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Regional Reviews by David Ritchey

Bat Boy: The Musical
Great Lakes Theatre Festival

Sometimes things just couldn't get any better. Bat Boy: The Musical plays in an almost perfect production in the Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Hannah Theater, Cleveland. WOW! What a production.

Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming (book and story) and Laurence O'Keefe (music and lyrics) have lifted a story from Weekly World News and turned it into a good time for all.

The story deals with a teenaged boy who is half bat, half human. He's discovered in a cave (no, not the bat cave) by three teenagers in Hope Falls, West Virginia. He's captured and caged in the home of the local veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Parker (Lynn Robert Berg). Mrs. Parker (Lynn Allison) takes an interest in the Bat Boy (Mitch McCarrell) and teaches him to speak with good grammar, sing and dance (the latter two are especially important since this is a musical).

Bat Boy has those great fangs (think of vampires on TV) and occasionally takes a bite of someone. But, the real problem is that cows are dying. And, by the end of the play, the audience knows that Bat Boy does have a taste for beef.

The Reverend Billy Hightower (Fabio Polanco) brings his revival to Hope Falls, population 500, and attempts to heal and/or convert Bat Boy, who is now called Edgar.

The playwrights have studied theater history and dramatic literature. They create a story that owes much to Greek tragedy, including a section from Oedipus Rex. The references to Shakespeare are so frequent that I lost count (of course I was laughing most of the time). For example, the couple opens a sofa-bed and finds a covering of flowers, which would look great in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The closing scene in Bat Boy makes Shakespeare's tragedies seem tame. The stage is littered with bodies. However, not all has ended; one character has to sum up what has happened and what we may expect in the future. This device is directly from Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and others, I'm sure.

Victoria Bussert (director) makes this musical sing and dance. She and her cast are working from the same script, the same style and same attitude. Proof of her success is simple—everyone in the audience was smiling at the end of the show. In fact, some went out singing songs from the show.

Martín Céspedes (choreographer) has created vigorous, exciting dances for the show.

Jeff Hermann (scenic designer) has created a set that includes the mountains of West Virginia, with cows on the hills, a bat cave and a home. In addition, he makes a space for the orchestra on top of one of the mountains.

Nicole Frachiseur (costume designer) has designed costumes that occasionally bring well-deserved laughs. Pan (Eduardo Placer) wears a cowboy hat covered with flowers, black shirt and jeans, and white cowboy boots that go up to his knees, with platform soles and high heels.

The five-piece orchestra, conducted by Matthew Webb, keeps the show moving at a brisk pace. The orchestra supports the singers and dancers, provides appropriate background music and functions as a major character in the show.

This production has much to recommend it. Bussert's direction, McCarrell's performance of the Bat Boy, Polanco's portrayal of at least three different characters (one of them female), and a fine orchestra that plays during most of the show.

Bat Boy continues in the Hannah Theatre through May 16. The show is part of the Great Lakes Theater Festival's spring repertory, which includes Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org.

The Great Lakes Theatre Festival
Hannah Theatre
PlayhouseSquare
BatBoy: The Musical
April 8-May 16
Story and book by Keythe Farley & Brian Flemming
Music by Laurence O'Keefe
Bat Boy: Mitch McCarrell
Meredith Parker: Lynn Allison
Dr. Thomas Parker: Lynn Robert Berg
Shelley Parker: Erin Childs
Sheriff Reynolds: Aled Davies
Rick Taylor/Lorraine/Doctor/Mr. Dillon: Dane Agostinis
Ron Taylor/Maggie/Clem:Alana Simone
Ruthie Taylor/Ned: Gisela Chípe
Mrs. Taylor/Roy/Reverend Billy Hightower/ Institute Man: Fabio Polanco
Bud, Daisy/Pan/Doctor: Eduardo Placer
Director: Victoria Bussert
Musical Director: Matthew Webb
choreographer: Martín Céspedes
Scenic Designer: Jeff Herrmann
Costume Designer: Nicole Frachiseur
Lighting Designer: Diana Ferry Williams
Sound Designer: Stan Kozak
Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Hannah Theatre in PlayhouseSquare at 1501 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio
ticket Information: 216-241-6000 or www.greatlakestheater.org.

- David Ritchey



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