The Lohman is the high-class replacement for the old black box theater, which was a not-converted-much meeting space up at the top of the very steep stairs. When I was in Jay's production of Bells Are Ringing mublety-mumble years ago, I dreaded that climb. But wiser and more hypertensive minds put the new theater at the bottom of the hill, spitting distance from the parking lot. Yay!
So I was in a good mood and really jazzed to see this show. It was...uh..er...different.
Some background: Half a dozen years ago, The Weekly World News ran a big series of articles about a boy who had been found in a cave in West Virginia, living with the bats. They applied more than their usual journalistic skilz to this endeavor, causing a sensation among their millions of supermarket line readers and all six subscribers. So of course the first thing which raced through the minds of Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming was "let's write a musical!" Aided and abetted by the musical prowess of Laurence O'Keefe, they did just that. The result was Bat Boy.
The inside of the Lohman Theater is cave-like. By hanging some fabric stelagtites/mites and building a very simple set of columns dressed up to be cave-like, with some bats hanging from the light poles, we have a passable cave. All expenses were spared in this production, but these are desperate times for theaters, so I'm not complaining. Set construction was done by a class at Foothill. Costumes also were home grown, and also mostly credited to a theater class. The show doesn't need much in the way of costumes, but the forest menagerie scene had me sitting there with my mouth hanging open, marveling at the grade school Halloween quality of the costumes.
The cast was miked. This is a theater small enough that the cast can spit on the back row, microphones were not called for, and most of them were over-modulated and way too treble-equalized. The only good thing about the audio is there was no feedback.
The programs are a hoot - done on tabloid format newsprint, with the cast bios crammed into one unreadable paragraph.
So much for the technical.
The basic plot of Bat Boy is pretty straightforward. Starving boy found in cave by trailer trash, brought to the backwoods sheriff, who takes it to the veterinarian. Vet's wife and daughter tutor the boy and bring him to the tent revival to be healed. Or something like that. Backwards townspeople blame the freak for the cattle plague and Frankenstein logic ensues.
The music is not memorable, but Spencer Williams did a great job of maximizing the harmonizing skills of the ensemble. Anything with more than two parts is rock solid and on key. The script is not particularly clever or memorable either, but everyone seemed to have their lines down, and the over-choreographed numbers were executed well.
The play attempts to mock Christian Charity, trailer trash, coal miners, mob rule, and all the things which the Weekly World News thrives on. It was a great idea, but the results are uneven.
Casting had several WTFs. The vet's wife, who sings a lot, made a habit of wandering around the scale in search of the right key. In fact, the only soloists who could sing are Tim Reynolds, who is amazing as the evil vet, and RaMond Thomas who belts out pseudo-gospel as Rev. Hightower. Thomas also flips flawlessly between that role, the part of a rancher, and the irate mother of Bat Boy's first victim. Michael Rhone got about 95% of the way through his Pan song before running out of steam.
Several people play multiple roles, wig and simple costume changes cover most of that, but a lot of the caricatures were like high school rip-offs of bad SNL. The laughs were mostly of the laugh-at and not the laugh-with variety.
Another vocal feast was provided by the "shadow chorus", Kevin Hull, Walter M. Mayes, Brian Palac, Karyn Rondeau and Molly Thornton. Why they were in the chorus and not in the leading roles is a mystery to me.
I almost forgot Robert Brewer, in the title role. He was okay. He can sing well enough, and he hangs upside-down by his knees like a champ. But I have to say that his emaciated days are behind him, and when they put him into that cage in the orange jump suit, he did not even come close to looking like the description in the script of a starving under-aged boy. Orange is not one of the "thinning" colors. And make-up clue: if you want to look like you've been living in a filthy bat cave all your life, you might want to look dirty.
Bat Boy is a total romp for the cast. Go see it - as long as you are not expecting a classy, Broadway-quality show, you'll be entertained.
Performance Dates and Times:
February 27-March 22, 2009
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 2pm
Saturday matinees, March 14, 21 at 2pm
$26 General Admission.
$24 Seniors (65 and over).
Not appropriate for children under 12 years of age.