Bat Boy bursts into song
Murder. Tolerance. Love. Hunger for warm blood. Freakish biological mutations. The nature of family. And, oh yes, incestuous bestiality. These are the themes of Bat Boy: The Musical, presented by Scotch ?n? Soda Theatre on Friday and Saturday.
The normally uninspired McConomy Auditorium was the stage on which the twisted Bat Boy unfolded. Inspired by the recurring story in the tabloid Weekly World News, the musical takes place in rural West Virginia after a group of young siblings discover, deep in a cave, a freakish boy with fangs and pointed ears. Bat Boy (known as Edgar by the Parkers, the kind family that takes him in) quickly becomes the focus of the entire town as residents struggle to reconcile their disgust with their obligations of ?Christian charity.? This contrast becomes the driving force of the musical, providing moments of sheer, abject terror, hysterical humor, and undeniably genuine romance.
Matt Joachim, a first-year in the Mellon College of Science, does a superb job of characterizing the beastly bat-spawn in the title role. His transformation from the animalistic, feral creature to the refined, polite, and downright intelligent Edgar is especially well done (of particular comedic note is that Edgar, by learning English from BBC tapes, speaks among the backwoods West Virginians with a heavy British accent).
But the principal source of humor (which is quite wry) in Bat Boy is senior creative writing major Adam Atkinson in the role of Mr. Thomas Parker, the town veterinarian whose family members become Edgar?s caretakers. Atkinson masterfully blends two brands of comedy: the highly visual, near-slapstick variety, which he accomplishes with his fantastic facial expressions and exquisite physicality; and the art of deadpan, in which he excels with a dastardly charm. What?s more, the disparity between these two comedic styles makes each even more hilarious.
Bat Boy is not all laughs. At its heart are the extremely relevant themes of love, acceptance, and what ? if anything ? constitutes ?humanity.? There is real familial drama in Bat Boy; junior history major Laurel Brierly plays Mrs. Meredith Parker and brings an impressive realism to her underlying conflict with her husband. Alexandra Orgera, a junior BSA student, is utterly irresistible as the Parkers? daughter Shelley ? her part is exceptionally acted and sung, and (much to her credit) the audience clearly understands the importance of her character, for she is the young, unfinished product of her society: naive, but hardly innocent; ideological, but fast on her way becoming jaded. Her two duets in the second half, ?Three Bedroom House? and ?Inside Your Heart,? are the zeniths of Act Two.
However, solid performances are delivered by the entire cast. Brian Gray, Adam Jaffe, and Brittany McCandless shine as peripheral residents of the West Virginia town. Kami Smith, a sophomore professional writing major, plays the Reverend Hightower, and though present as such in only one scene, she makes her mark with an explosive gospel voice. Indeed, the entire ensemble packs a vocal punch that makes the choral work impressive and enjoyable. Also praiseworthy is the pit orchestra, a fantastic ensemble of students that successfully worked Bat Boy?s unique blend of traditional Broadway tunes with an element of contemporary rock.
Much of the credit for Bat Boy?s success is due to the direction of junior creative writing major Tyson Schrader with the assistance of sophomore Zach Harris, also a creative writing major. Schrader describes Bat Boy as ?dark humor, musical satire, and brutal allegory.? In his directorial debut, Schrader was cognizant of the important irony and social commentary in Bat Boy: ?Bat Boy taught us all to be aware of the baseness to which we so often resort. We cannot deny the inner beast, but as human beings we can learn to curb it.?
Editor?s Note: Adam Atkinson and Brittany McCandless are staffwriters for The Tartan.