Hilarious, strange Bat Boy is not for the faint of heart

Review of Bat Boy: The Musical by Elisabeth S.

Troy Wageman is Bat Boy
Photo by Matthew Durham

I've been living in a cave - but obviously not the same one as Bat Boy.

If I had been, I would have known about his theatre debut, the spawn of a tabloid phenomena that has graced the shelves of grocery stores for years. The theatre production in his honor, however, has grabbed more attention for Bat Boy than any cheap gossip column ever could.

After premiering on October 13, 1997 in Los Angeles, Bat Boy has been produced Off-Broadway, in London's West End, and in the Edinburgh Festival to name a few of the famous places that have embraced Bat Boy's eccentricity and flare for the dramatic.

Sharing cult classic characteristics similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Bat Boy is the story of a strange bat child discovered in a cave and then introduced into a thoroughly religious society of people who have trouble accepting him into their lives, no matter how hard he tries to become a human.

"It's a show that needs the intensity and intimacy of a fringe theater combined with the budget-based flourishes possible at a larger theater," said director Christopher Zinovitch.

Zinovitch couldn't be more right. The musical is filled with epic numbers that are reminiscent of a huge stage in a big city. The actors fulfill the wish of every director: they use their whole bodies to move and cover every inch of the stage. The music is equally sweeping. It’s bigger than the tiny theatre, but then again so are the voices and the choreography.

The play is all together stylish, fun, and sexy, with actors like Krystle Armstrong as Shelley Parker and Jimmy Scheider as Rick highlighting the vocal and dance talent of the whole cast, as well as showcasing their own characters’ immaturity and bubbly innocence turned upside down with hilarity and grace.

The real treat comes from Troy Wageman as Bat Boy. He transitions from bat to boy smoothly, but his time as each character is equally believable. He is playful and animalistic in mannerism and voice as the bat, displaying almost gymnast-like qualities while trapped inside his cage, then awkward and silly as the refined Edgar later in the play.

But what really holds this play together is the ensemble. Complete with three dumb farmers, a mayor clad in rubber boots, and a ridiculously enthusiastic mother, the ensemble proves their versatility and their role as comic relief. They work incredibly well together, interacting easily and creatively to make the Bat Boy experience a more funny and exciting one.

For such a funny play, the plot is dark and scary, with sexual undertones that, at one point, move past innuendo and right into a blatant showcase that seems to forget the meaning of subtlety. One scene simulates an act on stage in such a crass, rude, and hilarious manner that it borders on offensive, while another scene describing Bat Boy's horrific origins is so disturbing and explicit, I felt bad laughing. In fact, towards the end, the play becomes so strange it practically turns into a messy fiasco, but the cast holds it together and finishes cleanly. This musical is surely not for children or the faint of heart, and should only be seen be the adventurous and open-minded.

Bat Boy, complete with a thrilling plot twist, a dynamic cast, and a sensibility that screams Broadway, is bound for success and controversy. Anyone up for true originality shouldn't miss this musical or its hilarious, talented cast. Bat Boy offers something more to a theater-going audience: honesty and real drama, never washed out or sugar coated. And no matter how ridiculous it gets, Bat Boy holds its audience at attention, even, if not especially, when they want to look away.

Elisabeth S.
October 6th, 2007

Note: This show contains mature themes, including sexuality, and on stage violence and gore. ArtsWest recommends the play for people ages 15 and up. For more information on content, please contact ArtsWest directly.

Bat Boy: The Musical
Through November 10

ArtsWest’s Ticket Office: 206-938-0339

More info and show times: www.artswest.org

ArtsWest is located at 4711 California Ave SW in West Seattle. It's served by buses 22, 37, 51, 53, 54, 55, 57, 128, and 560. For bus times: tripplanner.metrokc.gov
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