Batboy the Musical
It turns out you can do all kinds of things to the Batboy. You can try and kill him, love him, stomp on him, feed him live rabbits, hunt him and even have tea with him! The one thing you can not seem to do though, is bring the Batboy down! After an opening weekend drama that found its way into the performance, the Gallery Cast and Crew adapted. From it came a musical directed by new Gallery Theatre President Tommy Hurdle and musical director Bobby Hoggard that equals in energy and enjoyment "SPAMALOT", and even last seasons hit "Rock of Ages". Batboy opens in darkness as three teenage cave explorers (played by Jordan Martin, Eleanor Boyd and Austin Medford) stumble upon an uncharted cavern deep within the mountains of Hope Falls, West Virginia. It is here they horrifically discover a cave monster. There is no such thing as a cave monster you say? There is when a child is lost or discarded, and left alone to become whatever it is he will become to survive, in a world of no example or kind. After attacking in defense of home, he is rendered unconscious, only to awaken to his new life. One of bigotry, confusion and thankfully love!
An amazing portrayal by SPAMALOT actor Austin Munden brought Batboy to life. The versatility displayed by Mr. Munden in this multifaceted character role was nothing short of excellent! You will have to see and hear the play to understand what was accomplished by this budding star of stage! The physical, vocal and emotional demands of his role were no easy task! Many could not have achieved success of character as he did. Kudos Sir! Mrs. Meredith Parker (played by Erin Messer) was another demanding role. Erin was asked to jump between the emotions of regret, anger and love, which she did wonderfully. The music in Batboy is infectious! Easy to catch yourself singing the songs already stuck in your head. The music was broad and eclectic. Everything from high energy rock screams to the soft and meaningful tunes that brought hope into the life of the Batboy. Erin Messer (Meredith) and Austin Munden (Edgar/Batboy) shared the warm embrace of the song "A Home for You". Erin's melodic voice did true justice to this wonderfully written song. It made you feel like mom was giving you a hug! Austin's vocal range in harmony was pitch perfect. One of the many highlights of the musical.
Batboy is a dark sided fun loving comedic romp through issues of society and culture. Batboy is a lesson in judging a book by its cover! Boy meets girl? You bet! With a twist. Young Shelley Parker, who is Mrs. Parker's daughter, was beautifully portrayed by Madelyn Messer, who is also the true daughter of her stage mother Erin Messer. Yes talent runs in that family. The role of Shelley was the ground to the whole play. She was Batboys anchor, love and the beacon for a boy who has never felt love. After realizing she could not keep him as a pet other feelings started to surface. These feelings were the catalyst for atonement and salvation. They were also the cause of blame and catastrophe. So such is life! Families, whether they are real or performed on a stage, whether they are by blood or by theatre, families all carry skeletons, shame, promise, hate, love and teamwork. By theatre, is the family mentioned in this article! Now every good play needs a villain and a hero! However they are not usually the same character. Dr. Parker (played by Tommy Hurdle) and the father of Shelley and husband to Mrs. Parker was a hero to villain and villain to hero yoyo! A very tough role pulled off nicely by the talent of Mr. Hurdle. In the end he is a...oops can't say! Let’s just say Doctor Parker is a man that will do anything to win back the love from his wife.
Love a good old fashioned hoedown? The choreography and tempo of the song "Another Dead Cow" was thoroughly enjoyable! The story through dance and song of a town's fear of the unknown, and fear of failure. Mamie Ballance (who plays the town's Mayor Maggie) took lead in both dance and song and just truly delivered! What musical is not complete without a Gospel Revival? The annual revival is Hope Falls biggest event of the year and hopefully the coming out party for Batboy, who has hopes of dispelling the fear and hatred of the town. Local talent and Gallery alumni Troy Fitz whose character tried to bring the Batboy from the shadows to the light! Troy's portrayal of Reverend Billy Hightower tells me he may have missed his calling. With all the fire and brimstone at his command Mr. Fitz did an over the top dead on performance that would have any preacher green with envy. This reporter loved it, and he even snuck a little Carlton into his dance moves! Deep voiced and rich with character, and yes he also portrayed Mrs. Taylor, whose children kept dropping like flies, as well the hillbilly Clem. Mr. Fitz was a busy man during this performance!
The song "Three Bedroom House" sung by mother and daughter team Erin and Madelyn Messer is a feel good song meant to inspire the thought that sometimes change is good.
"Dance with me Darling" which was sung and danced by Tommy Hurdle and Erin Messer. The song itself was uplifting and lyrical, but the dark brooding undertones of emotional bribery made it a sweet and sour mix. Comedic songs that conveyed the opposite meaning than the words they carried, songs like "Comfort and Joy" and the hilarious "Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby". You could feel the Batboy's pain and despair during "Let me Walk among You". The song “Children, Children” performed by Hugh Davis was another stand out of the musical. His deep and calming voice matched perfectly with the forest scene and the ensemble’s dancing animals! This scene carries a balance between the innocence of animals and their behavior not accepted by modern human society. With so many more songs and scenes that could be talked about, and limited number of words for a published article, let’s leave at you will love them!
Let’s take a moment to salute the actors and actresses who endured months of long rehearsals, many of whom played dual roles, and did it spot on. Tony Jenkins who played Sheriff Reynolds as well as a giant rooster did a great job! His two roles required physical acting as well as emotional and he made it all work. It was the Sheriff that kept a cool head during the hunt for the Batboy. Tony Jenkins came to the theatre about a year ago and has grown into one heck of a performer. His most notable role to date was as “Stacie Jaxx” in last season’s hit Rock of Ages. There were really no small roles in Batboy, it is truly an ensemble play. Unless you count Willow as the Rabbit. Already mentioned actors Jordan Martin (Rick Taylor/Cetus), Eleanor Boyd (Ruthie Taylor/Maybelle) and Austin Medford (Ron Taylor/Ned) were all superb in their roles. Norman Askew (Bud/Daisy/Doctor), Parker Jones (Institute Man), Shanice Lawton (Lorraine), Carolyn Goodman (Daisy) and Jill Gadsden (Ensemble) were the icing on the cake as they switched in and out of minor roles and demanding ensemble costume changes. The complexity of the ensemble demands were more in this production than most!
The set of Batboy was in itself worth the price of admission! Do you realize that the sets designed and built by the theatre board can equal or surpass anything you will see anywhere? It is a wonderful thing to have such a talented and dedicated crew right here in our area! The two story set designed by Tommy Hurdle and put into realization by set builder Tony Jenkins is a triumph! How about lights and sound? Bobby Hoggard, theatre Vice President Jill Gadsden, Heather Boyd and Tony Jenkins are the magic of light and sound that makes it all happen! Hopefully this article paints a picture of how incredible Batboy is and why you should not miss it! The twisted and completely unanticipated story lines, some that shocked the audience back to reality, and others that created pleasant surprises we a real treat to this reporter.