PORT TOWNSEND — “Bat Boy,” the musical about to overtake the stage at Port Townsend High School, can be summed up with the phrase “and now for something completely different.”
This is the story of a boy — half human, half bat — discovered in a cave and brought to Hope Falls, a small town in West Virginia.
It’s a “highly irreverent yet poignant show,” said Linda Dowdell, “Bat Boy’s” musical director who, after a career with dance companies in New York City and around the world, moved to Sequim a few years ago.
Showtimes for “Bat Boy,” which opens Friday, are 7 p.m. each Friday and Saturday through May 21 in the Port Townsend High School auditorium at 1500 Van Ness.
Admission at the door will be $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for Port Townsend School District students with associated student body identification cards.
Breanna Moore, the 18-year-old Port Townsend High senior in the title role, has found herself enthralled by it.
The Bat Boy is brought first to the village veterinarian (Raven McMillan) and then subjected to the rest of the townsfolk’s efforts to “civilize” him.
A struggle ensues, yet the boy hopes he can someday fit in.
“I can be just like you . . . just show me how,” he sings in “Let Me Walk Among You.”
“The play reflects a lot about being open-minded,” Moore said. Its theme is that “everyone needs a family; everyone needs acceptance.”
Moore plays the lead with “equal parts innocence and ferocity,” said Jennifer Nielsen, the longtime Port Townsend High drama teacher directing “Bat Boy.”
Another senior, Rose Burt, portrays a soft-hearted Hope Falls mom, Meredith Parker.
Nielsen said the role is perfect for Burt, a member of Port Townsend High School’s Glee Club.
“It showcases her excellent vocal range and comic timing,” said the director.
As the story turns darkly funny — the citizens of Hope Falls scapegoat Bat Boy as the cause of the recent cow plague — the music follows, Nielsen added.
Tender ballads like “A Home for You” and “Inside Your Heart” are balanced with broad comic numbers like “Show You a Thing or Two” and “Another Dead Cow.”
Meanwhile, musical director Dowdell “keeps the energy high and the mood menacing,” Nielsen said.
Moore, for her part, called the story a moving one, with a string of surprises and a dramatic ending.
“The music,” she added, “is brilliant.”
‘Obsessed’ with play
Nielsen was first attracted to “Bat Boy” by her students.
“[They] were pretty much obsessed with it,” she said.
“A small group already knew all of the songs, and I heard little snippets here and there. Once I read the script and listened to the complete score, I was hooked.”
The tale itself has a lurid source: a June 23, 1992, article in the tabloid Weekly World News about a deformed, humanoid creature found in a cave.
When it made it to New York City, however, “Bat Boy: The Musical” won two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Outer Critics Circle Award for best off-Broadway musical in 2001.
In Port Townsend, Nielsen’s favorite moment in the production comes at the very start.
Opening a secret
“The opening of the show . . . is a closely guarded secret. We have all worked toward a spectacular opening, and it should be thrilling for the audience,” Nielsen said.
“My overall favorite part is watching the audience’s reactions. When we get a laugh or a collective ‘ah’ or we make them jump, it’s very satisfying.”
Those unfamiliar with this show, story and music will be “pleasantly amazed,” the director added.
“If you are the kind of theater-goer who is tired of seeing the same old, same old, then ‘Bat Boy’ is just right for you. It’s new, fresh and full of unexpected effects and plot twists.”
Dowdell noted that while all 22 of the actors are teenagers, everyone in the “Bat Boy” band is 50 or older.
Joining pianist Dowdell in performing the score, which she describes as “Little Shop of Horrors” meets “Hair,” are David Hillman and David Schroeder on keyboards, Bruce Cowan on guitar and Tamahra Martin on drums.
“Bat Boy” is not recommended for young children; Nielsen advises parents to consider it rated PG for language, violence and sexual innuendo as well as some potentially scary special effects.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.