Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bloody Good Fun with CTC’s Bat Boy

Cast of Bat Boy taking their bows
One of the tightest productions you could see in Wilmington is playing at the Black Box of OperaDelaware Studios. Bat boy: the musical by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe is a hilarious romp of a rock musical which director Michael Gray and music director Joe Trainor managed to fit onto the tiny stagelet on the Riverfront. The stage was bare, but with a jungle gym background reminiscent of trees and forest in the rural hills of West Virginia. The play’s opening lets the bars of the jungle gym be the walls of a cave where our intrepid siblings find a boy/bat in a cave and capture him.

Of course, the rest of the musical revolves around the identification, education and sanitization of the Bat Boy, played brilliantly by Brendan Sheehan. Whether he is cramped in a cage or mauled by fans and foes, Sheehan comes through with shining colors. Every detail – from his crooning mimic of his fellow humans to his totally convincing adaptation of BBC received speech – is spot on.

The orchestra is also beautiful, although it, too, must remain caged behind a black backdrop to avoid their overpowering the singers. Yet, the cues are perfect and the singers and orchestra seemed melded together for harmony and dynamics thanks to an inventive webcam setup. Christopher Tolomeo and Robert Dilton had some brilliant keyboard licks (although we didn’t know who was on when).

The cast was superb and surreal, with several gender changes and an explosive conversion – from a Lily Tomlin-like, pursed-lipped crone turning into a jiving rocking sexed-up Pan in the name of love – a superb release of Adam Wahlberg’s real vocal power as Pan. Steve Weatherman was a powerhouse as a rural whining mother and Reverend Hightower plus several other roles into which he was able to slip in about five seconds, costume change included.

Dana Michael and Jenna Kuerzi are two tiny sprites who play spirited mother and teenaged daughter, respectively. They rock, shuck and jive with the oversized vigor of the energizer Bunny coming out of lithe and slender bodies. Those two and the rest of the cast, all of whom have incredible light and spark, managed to do all of their singing and dancing while swinging up and down their jungle gym bars as if born to it.

If you feel like you need a jolt of energy in these winter doldrum days – stop by the Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios before December 15!