BWW Review: BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL at Connecticut Theatre Company

BWW Review: BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL at Connecticut Theatre Company"In a cave, many miles to the south, lives a boy born with fangs in his mouth..." These are the opening lines of the song that begins BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, the irreverent, strange and altogether unique show being produced by the Connecticut Theatre Company in New Britain. The musical, with story and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and Music and Lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe (LEGALLY BLONDE, HEATHERS) and based on the story made famous by the World Weekly News (the king of grocery store tabloids), is a cautionary tale about said young man - half-bat, half-boy - and his quest for acceptance, a purpose, and, yes, also blood. BAT BOY is one of those musicals that is not produced often (likely because of its unique storyline) but in the hands of the Connecticut Theatre Company it is brought to life in all its kitschy and weird glory.

The story of BAT BOY, as you BWW Review: BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL at Connecticut Theatre Companymight expect, requires the audience to suspend their disbelief for a couple hours, but by doing so, are rewarded with a fun and eclectic musical experience. The musical is, of course, about the Bat Boy (Adam Tortorello), who is discovered by some teenagers living in a cave somewhere in rural West Virginia. The creature, named Edgar by the family that takes him in, is feral and wild, but through the care and love of Meredith Parker (Erin Campbell) and her daughter Shelley (Kennedy Morris), begins to learn (comically quickly) the language and social graces required to be a member of proper society. The problem is the rest of society, namely the small West Virginia farming town where they live, only wants to see Edgar put down by Dr. Parker (Duane Campbell) the town veterinarian. A few dead cows, a tent revival, and a visit from Pan (yes, you read that right) later and Edgar, the Parkers, and the whole town of Hope Falls, learn what it truly means to be man or monster, and that sometimes the real monsters are not who you might think.

BWW Review: BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL at Connecticut Theatre CompanyBAT BOY: THE MUSICAL is quite a collection of themes - marital struggles, teen angst, mob rule, Christian fanaticism, small-town small-mindedness, and the potential to become better than your nature are all explored throughout the show. These concepts are brought to life through various musical styles, from country western, to love ballad, to rage induced soliloquy. In this production, the Connecticut Theatre Company does a solid job with all the above. The production may not be quite as universally strong as other past productions (e.g., THE COLOR PURPLE), but it is still unique, entertaining and has a number of shining moments/performances. First, in the title role of Edgar, the Bat Boy, Adam Tortorello is a force to be reckoned with. He is believably wild in the beginning and hilariously astute and proper once his education commences. Mr. Tortorello has a great singing voice and delivers the evening's emotional climax in "Apology to a Cow", the eleventh-hour number that the whole show builds to. This is particularly impressive considering he was a late addition to the cast (10 days before opening) so deserves extra praise for his strong performance. Also bringing strong performances were Kennedy Morris as Shelley and Erin Campbell as her mother Meredith. The two deliver an energetic "Three Bedroom House" that paired their strong voices in a rare, hopeful number. Duane Campbell, as Dr. Parker, has a few strong moments as well, though not as sinister and conflicted as the character often calls for. Finally, the ensemble (who all play multiple roles throughout) brings strong energy and enthusiasm to the stage, especially in the rousing group production numbers.

The direction in BAT BOY by BWW Review: BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL at Connecticut Theatre CompanyBenjamin Silberman is solid as well, utilizing simple yet effective staging and movement to convey the various settings in the show. Ben McCormack's musical direction is equally strong, bringing the lively score to life on stage. Kristen Norris' choreography is simple, yet effective, particularly in the line dance-inspired "Another Dead Cow". Michael J. Bane and Benjamin Silberman's set works well, especially the use of the upper portion of the stage that allows for layering in certain scenes. Mr. Bane also provides overall technical direction and lighting design which add to the spooky and sinister feel of the show.

As noted previously, BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL is not a show that theater companies do very often, but I am certainly glad that Connecticut Theater Company chose to mount this production and bring this quirky, fun, and downright strange show to its stage. It is a great show to see in October, a time of year that is often filled with haunted houses and spooky decorations. So, if your curiosity is piqued and you want to experience BAT BOY for yourself, head down to New Britain before the Bat Boy flies off into the night.

Connecticut Theatre Company is currently presenting BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL through October 14 (Fridays & Saturdays at 7pm, Sundays at 2pm) at The Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden Street, New Britain, CT 06051. Tickets are available at the door or online at www.ConnecticutTheatreCompany.org

All photos: Connecticut Theatre Company's production of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL.

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From This Author Joseph Harrison

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