Schenectady Light Opera cast embraces variety of song styles packed into ‘Bat Boy’

If you’re in the mood for something different, look at Schenectady Light Opera Company’s latest prod
Rehearsing a scene from "Bat Boy" at Schenectady Light Opera Company are, from left, Laurie Larson, Molly McGrath, Sean Fagan and Michael Lotano.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Rehearsing a scene from "Bat Boy" at Schenectady Light Opera Company are, from left, Laurie Larson, Molly McGrath, Sean Fagan and Michael Lotano.

If you’re in the mood for something different, look at Schenectady Light Opera Company’s latest production, the area premiere of the musical “Bat Boy.”

The production was inspired by a tabloid story that has been popular for years. The Weekly World News ­­— shown below — has been chronicling the adventures (like running for governor in California in 2003) and misadventures (escaping captures by the authorities) of a half-boy, half-bat with needle-like teeth and pointed ears who was allegedly discovered in an Appalachian cave in 1992.

Writers Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming turned the story into a book and play, and Laurence O’Keefe, who wrote the music for the Broadway show “Legally Blonde,” set it to music, with a score that ranges from rock to rap and from gospel to opera.

The musical originally premiered on Halloween 1997 at Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Theatre and later went to play in London’s West End in 2004. The show won the Outer Critics Circle Award for best Off-Broadway musical in 2001.

Boy/creature spared

After his discovery in West Virginia, Bat Boy is turned over to local veterinarian Dr. Parker, played by Eric Shovah, to be destroyed. However, Parker’s wife, Meredith, played by Laurie Larson, persuades him to spare the creature, which she and her daughter, Shelley, have named “Edgar.” Mrs. Parker begins the process of educating Edgar and teaching him how to speak with the goal of assimilating him into society.

Tom Heckert of Clifton Park directs SLOC’s production. Sean Fagan of Troy, who plays the part of Bat Boy, was attracted to this musical because of the variety in styles of music and the chance to challenge himself vocally. “The role of Bat Boy requires a lot of singing, and it’s very high for men,” Fagan said. “I have the challenge of singing more than one song that’s really stretching my vocal range,” said the actor, who sometimes left rehearsals with a bit of laryngitis.

The “all over the place” range of the music makes the production exciting for audiences, Fagan said, but it requires a high level of energy from the actors.

Larson was also attracted to the show because of the music, which she has been listening to since she bought the CD in New York about five years ago. “I started listening to it, and I liked how strong the mom’s role was,” she said, adding that she likes to do musicals that haven’t been overdone in the area. Larson said that the musical has her singing a range of music. For example, she sings a delicate ballad in one act and then belts out a rock ’n’ roll song the other.

Fagan had the challenge of whether to play the character as a bat with human tendencies or a human with batlike tendencies, and Heckert explained that the character is both. While in some scenes we find Bat Boy feeding on the blood of small animals, others find Edgar learning English and falling in love with the Parkers’ daughter.

Heckert described Meredith as “like an onion,” with many layers. The audience sees her as totally in control of her family at the beginning, as a strong woman who is determined to make Bat Boy an accepted citizen of Hope Falls and, as the story unfolds, a woman with a deep, dark secret that is eventually revealed by the play’s end.

Amid the strangeness of the subject matter and its mix of horror, tragedy and comedy, are poignant messages about how those who are different end up as scapegoats.

The play also contains elements of religious iconography and juxtaposes religious teachings with how people act in their everyday lives.

Fagan sees the story as one ultimately of love, acceptance and trying to find one’s community, all in the setting of this strange tale.

Both Larson and Fagan have high praise for the ensemble, who Larson said, “might just steal the show.”

Overcoming adversity

The cast became particularly tight as they dealt with a tragedy during the production, the unexpected death of Colin McCarty, who had been playing the role of Dr. Parker. Heckert decided to continue with the production, and Shovah, a SLOC veteran, was cast in this role.

“It made the cast much stronger, and we’re doing it for a bigger purpose now,” Heckert said. “The energy out of adversity has been amazing,” he said.

‘Bat Boy’

WHERE: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 826 State St., Schenectady

WHEN: Friday through March 16. Performances at 8 p.m. March 7, 8, 13-15 and 2 p.m. March 9 and 16.

HOW MUCH: $20 adults, $10 children

MORE INFO: 1-877-350-7378 or www.sloctheater.org

Categories: Life and Arts

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