Sunday, February 21, 2010

Slow Burn Theatre: Batboy: The Musical (3 reviews)

Slow Burn Theatre premiered on the South Florida theatre scene with their production of Bat Boy: The Musical, which opened at the West Boca Community High School Auditorium on February 18, 2010.
Ripped from the headlines of The Weekly World News, BAT BOY THE MUSICAL is a classic love story with a serious bite. This delicious twist on the modern day musical comedy tells the amazing story of a strange boy with pointy ears, his struggle to find a place in a world that shuns him, and the love that can create both miracles and madness.
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that includes Rick Pena, Joe Harter, Nikki Bromberg, Matthew Korinko, Lissen Ellington, Stephanie Simon, Sean Muldoon, Eric Jaffe, Anne Chamberlain and James Carrey.

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
The set and lighting design for this production are well crafted. The most memorable images are a tangle of tall trees backlit in blood red, and beams of lights cutting through fog. The sound is a bit too loud, as the singing and tracked accompaniment are harsh on the ears.
Director Patrick Fitzwater has brought about as much clarity to the plot as possible by playing the story straightforward rather than going for every obvious comic ploy.
The best singing, acting and chemistry comes from Simon, Korinko, Chamberlain and Rick Pena (Bat Boy). I suppose this is as it should be, but there is unevenness in the ensemble. With an ensemble that is slightly smaller than normally used for this show, it becomes more obvious. The voices are there, but some faces look completely blank for entire songs or scenes, and feet scramble to get in step. With that said, if you are a fan of Bat Boy: The Musical and the sound of contemporary Broadway, this is a solid, well-sung version and a decent way to kick off a promising new theatre's season.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
There are problems of scale and volume in its first ever production, but with its opening selection, Bat Boy: The Musical, the new Slow Burn Theatre Company could never be accused of playing it safe.
...the score by Laurence O’Keefe is full of witty lyrics and song genres that range from hip-hop to gospel to pure Broadway, justification enough for a revival of the material. If you are tired of the usual musicals and are hungry for something with a little, um, bite to it, Bat Boy: The Musical may be just what you crave.
Director-choreographer (and co-artistic director of the company) Patrick Fitzwater’s comic instincts are on-target, but he starts with the distinct disadvantage that Slow Burn performs at the cavernous West Boca High School auditorium while Bat Boy: The Musical clearly calls for a more intimate playing space.
Scenic designer Ian T. Almeida does wonders with his clever scenery — you have to love the stalagmite/stalagtite teeth on the back wall — but Traci Almeida’s sound is pitched way too loudly, as if she thinks someone will ever sit in the back half of the auditorium, and most of the crowd scenes are painfully shrill.
Although Slow Burn is not yet employing Equity actors, Fitzwater has several worthy principal performers. As the bat boy, Rick Pena sings well, is plenty quirky and also maintains audience sympathy throughout. Chamberlain makes her love for him credible, but she is upstaged by Simon as her Donna Reed-ish mom, whose conflicted feelings over Edgar are eventually explained.
Slow Burn needs to learn how to use its theater more effectively, but with the niche it wants to carve on the local theater scene, the company is a welcome addition even with its initial missteps.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
Bat Boy, which was inspired by a Weekly World News story about a half-human, half-bat found living in a cave... isn't provocative, incendiary or intelligent. It's a stylized, gleefully silly musical theater spoof...
Its major roles -- Bat Boy (Rick Peña), veterinarian Thomas Parker (Slow Burn founder Korinko), the doc's wife Meredith (Stephanie Simon) and their daughter Shelley (Anne Chamberlain) -- are played by talented actor-singers who can really belt it out. Ian T. Almeida's set, Traci Almeida's sound design and Lance Blank's lighting serve the show well, though the sound level on opening night was way, way too high. It's a musical, not an eardrum-bursting concert, folks.
The supporting players are less assured, particularly when executing director-choreographer Fitzwater's dance moves, and some... give the sort of performance you'll find in a not-so-hot community theater. Technical glitches abounded on opening night: blackouts that lasted too long, a nonfunctioning microphone for Peña at first, actors not always in sync with the recorded music track.
...if Slow Burn is to set the South Florida theater world on fire, its founders will have to raise their game in a right-sized space with better funding, more qualitatively uniform casting and greater attention to the little details that add up to a strong production.
The Slow Burn Theatre production of Bat Boy: The Musical, plays at the West Boca Community High School Auditorium through March 7, 2010.

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