“Bat Boy: The Musical” by the Pre-Professional Program at Act Two @ Levine by Yvonne French

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Act Two @ Levine present a lively production of Bat Boy: The Musical, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming. Bat Boy – the Musical explores the ostracism of people who are different. It is based on a 1992 story in the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News, the cover of which blares, “His giant eyes see in the dark and his ears are better than radar, say scientists.”

From the original script : “The creature is discovered in a cave near fictional Hope Falls, West Virginia. For lack of a better solution, the local sheriff brings Bat Boy to the home of the town veterinarian, Dr. Parker, where he is eventually accepted as a member of the family and taught to act like a “normal” boy by the veterinarian’s wife, Meredith, and teenage daughter, Shelley. Bat Boy is happy with his new life, but when he naively tries to fit in with the narrow-minded people of Hope Falls, they turn on him, prodded by the machinations of Dr. Parker, who secretly despises Bat Boy. Shelley and Bat Boy, who have fallen in love, run away together from the ignorant townsfolk and have a blissful coupling in the woods, but their happiness is shattered when Meredith arrives and reveals a secret. Soon the entire town arrives and hears the shocking story of Bat Boy’s unholy origin.”

Sean Watkinson (Edgar/Bat Boy) and Carley Rosefelt (Shelley). Photo by Carmelita Watkinson.
Carley Rosefelt (Shelley) and Sean Watkinson (Edgar/Bat Boy). Photo by Carmelita Watkinson.

Although it is a comedy/tragedy, some of the content could tempt being overly- humorous  As a bat, Watkinson has an oral fixation. He chews on things, but stops short of being too provocative. As a boy he has raging hormones, but he recoils every time someone touches him. Watkinson, a senior at Bullis School, delivers a thoughtful, nuanced performance, and performs some astounding physical feats.

The singers in the production are remarkable. Shelley, who is played by Carley Rosefelt, is an 11th grader at Churchill High School who can really belt it out. Meredith, played by Francesca Rowe, is a sophomore at Good Counsel High School who just sparkles. They excel in the duet “Three Bedroom House,” and it is fun watch and hear their different singing styles.

Eitan Mazia, a junior at Walter Johnson High School, plays and sings the part of Reverend Hightower extremely well, and is professional caliber. Earlier in the show, he plays a hick wearing a red plaid shirt.

Director Kevin Kuchar of  Act Two @ Levine School and Assistant (student) Director Sophie Spencer-Zavos selected a great cast . A Goth girl stands out among the flour-sack dresses of the townswomen to sing, “Hold Me, Bat Boy,” a highlight of the first act. Max Fowler (sophomore, Wootton High School) moved the plot along as sheriff, but he would be funny if he just stood there. Shelley’s old boyfriend gives an enjoyable rap rendition of “Watcha  Wanna Do?” Heather Strauss (a Junior at Walt Whitman) is a strong supporting actor as Maggie.

Each cast member worked hard on characterization. But be careful, they hand out goodies for audience participation. It is like Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Mary Shelley and dances with My Fair Lady.

The song “Comfort and Joy” is well choreographed by Rachel Hahn. Kelsey Keza, and Arami McCloskey’s costumes were good, especially for the cattle farmer, whose suspenders emphasize his staved-in chest. The set is made from whitewashed wooden packing pallets to look like an old barn. The glowing cross in the faith healing revival church scene was truly tacky.

These talented pre-professionals, most of whom will go on to conservatory for theatrical singing, are performing three musicals this spring. They performed Rent School Edition in February, Bat Boy is showing now, and Next to Normal will be performed on May 17, 18 and 19th at Arena Stage.

Running Time: Two hours, with a 10-minute intermission.

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Bat Boy: The Musical plays today at 2 and 7:30 p.m and tomorrow at 2 PM at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s  Rehearsal Hall – 641  D Street, N.W. in Washington, DC.  Running time: 2 hours with a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $20 at the door.