While the audience is required to make a solemn promise not to reveal the secret of Bat Boy, I can tell you one thing: Any show that is able to include a stuffed animal orgy, no matter how nonsequitur it seemed, has got to get all kinds of props.
Collin Poynter is Bat Boy in the Phoenix"s hysterical show "Bat Boy: The Musical." Digital image by Dave Ruark
The Phoenix Theatre presents the first production of Bat Boy: The Musical since it came off Off-Broadway. And it is the most interesting thing to grace the Phoenix stage all year. Sure, it"s not deep and doesn"t tackle social issues, BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL. Any lover of big Broadway musicals will roll with laughter at the tongue-so-far-in-cheek-it-hurts presentation of a show that parodies all it seems to aspire to be. At the same time, the characters in the story are a bunch of hicks - a reflection of the kind of people who would feed off tabloid fodder, perhaps?
While you know the cast is aware of just how cheese-heavy the songs, plot, script, etc. are, they all play their roles straight. Because of this, it takes the audience a few beats to realize what is going on - that"s when you really start listening to the lyrics.
The story, loosely based on the Bat Boy saga in the Weekly World News, begins with three siblings spelunking. In the depths of a cave they encounter Bat Boy, who attacks the sister after rejecting a peace offering of Fritos. The two brothers capture the creature, and it is given over to the town veterinarian. He - along with the rest of the town - wants to kill it, but his wife pleads for Bat Boy"s life, and, in return for some hanky-panky, the vet agrees. In no time at all (really, like, 15 minutes?), with the help of the big-hearted woman and BBC language tapes, Bat Boy is transformed into a proper young man. But the town is still suspicious, and the vet, jealous of the attention his wife pays to Bat Boy, spirals into a blood-hungry madness.
The cast assembled for Bat Boy is incredibly likable, and their talent makes the ridiculous song lyrics and dialogue that much funnier. A less than stellar performance of this show could be disastrous. Thankfully, everyone here hits the mark, balancing the knowledge of the material"s purpose with the right amount of showmanship. Kudos to Brian Fonseca for conceiving of the right mixture and getting his cast to communicate it effectively.
Megan McKinney as the vet"s wife and Emily Ristine as their daughter have a wonderful rapport onstage. Their exchanges are snappy and crackle with the tension between a mother and her teen-aged daughter. Blaine Hogan, playing multiple roles, as a few of the cast do (this is a month of gender-bending theater), portrays a macho teen as well as a prissy town meddler in blonde wig and heels with a triple-snap attitude. His is a commanding character, no matter what sex it is. He and Ristine tear up the stage in a bad, white-boy Bat-rap. Ristine exhibits a remarkable voice as well as stage presence, complimenting her demure mother and wacked-out father, played by J. Stuart Mill. Collin Poynter as Bat Boy, aka Edgar, makes a stunning transition from mutant to tea party participant. He owns every nuance of his role.
The rest of the cast supports the main action in every way, whether it"s a spontaneous ho-down in the slaughterhouse or Dave Ruark delivering the word of the Lord, decked out in stained glass vinyl. Every note, every step of the choreography is pushed, dangling at the edge of being over the top in this boisterously campy parody. Each performer plays no less of an important role; and each deserves mention, but I can"t copy the large roster of them here. Instead, go see them for yourself. I thought Gorey Stories would yet again top my end-of-year wrap-up, but this is a fierce contender. Bat Boy: The Musical continues through July 21; call 635-PLAY for tickets.