Following the success of "Dracula" the IU Theatre has gotten their teeth into a second show with a fanged one, "Bat-Boy, the Musical."
IU’s Well-Metz Theatre has been converted into a cave. As I entered the air was murky, stalactites hung from the ceiling as stalagmites grew from the floor. A concealed band pounded out a distinctly rock beat. Three cave explorers hung from rappelling gear delighted with their descent into the cave until they discover a fearful creature scuttling about. They were scared, the creature was scared. We’d met the Bat-Boy.
What followed was a wild evening of brilliantly staged, well-sung and wonderfully acted theatre. "Bat-Boy" is definitely a child of "Hair" and at least a cousin to "Little Shop of Horrors." Direction is by George Pinney with lots of assistance from designer Dathan Powell, costumer Carmen Killam, lighting by Ryan Davies, the sound design of Wayne Jackson and music direction by Jeff Tanski.
The Bat Boy, Tom Hershner, was taken in by the family of veterinarian, Josh Gaboian, his wife Amy Linden and daughter Erin Daugherty. In scenes that reminded me of "My Fair Lady" and "The Miracle Worker," the Bat Boy was quickly taught to talk and how to act in public. Despite his socialization the community wasn’t quite ready to accept him.
The local sheriff, Nick Arapoglou, wanted to protect him, but was mostly concerned about how things would come out in the next election. The cave explorers. Jesse Bernath, Rick Desloge and their mother Kevin Anderson wanted to avenge the bite that the frightened creature had inflicted on the family’s daughter, Jaclyn Dima. Rebecca Faulkenberry, as the town’s mayor, wanted things to just sort themselves out. The assorted towns people had what could be charitably called, mixed emotions.
The Bat Boy seemed to evoke religious sentiments in all who met him. Almost everyone emitted a surprised, "Sweet wounded Jesus," when they saw him for the first time. And it was a pleasantly surprising twist that a spellbinding fundamentalist preacher, Lindsey Charles, led the community to accept this strange creature.
What followed was an audacious plot with plenty of tensions and surprises. In the obligatory rock musical freak out scene, Peter Stoffan appeared as Pan and we had a re-enactment of the Garden of Eden scenes. There was plenty of chasing and reversals. Since "Bat-Boy, the Musical" grew out of the tabloids, there were some grimly emotional scenes, and lots of comically extreme emotions. Probably dark farce is the best category to put the show in.
The IU Theatre has done an outstanding job of bringing a very complicated and enjoyable show to their cave.
"Bat Boy, the Musical" at the IU Theatre plays each evening this week through Saturday.