In Hope Falls, W. Va., the fictional hamlet that's the setting of "Bat Boy: The Musical," none too well is the answer. Change is not anything the townsfolk ever seem to want, and when it is visited upon them in the form of the hybrid creature of the title, the very name of the town signals a general plunge into panic. Change without hope equals despair. And that's easy to stew in when the level of civic intelligence is low.
|Dr. Parker turns his back on his anxious adopted son, Edgar.|
TOTS' show, a well-integrated product of the Zack Neiditch-Zach Rosing partnership, will conclude next weekend. Not surprisingly, it was well-honed when I caught up with it Friday night.
At times, the amplification of the singing voices was overwhelming, obscuring passages in the often witty text. Otherwise, there seemed to be nothing amiss about "Bat Boy"; this is hearty entertainment that dances on the brink of grossness and always lands on its feet. In this production, songs smoothly burst out of the dialogue, with a behind-the-scenes band accompanying briskly.
|The Taylors gather around the bedside of the bat-bitten Ruthie.|
The creature, named Edgar by the family it's delivered to, is nurtured by the village veterinarian and his highly focused wife, played to perfection by Dave Ruark and Mindy Morton. The fault lines in the Parker marriage, explained in a late scene, soon open up a wide path to chaos. The ridiculous Taylors are victims, but others engage our sympathies by the end of the melodrama.
The superficially attractive result of Parker home-schooling, aided by BBC language tapes that make Edgar even more unusual, is undercut by Bat Boy's fondness for warm blood. Food issues are the bane of many of us, so of course we root for Edgar's weaning.
The show's main astonishment emanated from this near-complete transformation, as portrayed with consistent appeal by Justin Klein, progressing from an inarticulate, grunting, flapping, crouched and curled animal to an elaborately polite, multitalented young man who just happens to have fangs and large pointy ears. Costuming and makeup design triumph with Bat Boy, but throughout the production the show's demands for cross-dressing amid multiple roles were well met. The set is a feast for the eyes in its oddly unified, weather-beaten detail, like a Louise Nevelson sculpture designed by a rural scrapyard proprietor.
|Reverend Hightower warms up on the way toward healing Edgar.|
For staging if not for total vocal security, the woodland ensemble "Children, Children" was another highlight, as Edgar and the Parker daughter Shelley (played with wide-eyed gusto by Devan Mathias) confirm their dangerous mutual love with the approval of a lusty faun and cute hand puppets in well-beyond-Disney canoodling. It's the only milieu of acceptance open to Bat Boy, and it's short-lived. The inevitability of that is what's most believable about this amusing, blood-curdling show.