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.

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.

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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.

REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ a must-see production

Reviewd by Sue Suchyta

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

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James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)Photo: Kevin Replinger

James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Despite the title, time is running out to see Donald Margulies’ Tony award-nominated “Time Stands Still,” a well-written and acted, thought-provoking production at Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre, 4743 Cass at Hancock in the lower level of the Hilberry Theatre.  One performance, 8 p.m. April 6, remains to see the show. Tickets are $10 and $12, and are available through the Studio Theatre Box Office. Mention coupon code 3CP7 and receive $2 off the price of your ticket. For more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.wsustudio.com.

Directed by Katherine Skortz, the show focuses on Sarah, a photojournalist injured by a roadside bomb. As she recovers, she and her boyfriend, James, try to explain to their friends, Michael and Mandy, the reality of covering tragedies in war zones. Why photojournalists record the events for the world, while non-journalist people might take an immediate hands-on approach to relieve suffering, is a key discussion point for the play’s characters.

Sydney Machesky of Shelby Township is stellar in her performance of Sarah, a photojournalist recovering from serious injuries caused by a roadside bomb. Not only does she consistently portray the physical limitations connected to her recovery, she captures the short tempered personality of someone who has undergone so much stress that they are just barely holding on to a veneer of civility.

Carl Ghigliazza of Southgate is very believable in his portrayal of James, her longtime boyfriend, portraying both guilt at not being overseas with her when she was injured and frustration over Sarah’s insistence on doing a job that constantly puts her in danger, which is as essential to her as oxygen.

Providing a lighter and entertaining counterpart to the two main characters are Michael Fisher of Livonia as Richard, James’ editor, and Maria Radu of Westland as Mandy, Richard’s girlfriend, a young, perky event planner.

Radu remarkably creates a likeable person out of her role, despite the character being much younger and an intellectual lightweight compared to the other three characters. Her naïve optimism and genuine “niceness” creates much of the comic relief in the show, and she shows us how people not in the news reporting business react to the horrors and violence of war and other human tragedies encountered by field reporters.

As Richard and Mandy’s relationship grows stronger over time, more cracks appear in Sarah and James’ bond, even though they try to strengthen it.  Sarah’s desire to return to the field becomes stronger than James’ persuasion to stay safe stateside and start a family with him.

Whether she needs adrenaline, or driven by a career more than maternal urges remains open to the viewer’s interpretation.

“Time Stands Still” runs for one more performance at 8 p.m. April 6, at the Studio Theatre. For tickets or more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to http://www.wsustudio.com.

REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ at WSU’s Studio Theatre

Review by Patty Nolan, The Examiner

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

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Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre is home to the PhD Directors’ Series and a perfect venue for the gifted students in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Kevin Replinger

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Their newest production is “Time Stands Still,” the Tony-nominated play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies. It’s one of those seemingly simple plays that takes place entirely within the Brooklyn flat of war correspondents and lovers Sarah and James. But the distance we travel emotionally and the complex, contradictory points of view expressed in the dialogue, give this drama a delicate intelligence and unpretentious sophistication.

The Studio Theatre cast, under the direction of second-year PhD student Katherine Skoretz, is most impressive.

The play opens as Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photo journalist, returns home after being seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Her boyfriend James (Carl Ghigliazza) feels guilty about not being with Sarah when she was nearly killed. But he is dealing with his own emotional trauma. Sarah’s scars show. James’ do not. Both are trying to come to terms with their feelings about witnessing outrageous horrors and being required to maintain a professional detachment. Are they helping the victims of these tragedies by getting the story out to the rest of the world? Or are they exploiting the victims for personal gain?

The name of the play comes from Sarah’s description of how she copes with the horror she witnesses as part of her job. When she’s looking at the world through her camera lens, searching for the perfect shot, “time stands still.”

The perspective of these war-hardened journalists is contrasted to that of their friend Richard (Michael Fisher) and his young girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu). She is sincere but naïve, and doesn’t understand how Sarah can witness human suffering without wanting to put down her camera and help her subjects. Sarah believes it is up to journalists to show people the truth – the hard reality of what some people endure. Mandy admires the raw beauty of Sarah’s work, but doesn’t know what she’s supposed to with that “truth” except feel bad about it.

“We are a nation born to movement,” Director Katherine Skoretz explains. “We are also a nation of crusaders, believing that we can change the world for the better, even when we aren’t sure how to do that. Our desire to change the world for the better conflicts with our desire to be comfortable. Since September 11 we have seen a massive deployment of Americans trying to make a difference in the world: both soldiers and civilians. In the last couple of years, playwrights, like Donald Margulies, have been writing about what happens when veterans of war zones come home. What does home mean when we’re intimately confronted with what goes on in war zones?”

Ultimately, this play explores the need for home and comfort as weighed against the addictive satisfaction of being the person who can deliver the goods in the midst of imminent danger, chaos and overwhelming human tragedy. Sarah and James are seeking healing together, but where does that healing lead? Should they go back out on assignment in the Middle East, or stay home and build a new, more conventional but safer life? Is it “okay” to choose happiness, or is that even an option when daily horrors continue to disrupt the world?

This thoughtful production of “Time Stands Still” raises important questions without forcing the answers. Sydney Machesky, as the wounded Sarah, finds the right balance of smart and bitchy, tough and vulnerable. Carl Ghigliazza, as James, is the conflicted man who loves Sarah because of her fearlessness but is terrified of losing her. Michael Fisheras Richardis convincing as the average good, informed American guy trying not to feel guilty about choosing happiness. And Maria Radu, as Mandy, gives the play its chief comic relief and, in some ways, its most empathetic and grounded character.

The stellar production company includes Cassandra Maniak (Stage Manager), Amy Schneider (Lighting Designer), Lois Bendler (Scenic Designer), Melissa Hall (Costume Designer), Michael Hallberg (Sound Designer), and Felix Li (Publicity Manager).

“Time Stands Still” runs through Saturday, April 6, 2013. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 – $12 and are available by calling the Studio Theatre Box Office at (313)577-2972, by purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock. The Studio Theatre is located downstairs from the Hilberry.

‘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

REVIEW: Impressive ‘Time’ at WSU Studio

Review by Robert Delaney, New Monitor

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Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Felix Li

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Felix Li

The physical, emotional and ethical aspects of war reporting all figure in Donald Margulies’ 2009 play Time Stands Still, the current production at the Studio Theatre on the Wayne State University campus.

Ph.D.-candidate director Katherine Skoretz, working with some very fi ne undergraduate acting talent, has given us a production of this play that would stand up to any professional yardstick.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photojournalist, and her lover, foreign correspondent James (Carl Ghigliazza) are back in the United States, but bear physical or emotional scars of their recent overseas assignments in combat zones.

Sarah is recovering from serious injuries incurred when a roadside bomb exploded; James is dogged by guilt because he had left her in Iraq to accept another assignment just before the incident.

Sarah’s publisher, Richard (Michael Fisher), visits with his new — and much younger — girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu), which provides the natural opportunity for Sarah and James to talk about what has happened and what they are going through.

And although Mandy is not only from another generation, but totally out of the others’ league when it comes to education or awareness of current events, her very innocence of the big issues leads her to raise uncomfortable questions.

We see the two couples’ relationships develop during the course of the play. And not only does this happen in a quite believable way, but these four young actors are so good that we really do believe them. They do such a good job of bringing their characters to life that we not only suspend our disbelief in the usual sense, but reach the point where it is truly as if we were seeing these four people living out their lives before our eyes.

This is not the first time Fisher has impressed me. He is clearly an exceptional young talent — one who really should go far if he makes acting his career. But Machesky and Ghigliazza, both of whom I had only seen before in minor roles, were also able to show us something of the depth of their talent in this play.

And to learn from the program that Radu is a freshman in her first WSU production is simply startling.

Besides being a triumph for Skoretz and her cast, this is also a show of which scenic designer Lois Bendler, costume designer Melissa Hall, lighting designer Amy Schneider and sound designer Michael Hallberg can be justly proud. Alas, however, as is always the case with Studio shows, this production only has a two-week run, which means you only have three remaining opportunities to see it. So what if you’ve made other plans — cancel them and see this show.

“Time Stands Still” continues through April 6, with performances at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, in the Studio Theatre, downstairs at the Hilberry Theatre at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus.