‘Bat Boy’ Marks a Hit for Theater Arts Department

Olga Ramaz

He is half-bat, half-boy. A freak of nature that dwells in a gloomy cave, but not for long.

“Bat Boy: The Musical,” directed by Jeanette Farr, kick-started the fall Glendale theater season with a show-stopping bang on Oct. 11, bringing to life an off-Broadway masterpiece chock-full of slapstick antics, biblical allusion and quirky tunes, courtesy of a multi-talented theater arts ensemble.

The musical is based on Bat Boy, a character taken from the pages of the late “Weekly World News” tabloid. The story of this strange creature served as a muse for writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, who created a stage adaptation, then later rounded off the production with a score written by Laurence O’Keefe.

In the musical, Bat Boy (Chris Beltran) is found in a cave by Ron (Jack Pimentel), Rick (Richard RealiVasquez) and Ruthie (Amanda Laskin), siblings who are shocked to stumble upon the freakish creature.

In an effort to make nice with Bat Boy, Ruthie offers the creature Fritos, which Bat Boy rejects as he lunges toward Ruthie and makes a bloody feast out of her neck. The Sheriff (Jose “Shermie” Aguilar) arrives at the scene and nabs Bat Boy. He is then taken to the Parkers’, where he is welcomed by Meredith Parker (Ashley Ratcliffe) and her daughter Shelley (Renie Rivas).

In an act of “Christian Charity” the Parkers’ agree to give Bat Boy a home – and take up the task of civilizing the wild creature through lessons in reading, conversation, art and history. The story unfolds as Bat Boy, christened “Edgar” by the Parkers’, becomes the scorn of Hope Falls, in spite of his successful assimilation into society.

Some of the best moments in “Bat Boy” are provided by some of the newer faces, gracing the stage for the first time in a GCC production.

Rivas and RealiVasquez not only radiate immense talent, but give off an aura of confidence that shines through in their performance, even when the cheese factor is up and running.

Their “Watcha Wanna Do?” number is one of the highlights of the musical, generating laughs while cementing Rivas’ and RealiVasquez’ diverse artistic abilities. Rivas’ attempt to dance to a rap song, dressed in a Catholic school girl-like outfit is ridiculously funny, but not as funny as her attempts to beatbox while Rick gestures with his hands, in typical hip-hop fashion.

However, it’s not just the way they carry themselves on stage that are noteworthy, it’s also their vocal ability that make them stars.

Rivas’ voice is impeccable and during songs like “Inside Your Heart” (performed as a duo with Bat Boy), the clear, quality sound of her voice is all the more evident.

RealiVasquez showcases his singing talents in “Children, Children” a number backed by the rest of the ensemble.

Familiar faces, like that of Mario Mason (Mrs. Taylor [Rick, Ron and Ruthie’s mother]), Patrick St. John (Dr. Thomas Parker) and Ratcliffe stand out as well, making it obvious why these students continue to appear in GCC productions.

Mason, who also co-choreographed the production alongside Meagon Ligons and Farr, is delightful as Mrs. Taylor, giving the character some sass, and a dash of campy-ness that compliment the off beat production.

Rattcliffe’s character, a Christian cookie-cutter mom, postulates herself as the conscious amongst some of the sordid characters, showing Bat Boy love and affection from the second he arrives to the Parkers’ home. Her sweet duet with Bat Boy, “A Home for You,” brings out the vulnerable side of Bat Boy as he squirms about in his cage, wide eyed and looking like a lost puppy in search of a loving home.

St. John’s interpretation of Dr. Parker is suave, a smoothness that manifests itself in “Dance with Me, Darling,” a tango-esque number that tells of Dr. Parker’s love for his wife Meredith and his much anticipated night of passion. During this number, Dr. Parker grabs hold of a baffled Bat Boy, twirling him about as they glide in synch, not missing a single step.

Beltran does not stay behind in the talent pool. His interpretation of Bat Boy is endearing, to the point where one can’t help but fall in love with such a strange creature. With songs like “Let Me Walk Among You,” he wins the heart of the audience as well as some of the townsfolk.

Although there are some restrictions for the cast when it comes to space, by no means is the lack there of a deterrent for the quality of the production. On the contrary, the dimensions of the theatre make the performance all the more intimate allowing for the audience to become one with the characters as they climb down ropes, leap across the stage and onto the aisles.

The GCC Studio Theatre was converted into a legitimate looking cave that opened up to store props that were pulled in subtlety, throughout the performance. The lighting gave off both the ambiance of a gloomy cave, as well as a warm home. Both the set and lighting were the work of Technical Director, Guido Girardi.

Complementing Bat Boy’s dark dwelling, were the sound effects of dripping water and other obscure noises. Musical Director Byron Delto did a great job producing the score for the musical. And although the music is excellent and the quality transcends throughout the production, at times, the sound becomes too overpowering, drowning out the cast.

Overall, “Bat Boy: The Musical” is a hit. With tight vocals, sound, choreography and a visually pleasing set, the cast shone brightly, proving that “Bat Boy: The Musical” is a performance well worth the price of admission.

Rating **** out of 4

“Bat Boy: The Musical” runs through Oct. 31 in the Studio Theatre. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors and $8 for groups of 10 or more. Seating is limited and reservations are strongly encouraged. Presentations start at 8 p.m. This production is not recommended for children due to some graphic material. For more information on “Bat Boy: The Musical” or to make reservations, call (818) 240-1000, ext. 5618.