BWW Review: Griffin's BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

BWW Review: Griffin's BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL
Henry McGinniss (center) with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company's Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Laurence O'Keefe's hilarious 2001 spoof "Bat Boy: The Musical" based on the iconic Weekly World News story about a bat boy found in cave, finally received its professional Chicago theatre debut courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company.

It was well worth the wait for the most part. The show roosts at The Den Theatre (1329 N.Milwaukee) through July 24 and arrived with its off-beat humor and well-sung harmonies in tact. It's absurd summer fun, but also has a message and heart.

Henry McGinniss is terrific as the title character. With boy-next-store good looks, McGinniss begins scantly clad and uttering guttural sounds and through the show's Pygmalion-esque plot, morphs from a guttural animal (make that mammal) to proper English-speaking man-about-town. Albeit one with pointy bat ears, natch.

As Meredith Parker, Anne Sheridan Smith turns in a moving performance as the country housewife who takes it upon herself to usher the frightened created out of the dark and into the community at large. She tackles the first act number "A Home for You" first as a lovely lullaby and eventually turns it into a declaration of sorts. "Three Bedroom House," a duet with her daughter Shelly (a sweet and appropriately naïve Tiffany Tatreau) is also entertaining as Ms. Parker tries to keep her eyes focused on a happy, hopeful outcome to the events.

Matt W. Miles is equally effective as Meredith's husband and villain of the piece whose jealousy leads him to betray both wife and bat boy.

The ensemble all play multiple roles and there are a few standouts. Kelley Abell, as the town's beleaguered Mayor, finds some great comedic moments as she tries to contain a situation that is slowly beginning to spin out of her control.

Jeff Meyer also strikes comedic gold as both the redneck who discovers the bat boy and the opinionated townie Lorraine.

As Reverend Hightower, Ron King also brings down the house with the big-time gospel number "A Joyful Noise."

Scott Weinstein's direction focuses a bit too much on the more absurd aspects of the work. Some of the scenes are painted with too broad of a comedic acting stroke and as a result the heart of the piece sometimes gets lost amidst all the zaniness. For the most part, the show's heart is in the right place

Griffin Theatre's BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL runs through July 24 at the Den Theatre, 1329 N. Milwaukee. Tickets, $39.50.

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