By Terrance Turner
From June 24 to July 24, the Kaleidoscope Theater’s first-ever production returns to its home in the downtown Theater District.
“Based on a bizarre article published by Weekly World News in 1992, Bat Boy tells the story of a half-boy/half-bat creature who is discovered in a cave near the fictional town of Hope Falls, West Virginia,” the press release explains. “For lack of a better solution, Sheriff Reynolds brings Bat Boy to the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Parker, where he is taught to act like a ‘normal’ boy by Dr. Parker’s wife, Meredith and their teenage daughter, Shelley.” Trouble ensues, however, after a “cow-killing plague” strikes the town. The townspeople, who previously raised corn, have no clue how to raise cattle. But Edgar, due to his vampiric nature, becomes a scapegoat for the town’s incompetence. Dr. Parker, envious of the attention his wife shows to Edgar, takes advantage of the town’s fear—with fatal consequences.
Based on a book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, the production has an agenda—and a veteran voice behind the music and lyrics. The release succinctly emphasizes both factors: “Set to an infectious score by Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Heathers, Reefer Madness) that spans nearly every genre of music from classic Broadway to driving rock, Bat Boy exposes the gritty truth about acceptance and prejudice.” The title role is played by Colton Berry, who is joined by Brennan Ashley as Meredith Parker, Victoria Riley as Shelley Parker, and Brian Chambers as Dr. Thomas Parker. Anna Drake, Tyler Galindo, Luke Hamilton, and Savannah Lee round out the cast.
Despite the dark and even gory subject matter, Bat Boy is not completely off-limits to children. “It’s mostly family friendly. We’re billing it as PG-13,” says Hamilton, who also serves as the show’s choreographer. “It’s a dark show, but since it’s more of a dark comedy than anything else, even the slightly more mature sequences and the violent sequences—which, in Act II, play out—are handled in a very tasteful and comedic way.”
The creative team of six people tackles production, choreography, marketing, social media, graphic design, and even set-building. Hamilton himself has double duty as both resident choreographer and cast member in what he calls “a very big, very grand” production with four giant movable trees. Hamilton explains that a neutral landscape ensures that “the characters and the story pop right off the stage.” The show makes the most of its limited cast by having some of the actors play multiple characters, sometimes within the same scene. (This form of casting was used in New York in the off-Broadway production.) Fittingly, some of the costume changes happen almost in plain view of the audience. Actors shift from playing males to females to extras within minutes.
The range of emotions in Bat Boy—balancing the dark horror elements with humor and sentiment—is complimented by the music, which spans several genres. There are roughly 20 musical numbers, although some of them are very short transitions. According to Hamilton, certain lines of the songs align with musical chords that change from major to minor just as a scene begins to get thematically darker. He cited the opening and finale as standouts in the score. Another highlight, he says, is the rock number “Apology to a Cow,” in which Edgar deals with his thirst for blood. Hamilton has special praise for a ballad sung by Meredith to Edgar, titled “A Home for You.” It’s “a beautiful, beautiful candlelit moment on the stage,” he says, “and really, really touching.”
In its lead character—a strange and even grotesque humanoid who is both sympathetic and three-dimensional—the play bears a resemblance to Tim Burton’s 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. When presented with this comparison, Hamilton agrees. “It’s very much a similar feeling.” Edgar, like Edward, inspires both bigotry and compassion in those he comes into contact with. It is the latter that Luke Hamilton seeks to inspire. He hopes that viewers walk away from the play amused, but also “with that underlying reminder of how important it is that we accept each other and that we understand each other’s differences—and aren’t hateful.”
What: Bat Boy: The Musical
When: June 24 to July 24 (Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m.)
Where: The Kaleidoscope Theater, 5 Main St., Suite B