‘Hold Me, Bat Boy!’

Posted 4/13/09

It’s called “alternative” and that translates to campy and certainly not your grandmother’s musical, but the musicality, fine voices, …

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‘Hold Me, Bat Boy!’


It’s called “alternative” and that translates to campy and certainly not your grandmother’s musical, but the musicality, fine voices, imaginative choreography, and engaging, if wacky, storyline are part of a carefully-crafted package.

Director Nick Sugar’s attention to production details brings “Bat Boy: the Musical” to Town Hall’s stage in all it’s edgy goofiness— yet with tinge of sadness.

The story and book are by Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe— all of whom worked with tongue firmly in cheek! The idea came from several stories in the supermarket tabloid, “Weekly World News.” (Think National Enquirer in our area). A creature that was half-boy/ half bat had been discovered in a cave in the mountains of rural West Virginia, it claimed, in a fine example of investigative reporting.

The play was developed by Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Theatre and ran off-Broadway, in London’s West End and at the Edinburgh Festival. It has since been produced across the country, described by one critic as “Rocky Horror Picture Show meets My Fair Lady.”

Travel to Hope Falls, W.Va., and abandon preconceived ideas about how the world works. Sort of… the parody about community fear and intolerance rings more true than one might wish.

Music ranges from rock to gospel to country to rap to ballad and a lively three-piece band is placed high in a large screened cage. Led by Donna Debreceni, it adds a great deal and the sound is carefully managed by Jacob Krimbel so that from center seats, at least, it doesn’t drown out the well-trained voices. An audience member who sat farther to the side did experience some problems with hearing clearly. Perhaps a bit more tweaking is in order.

Watch for brief send-ups of some classic musicals.

It’s dark at the rocky entrance to a cave and voices and flashlights appear, as does a shadowy, darting figure. Lights go up as local teens capture a frightened creature, bag it and haul it to the sheriff.

Not certain what he’s dealing with, the Sheriff (Brian Murray) delivers it to the local veterinarian, Dr. Parker, thinking he’ll put it down.

Bat Boy, ably played by a nimble Mark Lively, squeaks, cowers and hangs upside down in a large cage in the living room, refusing offered food. The assumption of euthanasia doesn’t take into consideration Parker’s wife and feisty teenage daughter Shelley, who have other ideas. They home school him with BBC tapes, teach him to dance and generally civilize him, aside from his need for a diet of blood. (Might he be responsible for a rash of cattle deaths)? They name the boy with bat-like ears and fangs Edgar.

Musical theater veteran Margie Lamb is the veterinarian’s warm-hearted wife Meredith, who has her own dark secrets and Ellen Kaye is a sassy, rebellious teen, Shelley Parker. Daniel Langhoff is the often-soused, unhappy, sometimes homicidal Dr. Parker, who strikes a deal with his wife to let Bat Boy live if…

Per the script directions, there are 10 cast members: the five mentioned who play single parts and another five in a funny ensemble, which makes lightening changes; Cameron Stevens brings a strong voice and good comic timing as teenaged Rick Taylor, proper church lady Lorraine and Mr. Dillon, while Haley Wells plays brother Ron Taylor as well as clicker-toting town mayor Maggie. Heather Larson is the unfortunate Ruthie Taylor and Ned, while Shelley McMillon is Mrs Taylor, Roy, an Institute man and a knock-out Gospel singing preacher, Rev. Hightower. Keegan Flaugh is an able late fill-in as Daisy, Bud, Pan, Doctor.

The ending somehow verges on tragic works by the Bard and the entire production had most folks in a sometimes-rowdy audience clearly engaged.

Nice to see good material that’s not so familiar, but for those who prefer the tried and true, note that Town Hall’s final season production will be “Oklahoma.” The announced 2009-2010 season will include a comedic play and five musicals: “Grease,” “Oliver!” “Sylvia,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Altar Boyz” and “The Secret Garden.” Reserve your favorite seat now.

”Bat Boy: the Musical” runs through May 10 at Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 W. Main St. in Downtown Littleton. Not recommended for under 17. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $21 to $36, with final hour rush tickets for students and actors if available. 303-794-2787, www.townhallartscenter.com


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