- Washington D.C. Critic
When I sat down for the opening night of Bat Boy with the PWLT I had absolutely no idea what to expect. This is the first show I reviewed where I knew nearly nothing about it before the lights went up, all I knew was that it was by one of the guys behind Heathers and about a boy who was bat like. That being said, this show thoroughly entertained me due to its energetic cast, fun music, and commendable directing.
Bat Boy follows the discovery and life of the “Bat Boy”, as he is found in a cave and dragged back to a small West Virginian town. Once in town the wife of a town doctor takes a motherly liking to the boy and begins to educate and civilize him, despite the town’s wishes. As the musical goes on we see the Bat Boy aka Edgar become infatuated with wanting to go out into the world and be just like everyone else. The audience and the characters soon see, however, how that won’t be able to happen. This show has a large emotional range to it, going from humorous to heartfelt in seconds, requiring extreme focus from the cast. Bat Boy has music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and premiered Off-Broadway in 2001, before closing that same year. Unlike O’Keefe’s other works, which usually have a similar score throughout, this one had a wide range of musical genres; changing from pop to rock to Broadway to gospel and even rap. You could definitely tell this was one of O’Keefe’s earlier works, as it wasn’t quite as polished and refined as his other musicals. Nevertheless, the cast should be proud of what they were able to do with the source material they were given.
The titular role was played by Eric Verchot-Ware who did a remarkable job transitioning from an animalistic boy to a refined British gentleman. He also gave a lot of believability to his aggressive moments, as well as the lighthearted ones. Danica Shook and Shawn Cox portrayed the Parkers beautifully. They had the strongest voices and both acted their internal/external conflicts to perfection. Ariel Friendly also gave a fun performance as the Parker’s daughter, Shelley. The Ensemble in this production really shined, giving the audience the most entertaining moments while on stage. Some real standouts of the ensemble were Sarah Elizabeth Edwards, Andrew Morin, Becca Harney, and Rachel Parmelee. This is an odd occurrence, as my “star of the show” pick doesn’t go to any of leads but to Aaron Verchot-Ware. Don’t get me wrong, the leads were fabulous, but no one left it all on stage quite like Aaron as he played Reverend Billy Hightower and others. His song “A Joyful Noise” was the highlight of the show, no question.
I’ve seen many a show with a live band but this show was different. This band was just outstanding, I can’t quite explain why but I couldn’t help but believe I was listening to something truly special whenever they were playing. I got to give credit to Sarah Jane Scott, the music director, for that. This show also had a lot of fun, quirky directorial choices in it, especially the excessive use of blood. I also never felt like any actor wasn’t totally committed. Great job to Lanny Warkentien for that. There was also nice, simple choreography by Melanie Marie Gibson that pulled a lot of scenes together.
This show has three more performances at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas Va. I highly recommend going to support this group and this cast. They are all having fun and that makes the audience have fun. Tickets and info can be found here http://www.pwlt.org/