Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cincinnati

Bat Boy: The Musical

Sometimes, the best things in life are, indeed, free—at least when it comes to theater. The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) Studio Series has long been known by local audiences as the place to see great productions of lesser-known shows without paying a dime (just be one of the first to reserve a seat the Monday prior to the performance). Their latest mounting, Bat Boy: The Musical, is solidly entertaining, splendidly performed, and perfectly directed.

Bat Boy is loosely based on the character repeatedly featured in the tabloid Weekly World News. It's the story of a wild creature that appears to be part human/part bat and is captured by teens in a West Virginia mountain town. Bat Boy is turned over to local veterinarian Dr. Parker to be destroyed, but Mrs. Parker and daughter Shelley keep him and change "Edgar" from a wild animal into a well-spoken, highly educated member of the family. Edgar's struggle to gain approval from his new family and the townspeople, while also fighting his inborn hunger for blood, is explored with both comedic and devastating consequences.

The book for the show by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming has its tongue planted firmly in cheek with hilarious results. While many aspects of rural life are skewered in parody, the emotional moments are also effectively written. Though the story meanders somewhat in the second act, its well-carved characters, laugh-out-loud funny jokes, and surprise ending winningly tell a humorous tale of love, discrimination and acceptance.

The pop-influenced score by Laurence O'Keefe (Legally Blonde: The Musical) consists of catchy melodies ranging from country flavored ensemble pieces to soaring solo anthems. The lyrics are likewise witty and humorous, while also conveying the seriousness of the few non-comedic songs. Musical highlights include the rock-influenced "Whatcha Wanna Do?," "Comfort and Joy," "Let Me Walk Among You" (Bat Boy's plea to the townsfolk for acceptance) and the driving "Three Bedroom House."

One of the joys of attending a CCM musical is experiencing a level of talent and preparation that is rivaled by few other colleges nationwide. Like those that came before them, these student performers will soon be filling the casts of Broadway companies in New York. The twelve-member cast boasts seniors to freshman, and all are up to the challenge of this fast-paced show. As Bat Boy/Edgar, Brandon Yanez embodies the character's physical attributes, sings well, and conveys the multiple emotions of the complex creature. Megan Campanile very convincingly portrays teenager-with-attitude Shelley and delivers excellent comic timing, along with strong vocals. Last fall, Lisa Mindelle turned in an extremely praiseworthy performance as Hope Caldwell in Urinetown at CCM, and she is again a standout in Bat Boy. Her deadpan facial expressions, exquisite singing and well-rounded acting as mother Meredith point to this senior being ready for the Great White Way's bright lights. Greg Tate (Dr. Parker) provides sufficient acting and singing throughout. The skilled ensemble members John Riddle, Lexie Dorsett, Melvin Logan, Joey Debenedetto, Joe Moeller, Laura Torres, Joe Chisholm and Carlyn Connolly do a great job with quick costumes changes and varied portrayals of the many eccentric characters in the show.

With Bat Boy, Richard E. Hess again showcases why he's one of the region's best directors. He helms the show with great attention to detail, inventive staging and fluid movement in a way that extracts all of the laughs from the material while not undercutting the emotional pull of the story. Diane Lala's choreography is fun, funny and top-notch as usual. Musical director Steve Goers capably leads the four-piece band.

The simple, yet effective set design by Jamie Bressler includes some fantastic props, and the lighting by Adam Zeek is breathtaking at times, especially considering the black box space constraints. The costumes by Dominique Glaros are hilarious and apt, and special mention is required for Emily Murray's wig and make-up design.

Bat Boy: The Musical is a modern, hip, tuneful, and hilarious romp, and CCM delivers the level of skill and entertainment value local theatergoers have come to expect thanks to design, dance, direction, and talented performers. Bat Boy: The Musical continues through February 7, 2009.

-- Scott Cain

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