REVIEW: Monstrous Mammals! “Bat Boy: The Musical” at the Bonstelle

Reviewd by Sue Suchyta

Click HERE to read the review on Sue’s blog.

View production photos!

Nicholas Yocum  (center, kneeling) as the Bat Boy and Bridgette Jordan (standing , center) as the Reverend  attend a revival meeting with the townfolk. (Photo by Kevin Replinger)

Nicholas Yocum (center, kneeling) as the Bat Boy and Bridgette Jordan (standing , center) as the Reverend attend a revival meeting with the townfolk. (Photo by Kevin Replinger)

The rock ‘n’ roll show “Bat Boy: The Musical” flies out of its cave and into the Bonstelle to close out the Wayne State University undergraduate theatre’s 2012 – 2013 season.

The musical, first performed on Halloween in 1997, drew inspiration from a 1992 fictional account of a Bat Boy chronicled in the tabloid “Weekly World News.”

“Bat Boy” opened April 12 and runs for two weekends, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. The theatre is on Woodward Avenue at Elliot in Detroit.

Tickets are $20 to $25 and are available by phone or online. For more information, call (313) 577-2960 or go to www.bonstelle.com.

When a local veterinarian and his family adopt a boy with bat-like features found living in a cave, residents of their small town become suspicious.

The townspeople exhibit hypocrisy, racism and revenge, which for some lead eventually to understanding, forgiveness and acceptance. The show’s serious themes are interspersed slapstick, surrealism and a campy sense of humor.

There are Biblical allusions, and references to humans exploring their dark side or animalistic urges as they answer the drive to fulfill their needs as a species for food, sex, power and control. The play hints at the need for humans to embrace their basic animal instincts so as a species they will no longer fear their base desires and urges.

The story is many things, and one senses from the beginning that the end will not be happy – this is not a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Audiences accept early on that death will happen, there will be sadness, and the survivors will not be celebrants.

It is, however, a different type of show, and well performed. Viewers will either love or hate the storyline; indifference is not an option.

Likewise, the acting and production talent is very much evident.

The Bonstelle cast and production team are top notch. Directed by Michael Barnes, with choreographer Jeffrey Michael Rebudal and music director Daniel Greig, the actors display an energetic devotion to the show, delivering a fast-paced production with strong acting, singing and dancing.

The songs, while well-performed, are not as memorial as musical songs often are; and while rock ‘n’ roll works fine for some musicals, there are not any signature songs that one leaves the theater humming or singing.

Most of the sixteen cast members performed multiple roles and all had rapid, multiple costume changes.

Stand-outs in the cast include Nicholas Yocum of Royal Oak as the Bat Boy, Kelly Robinson as Royal Oak as Meredith Parker and Britta Peele of Harrison Township as Shelley Parker.

Bridgette Jordan of Southfield as the revival reverend, Alyssa Lucas of Garden City as the mayor and Matthew Miazgowicz of Dearborn as Lorraine and other cameo roles are notable as well.

The multi-level set designed by Curtis Green is creative and versatile, segueing from a subterranean cave to a suburban home with a quick flick of the stage magic wrist. Fred Florkowski, technical director, and stage manager Meghan Lynch, contribute to the stage magic as well, with exceptional lighting design by Brian Scruggs.

Kudos to properties master Anthony Karpinski and costume designer Mary Gietzen.

The casting is fascinatingly androgynous, perhaps to remind audiences that humans are merely predatory mammals dressed in pseudo-civilizing sheepskin.

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