AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe
Directed by Jennifer Childs
1812 Productions at the Adrienne Theater
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA
Playing through June 15, 2001
Website: or
Box Office: (215) 592-9560

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

1812 Productions' third and final show of their season is Batboy: The Musical. Debuting off-Broadway and playing for nine months, it won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for 2001 Best Off-Broadway Musical. Inspired by a series of articles featured in the supermarket tabloid, Weekly World News, it has become a cult classic. Though there are no "hits" to come out of this show, the music is an upbeat mix of rock, gospel, standard musical comedy, rap and pop.

Three teenagers, Ruth, Ron and Lorraine Taylor on a stoned, spelunking expedition discover Batboy in a forgotten cave. He is naked, hungry and can only hiss and attack like a wild animal. He bites Lorraine on the neck and the angry teens capture him and bring him to Dr. Thomas Parker, the local veterinarian in hopes that he will destroy the creature. But Dr. Parker's wife, Meredith, feels sorry for the skinny kid with the big ears and won't let her husband "put him down". Along with her repulsed but curious daughter Shelley, the Parkers feed, clothe, educate and try to rehabilitate Batboy. He eventually becomes quite the intellectual and sports a bow tie. But all is not well in the town, where cattle have been dying and the likely culprit is Batboy. Jealous of his wife's transferred affection to the mutant, Dr. Parker kills Lorraine (who has been lying in a hospital lingering from Batboy's bite) blaming it on Batboy. At the town picnic, Dr. Parker breaks in with the news of Lorraine's death and the chase for Batboy is on. The second act brings more surprises where Batboy falls in love and then discovers his tragic origins.

The show is funny, funny and more funny told in the high camp tradition. Ben Dibble is nothing short of superb as the tortured, hissing, emaciated, misunderstood Batboy. He looks like a bat, sounds like a bat and sings like an angel - sometimes suspended from the ceiling like a bat! Tony Lawton is extremely good as the undersexed, depressed, Dr. Parker, who goes from dorky husband to killer madman. Mary Martello, so badly miscast in last season's "Sound of Music" is here very well cast as Meredith Parker. She is funny and yet still grounded in a perverse kind of reality while playing style. Her sweet, legit soprano serves her well in most numbers - though she is not a wailer and some of the music cries out for that kind of vocal ability. Joshua Lamon as Reverend Hightower tears the place apart in his revival number, A Joyful Noise and is extremely funny as Mrs. Taylor. Sarah Bolt singing as Maggie and part of the Ensemble has a spectacular high belt which cuts through the house and Christina Gianaris's (Shelley Parker) acting is very strong though her voice is a little light.

The Adrienne Theater (former home of the Wilma Theater) is a small space for a musical and the band of three musicians, Keyboards, Bass and Percussion is more than adequate. At first I had trouble hearing the lyrics in the opening number, but the band eventually adjusted its volume and corrected the situation. Though there are a few cast members who are not singers and one wonders why they were cast in a musical, on the whole this show is well directed by Jennifer Childs. There's a lot of story to tell and she keeps the pace chugging along at a raucous clip. The set by Bradley Helm is great -- especially the metal cage that is assembled before our eyes which is fully functional. The costumes by KJ Gilmer are reminiscent of those bad B Movies that this show is patterned after - gaudy and fun.

I do not know if this is 1812's first venture into the world of musical theatre, but if it is - it's a good world for them to be in and I hope they do it again.

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