending in beautiful harmony. The solo numbers are all fantastic, but it is mesmerizing when the whole cast assemble to deliver the show’s blockbuster songs.

The character performances were, in a word, brilliant. Each of the performers should be commended; there was an amazing amount of synergy between each of them. To call out individuals on their performances might not be fair, seeing how this ensemble truly acted as one, but dang it, I need to spread some love around.

Schaefer was sensational in his portrayal of Edgar, the Bat Boy. Shaving his head to give his appearance a dramatic effect, Schaefer’s transformation from cave dweller to societal focal point was not only the highpoint of the show, but was also tremendously enjoyable to watch.

April Lindsay stood out for her passionate delivery as Shelly Parker, the Parker’s nubile—and dead sexy—daughter. Lindsay’s “Catholic school girl gone bad” persona was intoxicating. Not only could this girl act, but she was also was breathtaking while delivering some of the show’s vocals.

I would be remiss in not mentioning Christine Brooks (whom I loved in Act Inc.’s Servant of Two Masters), Stephanie Brown (with whom I fell in love in New Line’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman), and Nicholas Kelly (who also impressed me in Spiderwoman). Each of these actors, along with Jeffrey Pruett and Aaron Allen, did a top-notch job in their portrayals of multiple characters.

One final mention goes to both Deborah Sharn as Meredith Parker and Brian Claussen as Sheriff Reynolds. Both of these outstanding actors lent their roles a fierce amount of talent and energy.

However, with the sweet comes the bitter. There were two technical aspects that left me scratching my head. Visually, the set could have been a bit more innovative. I couldn’t quite appreciate how minimal the sets were, nor could I figure out why some of the props were so corny. Did the fake baby really need all of the “appendages”? Additionally, the microphones popping in and out did detract from the overall experience.

With all things considered, I do feel that director Scott Miller should be commended for assembling a truly talented cast for this production. That is the thing I love about Miller’s productions: rather than seem to “settle” for just any actor to fill any role, he has the uncanny knack for putting a talented actor in to the role that suits them best. While this may sound like an easy task, I have seen my fair share of wrong actors in wrong roles. Congratulations are in order for Miller and his amazing cast/crew for putting the fun back in musical theater. This production will definitely be in contention for my best show of 2006. Kudos to New Line Theatre!

New Line Theatre presents Bat Boy: The Musical, directed by Scott Miller, through March 18 at the ArtLoft Theatre (1529 Washington Ave.) Performances are Thurs., Fri., & Sat. at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $8 students to $18 general public, and are available through MetroTix (by phone at 314-534-1111 or online). Most New Line shows contain adult material not suitable for children.
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