Griffin’s “Bat Boy” Review – Talent-Fueled Explosion of Fun

(top center) Henry McGinniss with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

 

It’s in the second act when Ron King, as Reverend Hightower (one of his many roles), is leading a Baptist Revival that is side-splitting laughter funny, when you too may be thinking – “..theater just doesn’t get any better than this!” 

 

(center) Henry McGinniss and the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

 

You’d be wrong of course, because “Bat Boy” gets even funnier just a scene or so later in what one might call a rock re-mix of the Stravinsky/Ballet Russe “Rite of Spring”. 

 

(front, left to right) Matt W. Miles, Henry McGinniss and Tiffany Tatreau with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster.

 

(left to right) Henry McGinniss and Tiffany Tatreau in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

 

This is multi-layered satire that keeps you laughing out loud as it drills down deeper and deeper into absurdity, lubricated with wonderful songs, from rap, to a touch of torch, to belt-it-out Broadway style. 

 

(center, front to back) Tiffany Tatreau and Henry McGinniss with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

 

In fact, I’m hard-pressed to figure out why this musical (Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming; Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe) hasn’t already found it’s way to a Broadway venue.  Perhaps this lampoon of Christian charity in a small-minded West Virginia town, with an underbelly of novel vegan humor, is just hopelessly outside the mainstream, and more than a little lacking in political correctness. 

 

(front, l to r) Matt Miles and Henry McGinniss with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL,

 

That’s great for us—because in Griffin’s most able hands we see yet another ensemble work directed with master precision to fill every moment.   (Director:  Scott Weinstein; Music Direction Charlotte Rivard-Hoster; Choreography:  Rhett Guter)  They know how to use this space in the Den Theatre to add to the script in a big way with their staging—adding great costumes (Costume Design: Izumi INaba) and also skillfully done shadow puppets (Puppet Design:  Lolly Extract & Amber Marsh).

 

 Every member of this cast shines.  These are rock stars—all!

 

(front, center) Henry McGinniss with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

 

It’s a total joy to watch Jordan Dell Harris, Jeff Meyer and Ron King do their many johnny-on-the-spot gender swaps, perhaps letting us feel the mirth of those in the Globe’s pit back in the day when Will Shakespeare’s plots took such turns. 

 

(left to right) Anne Sheridan Smith, Matt Miles and Henry McGinniss in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

 

All the actors get a similar chance to do quick changeover characters or metamorphoses.  It makes for the fun in a huge way.

 

center) Henry McGinniss with the cast of Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL

 

You’ll be disabused of the notion that Anne Sheridan Smith got her role as the Mom figure because she has such a great voice. 

 

(left tor right) Anne Sheridan Smith and Henry McGinniss in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

 

She does, but she gets to show her other stuff and then some during the aforementioned Rite of Spring remix moments. 

 

(left to right) Anne Sheridan Smith and Henry McGinniss in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

 

Similarly, Henry McGinniss’ athletic physicality so on display in the opening might initially lead you to think that’s how he landed his part.  But then comes his sensitive morphing from feral to someone more like an over-starched British butler, and you see his remarkable range. 

 

(front to back) Henry McGinniss and Matt W. Miles in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe, directed by Scott Weinstein with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster

 

Now through July 24 at the Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage, 1329 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago.

 

For information or tickets visit the Griffin Theatre website.

 

Photos:  Michael Brosilow

 

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