In 1992, The Weekly World News reported findings of a Bat Child spotted in a West Virginia Cave and a star was instantly born. After being accompanied by the WWN as he fled local state authorities and the FBI across 3 states in a stolen Mini-Cooper, the Bat Boy became an overnight hit on national TV shows such as The Simpsons and American Dad, and was born into his own musical, originally directed by Keythe Farley who wrote the show’s book with Brian Fleming and had a score by Laurence O’Keefe in Los Angeles in 1997. The extraordinary beauty of a musical representing a creature as “outlandish” as a half boy, half vampire bat child discovered in a cave and then cultivated into a refined, bright young scholar is that practically anyone can feel like they connect with this creature as we watch him magically transform from a bizarre outcast into a handsome, courteous young man. From the moment we are first introduced to Jimmy Mavrikes as the Bat Boy in Bat Boy-The Musical at 1st Stage, Jimmy immediately shows us beautiful work metamorphosing from a “grotesque” figure to the sophisticated Edgar.
Our play begins in a small town in West Virginia called, Hope Falls. The time is 1993. When the bat boy is discovered in a cave in Hope Falls by three Taylor children, he bites one of them, Ruthie Taylor (Farrell Parker), and ends up being taken to the local veterinarian, Dr. Parker (Alan Naylor) by the town sheriff (Katie Nigsch-Fairfax). Like a stray dog, Dr. Parker’s wife (Esther Covington) adopts Bat Boy, makes him part of the family and names him Edgar. As we are drawn further into the story of the cultivation, Edgar not only becomes civilized and well educated, he begins to fall in love with the Parker’s daughter, Shelly (Maria Rizzo).
Director Steven Royal and Musical Director Walter Bobby McCoy, present a good show overall.
Although he is highly enthusiastic about becoming one with society, Bat Boy is instead introduced to violence, fear and hatred as the townspeople have a very difficult time accepting him as one of their citizens as they point the finger of blame in his direction for the recent deaths of their cows. Among the angry townspeople is Dr. Parker, who shares his own volatile feelings for the Bat Boy in a jealous rampage.
The song, “Comfort and Joy” is the moment Mavrikes begins to reveal the different layers and undertones to his voice, from the desperation of receiving mutual love and acceptance, to the compelling vocal intensity during “Apology to a Cow.” One can’t help but feel a deep and intense sympathy for Bat Boy throughout these numbers, especially when he yearningly sings in, “Let Me Walk Among You.” I actually was reminded of Disney’s “Part of Your World” throughout the entire number.
Although there were some definite standout moments in the show from the actors, I was unfortunately somewhat disappointed by a collective number of ensemble scenes, which were lacking in energy and group dynamics as a whole. With a show like Bat Boy, the cast must have a tremendous amount of energy, versatility in comedic timing, and dramatic effect, as well as an incredible extent of stamina. This show consisted of, generally speaking, strong resident DC actors and perhaps there wasn’t enough music direction/stage direction given to the actors to work with. I thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry between Silber and Rizzo as Rick and Shelly during “Whatcha Wanna Do?” There were some fun exchanges between the two during the rap/hip-hop number. Nolan has the smooth crystal clear vocal range to carry “Dance with Me Darling” and even spin circles around the number.
It was nice to hear a solid belt from Katie Nigsch-Fairfax during “Christian Charity,” as she is known to be a strong soprano singer. Choreographer Pauline Grossman’s cute tap number added in “Show You a Thing or Two” really helps bring the energy back into the ensemble. I absolutely loved Dani Stoller’s Saturday Night Live’s (SNL) rendition of Mrs. Taylor as she made white trash look like an appealing one-woman sketch comedy. Farrell Parker’s (Rev. Hightower) sophisticated, glorious chops lead the ensemble during the lively group number “A Joyful Noise.”
Overall the band sounded fine on top of the balance issues between the orchestra and the vocalists. This could be due to the space itself. I thought Adam Koch and Kevin Laughon did a wonderful job with the set and props design respectively. The set and the props were created and used rather effectively in the given space along with the use of strobe lighting thanks to David Sexton. Despite several flaws, Director Steven Royal and Musical Director Walter Bobby McCoy, present a good show overall.
Running Time: 2 hours and one 15 minutes with one intermission.
Bat Boy-The Musical runs through June 22 2014, at 1st Stage inTysons, 1524 Spring Hill Road, Tysons VA 22102. For tickets call (703)854-1856 or click here.