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.

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‘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!

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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

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.

 

REVIEW: Discover the wintry magic of ‘The Snow Queen’ at Bonstelle Theatre

Reviewed by Patty Nolan

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s Website

If you can remember clapping your hands to save Tinker Bell’s life… if you ever wanted to visit Narnia… or looked for faeries in your grandmother’s garden… then you should get to the Bonstelle Theatre for this magical production of “The Snow Queen.” And if you can grab some kids to make it all look like a magnanimous effort on your part, so much the better.

This artistic, enthusiastic and interactive Bonstelle production is an adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular children’sfairytales. Timed to help families get into the holiday mood, “The Snow Queen” isn’t a Christmas story, per se, and is suitable for people of all faith backgrounds.

It’s the story of a little girl named Gerda (the amazing Kristin Dawn-Dumas) who is determined to rescue her friend, a young boy named Kai (the wonderful Nicholas Yocum), from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen. Basic values of loyalty, friendship, selflessness and courage are conveyed in a story that is filled with adventure, drama and enough brilliant stage spectacle to satisfy the wiggliest children. Although the story is essentially sweet, it is never saccharine, and is rich with eccentric and even dangerous characters who help or hinder Gerda on her journey.

The Bonstelle Theatre presents Hans Christian Andersen's winter holiday fairy tale 'The Snow Queen.' This breathtaking production is directed by Allegra Libonati. She directed the play’s premier a year ago at the American Repertory Theater and worked with a gifted design team in Detroit to bring it to life on the Bonstelle stage. The use of oversized puppets (Anthony Karpinski), a set design created by sweeping, swirling fabric and ingenious props (Fred Florkowski), inventive lighting (Samuel G. Byers), imaginative costumes (Mary Copenhagen) and engaging sound design (Ryan Koprince) all combine to pull the audience (young and old) into the enchanted world of the Snow Queen.

The delightful and talented cast of Bonstelle “children” swarm the theater before the show opens, inviting audience members to swordfight, toss balloons, admire their noise-making prowess, and answer personal questions. Once the show begins, Grandpa (Michael Meike) and Grandma (Jacqueline Fenton) summon their grandchildren for story time. As the story unfolds, the grandchildren take on multiple roles, engaging with Gerda as she moves from one adventure to the next.

The show includes several audience participation moments. In fact, children are invited to arrive 45 minutes before curtain time to participate in a preshow craft activity with cast members. Paper roses and snowflakes will be made in the upstairs lobby and used by children in the audience to interact with the show.

“The Snow Queen is a show where you can bring family members of all ages and everyone can take away a part of the story,” says Libonati. “If families can be swept away in this fairytale, go on a journey together, and be inspired by the strength of a little girl alone in the North Pole, that would be a wonderful thing.”

“The Snow Queen” runs from November 30 to December 9, 2012. Shows are on Fridays and Saturdays with an 8 p.m. curtain and Sunday with a 2 p.m. curtain. Children get a special ticket price of only $6; adult tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

And as one of the happy coincidences that sometimes pop up in the Detroit theater scene, an original version of “The Snow Queen” – in purely puppet form – is also opening this weekend atPuppetART. We’ll be reporting back on that show yet this weekend.

So fall in love with the magic of “The Snow Queen” – and see it twice for the first time – at the Bonstelle Theatre and the PuppetART Theatre in downtown Detroit.

Congratulations to the cast of The Snow Queen”: Zee Bricker (Detroit, MI) as Robber Queen, Mackenzie Conn (Walled Lake, MI) as Snow Queen, Zyle Christian-Cook (Marcellus, MI) as Goblin, Kristin Dawn-Dumas (Detroit, MI) as Gerda, Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Grandma, Katelyn Foster (Harrison Township, MI) as Rose 1, Garett Harris (Royal Oak, MI) as Prince, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Flower Witch, Gaia Klotz (Midland, MI) as Swallow 1, Alexis Mabry (Grosse Pointe, MI) as Princess, Sydney Macheskey (Shelby Township, MI) as Sun, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) as Raven, Michael Meike (Clinton Township, MI) as Grandpa, Matt Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) as Rose 3, Brittany Michael (St. Clair Shores, MI) as Robber Girl, Jonathon Pigott (Wyandotte, MI) as Swallow 2, Aeisha Reese (Flint, MI) as Rose 2, Luke Rose (Harrison Township) as Reindeer, and Nicholas Yocum (Royal Oak, MI) as Kai.