THEATER REVIEW Make Way for Hybrid Villains!
‘Bat Boy’ Offers Choice Songs, Endless Humor
MIT Musical Theatre Guild
Directed by Kristin Hughes
September 10-12, 8 PM
Little Kresge Theatre
The MIT Musical Theatre Guild’s production of Bat Boy: The Musical (story and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe) is briefly summarized as “Bat Boy’s search for love and acceptance,” which, though true, doesn’t quite capture the depth of the show’s… quirkiness. With a plotline that could be considered odd even by musical standards, Bat Boy is about neither a young Bruce Wayne nor the baseball equivalent of a roadie, although one could argue that it has elements in common with the former.
As one might expect from a show whose protagonist is half flying mammal, half adolescent boy, it helps to walk into Bat Boy expecting to have to suspend somewhat more disbelief than usual. The original production has no shortage of cross-dressing and actors playing multiple roles, and the MTG production remains true to that without hesitation.
As is usually the case with actors performing in drag, much hilarity ensues, but the humor is additionally accented by the less-than-sterling state of the fourth wall. Even setting aside stage conventions, there’s more than a point or two where the exaggeration and slapstick take center stage, requiring the audience to take that extra step to accept and enjoy it. I offer as examples the “tantric woodland sex” scene and the numerous “unspeakable things happening to stuffed animals” situations.
The singing and dancing in Bat Boy are above average for an MTG show. Considering that MTG has sometimes had difficulty finding enough talented male voices in the past, the men in Bat Boy hold their own, even if it’s the females that always seem to shine brightest vocally.
Most of the dance numbers are reasonably good. The occasional dance scene doesn’t seem to reach its full potential, but there’s nothing truly bad about them. One of the very first dance numbers is very derivative: unabashedly and deliberately so. Whether or not it works, I’m not entirely sure. In the context of the rest of the show, the tone of it is fine, if somewhat jarring so early in the first act. Still, if you liked watching “The Evolution of Dance” on YouTube, you should get at least a little kick out of seeing it.
I was honestly very impressed by the acting in Bat Boy. The villain is genuinely creepy but nonetheless enjoyable to watch, the spotlight is repeatedly stolen by the ensemble to the point where missing plot points for being too entertained is a definite likelihood, and the hick accents are realistic, yet somehow not annoying. Some mention has to be made of the lead role of Bat Boy, played by Steven L. Camina G, who spends half the show barefoot, a third of the show snarling like a hellbeast in the fetal position, and almost the entire performance on stage in what I imagine to be an exhausting role with a minimum of visible fatigue, sporting Spock ears and fangs.
Bottom line: if you haven’t seen Bat Boy, catch one of the few remaining shows, partly to support MIT theatre, partly to see a show you’ve probably never heard of before, but most of all because it’s a solid production that, all things considered, I’m glad I got to see.