In 1992, the Weekly World News supermarket tabloid published an article with the headline “Bat Child Found In A Cave”. Over the past 20 years Bat Boy has been seen everywhere from running for the California governor race to dating Heidi Klum. In 1997 newcomer playwrights Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming approached up-and-coming composer Lauren O’Keefe and began the collaboration on the brilliantly crafted musical.
Since the musical played Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre in 2001, there have been many productions of this quirky and loveable musical, but the current production running at 1st Stage in Tysons, is one of the best. Brilliantly directed by Steven Royal, the production running at 1st Stage is an unparalleled success. Royal creates a show that is just the right blend of tabloid sensationalism and heartfelt empathy.
Royal’s environment is constructed expertly by local favorite set designer Adam Koch. Koch, who is known for his work at bigger theaters (Ford’s Theatre’s Hello, Dolly! And Signature’s Miss Saigon), creates a cavernous backdrop in an intimate setting using simple raked platforms that transform the space into the dark world the show is set in. In addition to Koch’s impeccable set, David Sexton uses lights to create a dimly lit and shadowy world that suits the needs to the production without keeping the actors in the dark.
At the heart of the story is the cast. Lead by Jimmy Mavrikes as the titular character, Edgar, Mavrikes shows the complete transformation from animal to human with great physicality and emotional strength that the audience is left mesmerized by his portrayal. On a personal note, in his bio, he thanks, “as always JPT.” As someone who was mentored by and studied with the late Jane Pesci-Townsend in the late 90s, I am always at awe at her legacy when I see someone of Mavrikes caliber paying homage to one of the all-time great acting teachers, who almost four years later is still sorely missed by this community.
Accompanying the flawed Edgar, is an ensemble of six actors playing a variety of roles from the town sheriff to a revivalist preacher and all of the denizens of this West Virginia town. The ensemble’s swift transformation between gender bending characters (sometimes in front of the audience) each actor creates unique personalities. Amidst this very capable ensemble is Dani Stoller, who switches between the cigarette-smoking Mrs Taylor and the dim-witted councilmen / farmer with great ease and had some playful banter with the audience during intermission (including offering the audience cigarettes and Diet Cokes). Vocally, the powerhouse of the ensemble if Farrell Parker, who really lets loose on the opening of Act Two gospel number, “A Joyful Noise.”
Rounding out the remainder of the cast is Esther Covington as the woeful mother and the operatic Alan Naylor as Dr. Parker, complete with a rich baritone voice that sores through the space. The final piece of this very complete puzzle is one of my favorite local actresses, Maria Rizzo. Rizzo has created some of my favorite characters in the past year in the area (Louise in Gypsy at Signature, Sally in Cabaret at Keegan and in my choice for 2013 scene stealer, Brianna in Spin). Rizzo never misses in anything she does. Playing the love-sick /angst-filled teen Shelley, Rizzo has such a way with line delivery that she manages to create moments even in the smallest of places.
Accompanying the cast is Walter “Bobby” McCoy’s superb 5-piece band (McCoy, Steve Przybyski, Ben Young /Rick Peralta, Chris Twigg, and Jim Hofmann). McCoy leads the expert musicians to create a big sound and lets the cast shine on their vocal work and fill this small space with immense and not too overpowering sound. In addition, choreography by Pauline Grossman adds yet another level of professionalism to this well-crafted piece.
You must fly over to 1st Stage to see this amazing cast and production of Bat Boy. If you miss it-you’ll go batty!
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes minutes, with one intermission.
Comfort and Joy’: Appearing in 1st Stage’s ‘Bat Boy:The Musical’: Part 1: Farrell Parker.