Monday, June 13, 2011

Genesius' "Bat Boy," may be gone, but won't be forgotten

By Cheryl Thornburg
  A small, but enthusiastic crowd witnessed the final performance of "Bat Boy, The Musical” at Genesius Theatre in Reading Sunday – and what they witnessed is what is best about live theater. Talented actors bring to life the story of Edgar, a deformed boy who is discovered in a West Virginia cave, and whose struggle to fit in is poignant and at times heart-wrenching.
  What is unique is that the production uses broad, outrageous characters and comedy to tell this otherwise sad tale.
Sometimes it takes a slapstick-style hammer to drive home a serious message about bigotry and intolerance. The message is delivered through laughter and tears and some great music, so it is quite painless.
  At the heart of the success of this production is an incredible performance by Philippe Levesque as Edgar, the Bat Boy. The role is physically and emotionally demanding and Levesque gives 110 percent to the role. His acrobatics inside the cage after the bat boy is first captured are amazing to watch. His vocals are powerful, and at times haunting as in “Show You a Thing or Two,” and “Let Me Walk Among You.”
  Set in the intimacy of this small theater, it is Levesque's acting that makes you believe. His emotions are palpable and makes it impossible not to care.
  He doesn't do it alone, though, a talented cast pulls off this challenging musical, with passion and flair.
  Jon Browning is deliciously evil as Dr. Thomas Parker. At first the seemingly harmless, but alcoholic veterinarian, is at the sidelines. But it soon becomes obvious that he has demons that drives him to dark actions. Browning plays Parker to the hilt and shows off his vocal talent with a sinister twist in “Dance With Me Darlng.”
  Erin Stevens plays his wife, Meredith, in a more understated manner, but there's nothing understated about her vocal delivery in the poignant , “A Home For You” and her comedic inflection in “Three Bedroom House.”
  She shares the latter song in a duet with Rachel Himes as her daughter, Shelley. The two take on the task of civilizing Edgar and become his protectors.
  Himes' vocals shine in the ballad, “Inside Your Heart” with Levesque and in the finale , “Hold Me , Bat Boy.”
  James Barksdale doesn't have as much time on stage as the others, but his performance as Pan is commanding and memorable. His delivery of “Children, Children,” is powerful and takes the story in a whole new direction.
  There are fine comedic performances by Chuck Austin, Dan Smith, Laura Kruse and Randy Gerber.
There's also some cross-dressing as several actors switch genders for different roles. Trust me it works.
  Jordan Baylor plays both Rick Taylor and Lorraine. Tama McConnell plays both Ron Taylor and Maggie. Marisa Hoover plays Ruthie Tayler and Ned. And Kirk Lawrence plays Mrs. Taylor, Roy, and Rev. Billy Hightower.
  Lawrence is outrageously over-the-top as Mrs. Taylor and memorable when he sings ,”Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby,” but his rendition of “A Joyful Noise'” as Rev. Hightower, is one of the high points of the show. It is a hand-clapping foot-stopping tune that sticks with you when you leave the theater.
  The show was directed by John Gancar with Dave Himes as music director. Together they have elicited first-rate performances from the ensemble cast.
  St. Genesius, patron saint of actors, would be veery proud of this production.
  "Bat Boy, The Musical,” may be over, but Genesius has other productions coming up soon.

  • “High School Musical” opens July 15 and runs through July 24.
  • “Tale of a West Texas Marsupial,” featuring young actors ages 6-14, runs Aug. 5-7.
  • Aspects of Love,” will run Aug 19-21 at the Reading Public Museum.

Genesius Theatre is located at 153 North 10th St. in Reading. For more information, go to or call (610) 371-8151.


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