Bat Boy is a quirky, somewhat-ridiculous, somewhat-gross show that tends to either be done really well or really poorly. Fortunately, North Raleigh Arts and Creative Entertainment’s CAST Camp version is the former. Cast Camp is a program that brings young actors together and enables them to put together a full show in just two weeks. One would never know from viewing this fun-filled performance that it had been put together so quickly.
The first big song and dance number—“Hold Me, Bat Boy” bursts to a rousing life. Lots of movement and energy fill the small stage, and the aisles are used to effectively open up the theatre. Every company-member is in perfect synch, and the audience quickly settles in for the tale of a mysterious half-boy, half-bat who is pulled from his cave home and into a backwoods West Virginia coal-mining town. There, he is adopted into the Parker family, where he is re-named Edgar and quickly learns to speak.
Much of a production of this show’s success hinges upon how genuinely and charmingly Edgar is portrayed. Young Liam Yates does a stellar job. He’s cute-as-can-be even when he’s sucking blood from bunnies or locked in a dog cage, and his comedic rendition of “Show You a Thing or Two,” the song in which Bat Boy goes from speaking gibberish to speaking British-accented English, is genius. Yates also captures the physical metamorphosis of Edgar, gradually trading in his stooped shoulders and bared fangs for an upright strut and perfect posture.
Lindsey Atkins as Mrs. Meredith Parker has fabulous chemistry with Yates and provides a very tender, almost angelic version of “Home for You.” Andrew Coleman’s Dr. Thomas Parker, on the other hand, is anything but heavenly. He puts the right touches of evil into this tough role.
Yet another standout is Emily Schmid, who turns Mrs. Taylor—a mom with a vengeance for Edgar—into a trashy, sassy character who is truly unforgettable. Brianna Gilmore is also rather adorable in her role as Daisy, a dim-witted townsperson.
D.J. Jones’ lighting design is commendable, especially for a small theatre. He even manages to produce realistic lightning on stage! Sally Kinka’s costumes are black and white for a tabloid/newspaper effect, and Shane Dittmar’s music direction provides the perfect audible backdrop. Pete Comperatore’s slinky, bold directing style rings familiar for those who saw last season’s Macbeth. Here, he takes risks with his young actors, asking them to play parts and understand themes seemingly beyond their reach, but it’s obvious he’s gotten through to them.