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.

View production photos or join the Facebook Event!

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.

Advertisements

‘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

Spotlight On: Jennifer Goff, Director of ‘The Arabian Nights’ by Mary Zimmerman

Photo: Stephen Boatrightstephenboatright.com

Photo: Stephen Boatright
stephenboatright.com

Now that the gorgeously designed, directed and performed The Arabian Nights has come to a close at the Bonstelle Theatre, take a moment to reflect on what audiences witnessed onstage with a behind-the-scenes style interview conducted with its director, PhD. candidate, Jennifer Goff. For more information about Jennifer, check out her website!

Q: What approach did you take when directing The Arabian Nights?

A: My overall approach to the play was to start with the stories themselves. This is a story made up of stories – about the power of stories. We really wanted to look at what it is that stories do, how they function and how these particular stories have been passed down through the centuries. These stories began being passed down orally and weren’t even written down until a couple hundred years after they first started circulating.

We wanted to explore the beauty of taking these stories, which are usually only read, and put them on the stage. The theatre itself is such a three-dimensional, interactive way to tell stories, that it really became a celebration of the power of storytelling. Storytelling is something that is not only entertaining, a lot of fun, emotional and exciting, but it’s something that actually can change a person and affect the world. I think you really see that very clearly through Scheherazade’s story – this is a story about stories and what they do to, and for, people.

Q: What was it like directing your first play at the Bonstelle Theatre?

A: Well, directing at the Bonstelle is a very different experience than I’ve had in a long time. First of all, it’s bigger! Most of the productions I’ve directed, both here and professionally over the last decade or so, have been on smaller stages…where the audience has a very intimate relationship with the performers. The challenge with a huge stage like the Bonstelle is still giving audiences an intimate experience, even though they’re much farther away. Directing has really been a lot about working with the actors on how to communicate, not only with each other, but with the audience. It has been a big adventure but these students are so energetic and marvelous that…they taught me a lot along the way as well.

Q: What role did movement play in this production?

A: Movement was a huge part of this production.  The Arabian Nights and most of Mary Zimmerman’s work are part of what’s called the Chamber Theatre Tradition, which is basically a combination of narrative storytelling and theatre. There is a very interesting combination of “acting out” and becoming the characters, yet also still being you while relating the story.

Most of the actors play multiple roles and although you can see it in their lines, costumes and in the stories themselves, the physicality of each character becomes really important. The audience should be able to see an actor as a new character and know before they even speak that they are someone else. Movement has been a huge part of delineating all these different characters and stories. It’s been really fun.

Q: Was it important to you to convey Zimmerman’s original message of the play?

A: It was very important to me to try to honor what Mary Zimmerman was attempting to do when she adapted this piece. She first adapted The Arabian Nights in 1992, right in the middle of the first Gulf War conflict. She was really responding to the “us versus them” mentality that is a part of “war time”. She was disturbed by this idea that we could somehow separate ourselves from what was “over there” and that they were somehow “not us.” She wanted to look at stories – a very famous set of stories –  and use them to introduce Western audiences to this culture that was so “over there” – far away – letting these Western audiences see that there’s really a whole lot more that we have in common than what we have different.

It’s interesting because the time period these stories come from is known as the Golden Age of Islam. It was at that point when Baghdad was the center of culture, trade and commerce. In the 13th century, Baghdad was sacked by the Mongol army. At the time, Baghdad was home to this amazing library called the House of Wisdom. One of the first things the Mongols did when they sacked the city was destroy the library. They took the documents, which were from all over the world and just threw them in the Tigris River. The saying goes, that on that day, the Tigris River ran black with ink as the streets of Baghdad ran red with blood.

It’s the idea that stories are what make us who we are, so it wasn’t enough for the Mongols to kill the people; they wanted to try to kill the stories. But you can’t – because once the stories are heard they live on. So here Zimmerman was, taking these stories and saying – you can’t separate the people from their stories. You can’t separate us from these stories or from these people. It’s a really beautiful message of unity and inclusion and understanding.

Q: Do you believe the message of The Arabian Nights is still relevant today?

A: I think the message is extremely relevant.  We’ve been in conflict in the Middle East actively for the last ten years. Especially with the way warfare happens now, it’s so easy to disconnect ourselves and forget that there are real people involved in this, on both sides of the conflict. Any steps we can take to remember the people and the little strings that are connected so intricately between us and everyone – I think that will humanize us and reminds us that we all have a lot in common.

REVIEW: Bonstelle’s ‘Arabian Nights’ is fun

Reviewed by Robert Delaney, Detroit New Monitor
Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Arabian Nights at the Bonstelle

Dunyazade (Sydney Macheskey) Shahryar (Luke Rose), and Sheherezade (Yesmeen Mikhail)
Photo: Patrick Pozezinski

A young woman saves her neck by telling fascinating stories to the prince she has been forced to marry in “The Arabian Nights,” the current production at Wayne State’s Bonstelle Theatre in midtown Detroit.

Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman has adapted the famous collection of Persian, Indian and Arabic tales, “The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” for the stage. Under Jennifer Goff’s direction a youthful and energetic undergraduate cast has great fun performing it — and that fun is shared by the audience.

It would, of course, be impossible to include all of the tales in one play, and Zimmerman has chosen to leave out some of the more familiar ones — such as those of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba (which were not actually in the original collection) — in favor of some less well known stories.

Yesmeen Mikhail is the storytelling enchantress, Scheherazade, and Luke Rose is her homicidal husband, Shahryar. They both also portray other characters, as do all of the cast members.

Also very impressive are Laith Salim as Harun al-Rashid, Lisa Youngs as Sympathy, and Nicholas Yocum as the Madman. Scenic designer Leazah Behrens has given us a fanciful set, and the costumes designed by Donna Buckley are (who would have thought I’d ever be able to say this) “right out of the ‘Arabian Nights.’”

“The Arabian Nights” continues this weekend, through February 17, with performances at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m., Sunday afternoon, at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, a block south of Mack and just a few blocks south of Orchestra Hall. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office at (313) 577-2960 or go to www.wsushows.com.

REVIEW: ‘The Arabian Nights’ by Mary Zimmerman proves the power of a story well told

Reviewed by Patty Nolan, The Examiner

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

Yesmeen Mikhail as Scheherezade and Luke Rose as Shahryar  in "The Arabian Nights" at The Bonstelle Theatre.Photo credit:  Patrick Pozezinski

Yesmeen Mikhail as Scheherezade and Luke Rose as Shahryar in “The Arabian Nights” at The Bonstelle Theatre.
Photo credit: Patrick Pozezinski

If you’re like most Americans, any mention of the “1001 Arabian Nights” conjures Technicolor images inspired by Disney. But Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin and the Genie are nowhere to be seen in the Bonstelle Theatre’s new production of “The Arabian Nights.” And for good reason.

When Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman adapted the collection of ancient Persian, Indian and Arabic tales into a resonating stage play, she deliberately left out the stories we know best. Instead of focusing on the fantastic, her funny, anachronistic retelling reveals and revels in the humanistic. Produced during the Gulf War, Zimmerman used the beloved, centuries-old stories to show audiences that, politics aside, we are all very much the same.

View slideshow: ‘The Arabian Nights’

It works. Because we can’t help but understand that we are laughing, or cheering, or feeling sad for the characters in the same way that those ancient people must have.

In this Bonstelle production, directed by WSU PhD candidate Jennifer Goff, we are treated to a colorful, over-the-top show. The scenic design by Leazah Behrens is a lush swirl of carpets, silken drapes, tasseled pillows and all the trappings of an exotic Persian palace. The costumes by Donna Buckley are lavish and clever – designed to help the large cast play multiple roles.

This is still essentially the tale of Scheherazade, the young woman who must weave a new story every night in order to postpone the death sentence imposed by her misogynistic husband, the King Shahryar. But if you’re thinking about bringing the little kiddies, hold off. This version of “The Arabian Nights” is geared more toward the tastes of mature audiences.

The play opens with the king choking his first, unfaithful wife to death. Not so funny. Not so G-rated. These stories include violence, infidelity and even epic flatulence. Apparently, the comedic appeal of a good fart is universal. This show is funny. Surprisingly so. And the huge Bonstelle cast is just wonderful. With each new story that Scheherazade tells, the ensemble brings it to life. Every actor plays multiple roles – some serious, sad and romantic – but many of them are worthy of your favorite bit of slapstick. And we like these characters. We want them to survive, find their true loves and make lots of babies.

And that’s what Zimmerman is trying to tell us. As human beings, our stories are essentially the same. We weep when our hearts are broken. We laugh when someone breaks wind. We yield too often to temptation. But sometimes we do the right thing. And that makes life worth celebrating and sharing. Just like this charming Bonstelle production.

The spectacular Bonstelle company includes: Zyle Christian-Cook (Marcellus, MI) as Butcher and Others, Robert J. Hammond (Troy, MI) as Jester and Others, Ivy Haralson (Belleville, MI) as Perfect Love and Others, Garett Harris (Royal Oak, MI) as Boy and Others, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Greengrocer and Others, Derell Jones (Detroit, MI) as Pastrycook and Others, Alyssa Lucas (Garden City, MI) as Abu al-Hasan and Others, Sydney Machesky (Allen Park, MI) as Dunyazade and Others, Taylor Morrow (Warren, MI) as Girl and Others, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) as Clarinetist and Others, Michael Meike (Clinton TWP) as Wazir and Others, Yesmeen Mikhail (Wyandotte, MI) as Scheherezade and Others, Luke Rose (Harrison TWP, MI) as Shahryar and Others, Laith Salim (Dearborn, MI) as Harun al-Rashid and Others, Nicholas Yocum (Royal Oak, MI) as Madman and Others and Lisa Youngs (Wyandotte, MI) as Sympathy the Learned and Others.

“The Arabian Nights” runs at The Bonstelle Theatre in Detroit through February 17. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12-$15 and are availableonline, by phone (313) 577-2960, or by visiting the Wayne State University Theatres’ Box Office located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

Thanks for Attending ‘The Snow Queen!’

We hope you enjoyed The Snow Queen as much as we enjoyed creating it! Check out our Facebook page for even more photos! Congratulations again to the cast, crew, and entire production team.

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge.