The contemporary musical “Bat Boy” is part urban legend, part Frankenstein, part V.C. Andrews novel and part satire. The dark themes of Lake City Playhouse’s second annual “Stage Left” production follow the vein of “Sweeney Todd” and “Into the Woods,” which the theater produced this season.
While some might find the violence and sexual content of “Bat Boy” unsettling, it’s nothing not found in ancient Greek and Roman myths where man-beasts and gods roam the hills looking for humans to prey upon.
“Bat Boy,” with book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, is derived from a story that appeared in a supermarket tabloid. The musical centers on a family who takes in the teenage bat-human. They are surrounded by a town full of quirky mountain folk and dying cows. Fear, aggression and love ensue amidst rock beats, haunting ballads and chipper send-ups to the Broadway musical canon.
The production, directed by Troy Nickerson assisted by Melody Deatherage, features a cavelike set, some strong performances and intriguing choreography by Angela Pierson that befits the dark yet campy mood. Music direction is by Zachariah Baker, who makes an appearance as Pan in “Children, Children.”
The title character is played by Cody Bray, who reprises his recent role at Eastern Washington University. Bray is endearing as Edgar the bat boy, especially during “Show You a Thing or Two,” when he learns to read, speak and act human. But he demonstrates the power of his voice in “Apology to a Cow.”
Marianne McLaughlin gives a spot-on showing as Mrs. Parker, the woman who raises the boy. She is a tortured wife but shows great caring in her sweet rendition of “A Home for You.”
“Bat Boy” contains one of the most chilling villains in a stage production, veterinarian Dr. Parker, played by Daniel McKeever. The fact that he speaks softly while committing murder is particularly unnerving. In “Dance With Me, Darling,” he adeptly sings and dances a quasi-tango with his wife while holding a syringe.
The 13-person cast is mostly solid with a few standouts, including Madison Rasmussen (Shelly), Gianinna Damiano (Mrs. Taylor) and Eric McGaughey (Rick). The Act I finale, “Comfort and Joy,” speaks to the hypocrisy of the townspeople and the soul searching of the Parker family. The music and staging is full, well-orchestrated and touching. Group number “Another Dead Cow” is less polished, and the lyrics are unintelligible at times.
The pacing throughout the show needs tightening. But like a Shakespearean tragedy, “Bat Boy” careens toward its harrowing end, delivering a message of acceptance and showing the price for spurning it.