REVIEW: Bonstelle’s ‘Bat Boy’ a must-see musical

Review by Robert Delaney, New Monitor

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'Bat Boy: The Musical' Credit: Kevin Replinger

‘Bat Boy: The Musical’
Credit: Kevin Replinger

A freakish creature often reported on by the Weekly World News is discovered in a West Virginia cave in “Bat Boy: The Musical,” being given a superb production at Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre in Midtown Detroit.

Yes, after all these years of seeing him stare at you from the front page of that supermarket tabloid as you waited in the checkout line, Bat Boy is the subject of a lavish stage musical, thanks to Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, who wrote the book, and the music and lyrics of Laurence O’Keefe.

And Bat Boy is bringing delight, not terror, to Detroit audiences, thanks to this splendid production directed by Michael J. Barnes and performed by a truly impressive undergraduate cast.

The show is surprisingly great fun to watch, and many aspects of this WSU production rise above what one would normally expect of even a good college production.

This is most especially true of the outstanding and genuinely professional quality performances of Nicholas Yocum as Bat Boy, Britta Peele as Shelley Parker and Bridgette Jordan as Reverend Billy Hightower.

Yocum scores high marks for not only his acting and singing, but also for the agile athleticism he brings to the role.

This has been quite a season for Peele, a graduating senior in WSU’s program. She earlier wowed area audiences with her portrayal of Lolia in “Hamtown Races” at the Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck and as Annie in “Cancer, the Musical” at the Marlene Boll Theatre downtown. If you have yet to see this very talented young actress or hear her excellent singing voice, make sure you catch her in this production.

Also giving truly impressive performances are Kelly Robinson as Meredith Parker, Jackson McLaskey as Dr. Thomas Parker and Luke Rose as Rick Taylor. But the entire cast can be justly proud of the success of this production, as can the musical ensemble, led by Devon L. Hansen, and those who worked the technical side of things.

Scenic designer Curtis Green, costume designer Mary Gietzen, lighting designer Brian M. Scruggs and choreographer J.M. Rebudal are certainly among those who deserve great credit for their roles.

How sad that such a sensational production should only run for two weekends! But there is still time to get tickets to one of this weekend’s final three performances.

“Bat Boy: The Musical” continues through April 21, with performances at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee, at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Ave., a block south of Mack. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box offi ce at (313) 577-2960 or visit http://www.wsushows.com.

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REVIEW: The Bonstelle brings the cult hit ‘Bat Boy: The Musical’ to Motown

Review by Patty Nolan, The Examiner

Click HERE to read the review on the Examiner’s website.

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Thomas Parker (Jackson McLaskey, center) and Bat Boy (Nicholas Yocum, right) Credit: Kevin Replinger

Thomas Parker (Jackson McLaskey, center) and Bat Boy (Nicholas Yocum, right)
Credit: Kevin Replinger

“Bat Boy: The Musical,” by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming, and Laurence O’Keefe, is the campy cult hit that doesn’t lend itself to easy handles. Not unlike “Little Shop of Horrors,” this show has terrific music, an unlikely romance, and a primary character with a thirst for fresh blood. Did we mention a few grisly murders thrown in for good measure?

But “Bat Boy” is in a class by itself – a send up of the classic tabloid story from Weekly World News about the adventures of a half-bat/half-boy creature. And it is a riveting, riotous piece of fun from start to finish. We really can’t recommend it enough.

The Bonstelle Theatre company, under the direction of Michael J. Barnes, finds exactly the right tone to pull off a dark comedy like this one. And that tone is sincerity. The more the characters play it straight, the funnier the situations become for the audience. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that many of the characters are played by cross-dressing actors. Women play boys, sheriffs, and gospel-song-slinging revival-style preachers (shout out to Bridgette Jordan) and men play crazy cat ladies and white trash mommas. And then there’s the Bat Boy.

Nicholas Yocum is exceptional in the role of the feral creature found in a cave in West Virginia and brought home to live with the family of local veterinarian, Dr. Parker (the always brilliant Jackson McLaskey), his wife Meredith (the gifted Kelly Robinson) and daughter Shelley (the perfect ingenue, Britta Peele). Something about the Bat Boy brings out all of Meredith’s maternal instincts. She names him Edgar, and in a series of delightful scenes we watch as he progresses from a few rudimentary words to a mastery of the language that rivals the sophisticates of Downton Abbey.

Unfortunately, before he was “tamed,” Edgar bit one of children who dragged him out of his cave at the opening of the show. Little Ruthie doesn’t seem to be healing quite right. And the good God-fearing, blood-thirsty town folk begin to suspect that Edgar is also behind recent losses in their cattle herd. Meanwhile, Edgar, well … let’s just say he has his own quirky appetite to contend with.

Will the town folk give Edgar a chance? Will any cattle make it to the end of the play? What is the secret to Bat Boy’s unholy origins? And will we all learn to embrace our inner Bat Boy? You simply have to see this zany musical to discover how it all turns out.

The opening night crowd at the Bonstelle hooted and cheered throughout the show – and it’s easy to understand why this play has its own cult following. We could cheerfully go see it again before it closes. But perhaps the best point of view on this show comes right from the spotlight.

Nicholas Yocum, who has appeared in several Bonstelle productions, was nice enough to answer our questions about his acting career and what it’s like to play Bat Boy.

Q. I’ve seen you in a number of shows – including at Stagecrafters – how long have you been performing?

Nicholas: I’ve been acting since I was 8-years-old. That would make it fifteen years. I grew up doing a lot of community theatre, especially at Stagecrafters – that place will always hold a special place in my heart. I also did a couple of shows with Michigan Opera Theatre.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about this role? Can you compare it to anything else you’ve done?

Nicholas: I love everything about this role. I get quite a workout every night, physically and vocally. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever done for that exact reason. I’m not sure that there are a lot of roles around that push your body to its limits as well as challenge you with a high-range, unrelenting vocal part. But I do love every second of performing it, especially since I have so many friends up on stage with me. If I had to choose one aspect of the role, it would have to be the blood. It’s surprisingly tasty!

Q. What should we tell people who aren’t familiar with the play that will make them want to see it?

Nicholas: Tell people that this play has anything and everything, literally, that musical theatre has to offer. Comedy, tragedy, parody, romance, thrills, and of course an amazing score. And they will get it all in two hours!

That sums it up pretty nicely. We’d add in that it also has an outstanding cast, orchestra and crew including:

Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) EnsembleIvy Haralson (Belleville, MI) Ron Taylor,Bridgette Jordan (Southfield, MI) Reverend Billy HightowerSara Kline (Madison Heights, MI)Sheriff Reynolds ,Alyssa Lucas (Garden City, MI) MaggieColin Mallory (East Lansing, MI)Pan/DaisyJackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) Dr. Thomas ParkerMatthew Miazgowicz(Dearborn, MI) LorraineShane Nelson (Windsor, ON) BudBritta Peele (Harrison Township, MI)Shelley ParkerJonathan Pigott (Wyandotte, MI) EnsembleKelly Robinson (Royal Oak, MI)Meredith ParkerLuke Rose (Harrison Township, MI) Rick TaylorAnthony Scamihorn(Marshall, MI) Mrs. TaylorAnna Seibert (Detroit, MI) Ruthie Taylor/NedNicholas Yocum(Royal Oak, MI) Bat Boy/Edgar.

And on the production side:

Michael J. Barnes (Director), Julia Moriarty (Assistant Director), Jeffrey Michael Rebudal(Choreographer), Daniel Greig (Music Director), Devon L. Hansen (Conductor/Piano), Shane McKeever (Second Keyboard), John Gallo (Guitar), Josh Bartolomeo (Bass), David Zwolinski (Percussion), Meghan Lynch (Stage Manager), Curtis Green (Scenic Designer),Anthony Karpinski (Technical Director and Properties Master), Mary Gietzen (Costume Designer), Brian M. Scruggs (Lighting Designer), Tyler Ezell (Sound Designer), ShanandAlexandra Stewart (Publicity Manager).

You should definitely go see the Bonstelle strut their stuff, but you have to act quickly, because it only runs two weekends.

“Bat Boy” appears at the Bonstelle Theatre through April 21, 2013. Show times are at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, visiting the website, or stopping by the Wayne State University Theatres Box Office located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock, inside the Hilberry Theatre. The Bonstelle Theatre is located at 3424 Woodward Avenue, one block south of Mack Avenue at Eliot.

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.

‘Bat Boy: The Musical’ opens next Firday!

‘Bat Boy: The Musical’ opens next Thursday! Buy your tickets online!

Join the Facebook Event or check out our photo album. We’ll be updating photos all week as we get ready for this fantastic show!

Bat-Boy-Poster-CLICK

PRESS RELEASE: ‘Bat Boy: The Musical’

Bat Boy: The Musical Flies into the Bonstelle Theatre for Only Two Weeks

Opening April 12, 2013

Ruthie (Anna Seibert), Bat Boy (Nicholas Yocum), and Rick (Luke Rose)Photo: Alexandra Stewart

Ruthie (Anna Seibert), Bat Boy (Nicholas Yocum), and Rick (Luke Rose)
Photo: Alexandra Stewart

DETROIT— The Bonstelle Theatre presents the rock ‘n’ roll cult classic, Bat Boy: The Musical by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming, and Laurence O’Keefe, running for only two weeks, April 12 through 21, 2013. Based on the grocery store tabloid, Weekly World News, Bat Boy: The Musical is a rambunctious musical comedy that closes the Bonstelle Theatre season with a bite. Tickets are $20-$25 and are available by calling (313) 577-2960, visiting http://www.bonstelle.com, or visiting the Wayne State University Theatres Box Office located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

Bat Boy: The Musical is about a supernatural half bat/half boy creature that is discovered in a cave in West Virginia and brought to the home of local veterinarian Dr. Parker. The Parker family decides to take him in and teach him to behave as a normal human, attempting to integrate him into a narrow-minded town. As he tries to fit in, romantic sparks fly and he decides to run away with the veterinarian’s daughter, Shelley. But happiness is shattered as the town hears the shocking story of Batboy’s unholy origin.

First performed on Halloween in 1997, Bat Boy: The Musical has had success both in the United States and in London’s West End. The character of Bat Boy was created by former Weekly World News Editor Dick Kulpa, and debuted as a cover story on June 23, 1992. The original front-page photo of Bat Boy, showing his grotesque screaming face, was the second-best selling issue in the tabloid’s history, and he has since evolved into a pop-culture icon. This creature inspired writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming to write a stage adaptation, and they were joined by American composer/lyricist Laurence O’Keefe.

The musical differs in a few of its plot details from the Weekly World News portrayal of Bat Boy. In the musical, Bat Boy learns to speak from his adoptive family, yearns for acceptance and tries to join society, only to face hatred and violence from a town that fears him and jealous rage from his foster father. But according to the Weekly World News, Bat Boy is a member of a race of creatures who have interacted with humans for at least 400 years, and he was discovered in the Ozarks in 1992 by biologist Dr. Ron Dillon after he was trapped by a falling rock in a cave he was hiding in. At the time only two feet tall and weighing less than 20 pounds, Dr. Dillon was shocked later when the creature grew a set of wings and escaped. This would be only the first of Bat Boy’s many captures and escapes that Weekly World News would expand upon.

Though Bat Boy and his stories told by Weekly World News are fictional, the story of Bat Boy: The Musical deals with serious themes such as hypocrisy, acceptance, forgiveness, racism, revenge, and scapegoating, but often punctures the most serious moments with slapstick, surrealism, camp-horror, and irony. The show also contains religious themes with biblical allusions. One interesting theme about the show, which lies somewhat underneath the surface, is the idea that we all have a dark side, or an animal side, that comes out when we’re afraid, that drives us as humans for food, sex, power, or control; and the idea that we must embrace this side of ourselves instead of fear it.

Bat Boy: The Musical won awards for best Off-Broadway musical including the Lucille Lortel Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Outer Critics Circle Award in 2001. Regional productions of Bat Boy have been nominated for and won awards including the 2003 Elliot Norton Award (New England) and the 1998 Ovation Awards (Los Angeles).

The cast includes (in alphabetical order):

Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) Ensemble, Ivy Haralson (Belleville, MI) Ron Taylor, Bridgette Jordan (Southfield, MI) Reverend Billy Hightower, Sara Kline (Madison Heights, MI) Sheriff ReynoldsAlyssa Lucas (Garden City, MI) Maggie, Colin Mallory (East Lansing, MI) Pan/Daisy, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) Dr. Thomas Parker, Matthew Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) Lorraine, Shane Nelson (Windsor, ON) Bud, Britta Peele (Harrison Township, MI) Shelley Parker, Jonathan Pigott (Wyandotte, MI) Ensemble, Kelly Robinson (Royal Oak, MI) Meredith Parker, Luke Rose (Harrison Township, MI) Rick Taylor, Anthony Scamihorn (Marshall, MI) Mrs. Taylor, Anna Seibert (Detroit, MI) Ruthie Taylor/Ned, Nicholas Yocum (Royal Oak, MI) Bat Boy/Edgar.

The production team includes:

Michael J. Barnes (Director), Julia Moriarty (Assistant Director), Jeffrey Michael Rebudal (Choreographer), Daniel Greig (Music Director), Devon L. Hansen (Instrumental Music Director),  Meghan Lynch (Stage Manager), Curtis Green (Scenic Designer), Anthony Karpinski (Technical Director and Properties Master), Mary Gietzen (Costume Designer), Brian M. Scruggs (Lighting Designer), Tyler Ezell (Sound Designer), and Alexandra Stewart (Publicity Manager).

About the Bonstelle Theatre

The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style House with a 1,143-seat auditorium featuring a balcony, owned by Wayne State University. Here, future stars of theatre, film, and television follow in the footsteps of such successful alumni as Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (NBC’s Law and Order, Lackawanna Blues), Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, ABC’s Desperate Housewives) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, NBC’s Heroes). For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts and corporate packages, please call the box office at (313) 577-2960 or visit the theatre’s website at www.bonstelle.com. Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

Season sponsored by CBS Outdoor, Between the Lines, and Encore Michigan

Bat Boy: The Musical
Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe

Calendar Information-

April 12, 2013 – April 21, 2013

Friday 8 p.m.               April 12, April 19

Saturday 8 p.m.           April 13, April 20

Sunday 2 p.m.             April 14, April 21