The musical, featuring a book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, and music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe, is based on a June 23, 1992, Weekly World News story about a half-boy, half-bat who was found living in a cave and was dubbed Bat Boy. This twist on the modern day musical comedy tells the amazing story of a strange boy with pointy ears, his struggle to find a place in a world that shuns him, and a love that can create both miracles and madness. Ripped from the tabloid headlines, Bat Boy: The Musical is a classic love story with a serious bite.
In the town of Hope Falls, West Virginia, three teenagers are out for an afternoon of exploring caves and smoking pot when they discover a creature that is half-bat and half-boy. It bites one of them in the neck, and they capture it and bring it back to town. There the sheriff drops the Bat Boy off at the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Parker, to be put down. Dr. Parker's wife Meredith and daughter Shelley form a bond with the Bat Boy, and Dr. Parker decides to spare Bat Boy's life rather than put him down like a common animal. The family raises and educates him as best they can. In a town filled with suspicion and fear, the fate and acceptance of Bat Boy (now named Edgar) seems doomed from the start by all but Meredith and Shelley. After all, Edgar may be polished and well mannered when they are done, but he still survives on only blood, and there is the lingering question of his origin. Though delivered in camp-horror style, the plot touches on the serious subjects of prejudice, hypocrisy, revenge and forgiveness.
The set and lighting design for this production are well crafted. The most memorable images are a tangle of tall trees backlit in blood red, and beams of lights cutting through fog. The sound is a bit too loud, as the singing and tracked accompaniment are harsh on the ears. The performers truly aren't in need of that much microphone assistance as there are some hefty singing voices in this cast. Ensemble numbers are uniformly well sung and easy to understand. Director Patrick Fitzwater has brought about as much clarity to the plot as possible by playing the story straightforward rather than going for every obvious comic ploy.
Stephanie Simon as Meredith is the perfect Stepford Mom, pretending all is perfection even when it isn't. She gets to sing the two best melodies in the show: "A Home For You" and "Three Bedroom House." Matthew Korinko as Thomas Parker has a centered maturity in his acting as well as a nice singing voice. Anne Chamberlain (Shelley) must wait until late in the show to show off her beautiful singing voice with all the sweetness of Lea Salonga. Joe Harter as Pan also does a great job with the song "Children, Children." The best singing, acting and chemistry comes from Simon, Korinko, Chamberlain and Rick Pena (Bat Boy). I suppose this is as it should be, but there is unevenness in the ensemble. With an ensemble that is slightly smaller than normally used for this show, it becomes more obvious. The voices are there, but some faces look completely blank for entire songs or scenes, and feet scramble to get in step. With that said, if you are a fan of Bat Boy: The Musical and the sound of contemporary Broadway, this is a solid, well-sung version and a decent way to kick off a promising new theatre's season.
The Slow Burn Theatre production of Bat Boy: The Musical will be appearing through March 7, 2010, at the West Boca Performing Arts Center on the campus of West Boca High, 12811 West Glades Rd. (3.5 miles west of 441). Performances are Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $25 for Adults, $20 for Seniors, and $15 for Students. The Slow Burn Theatre Company is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) professional theatre company hiring local actors and actresses. They are committed to bringing high-quality contemporary musical theatre to South Florida, and proving that modern Broadway can rock. The company offers technical internships to local students, providing them with professional experience, encourage aspiring young artists by offering insight into the process through talk-backs after their Thursday evening performances. For more information on Slow Burn you may contact them by phone at (954) 323-7884 or on line at www.slowburntheatre.com.
Director/Choreographer: Patrick Fitzwater