note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
You’re going to be hearing a lot about the F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company, now that they’re in residence at the Piano Factory. They’ve performed in many venues ---but now they have a home, right in the midst of all those other established companies in the South End.
Not to worry. They can hold their own. What makes them different is their mission to provide quality, affordable theater. You can’t beat their $10-15 ticket prices, and that’s for a musical…with an orchestra! This scrappy ‘little engine that could’ is mounting BATBOY: The Musical through Oct. 27th. You may have seen slicker versions of BATBOY, but this feisty ragtag production has heart—and some fine singing. They get even more laughs out of the material, believe it or not, when they double some of the roles. It’s hilarious to see one character shed his costume on stage and become another, just getting his ball cap on in time for his new line.
BATBOY belongs to the “silly musical” genre, with adorable pastiche (Here a Sondheim rhythm, there a Webber phrase) music by Laurence O’Keefe. Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming’s book is based on the fabulous adventures of Batboy in the WEEKLY WORLD NEWS tabloid. You know, the checkout counter rag with the wonderfully absurd headlines like “Fur Coat Devours Owner.” The NEWS reported Batboy sightings from Baghdad to Beverly Hills. Sadly, they folded just this year but thanks to F.U.D.G.E. Batboy remains in our consciousness.
Director Joe DeMita gets it right. The Piano Factory space is smaller than a postage stamp which means the action will be in your face (almost in my lap) and the subtlest of gesture will connect. Caricature is reigned in and as a result, the sweetest of emotions flow out of the story. Watching the frightened batboy (Trevor Croft in a tour de force performance) push his head slowly through the cage bars to listen to his kindly captor (a luminous SiouxSanna Ramirez-Cruz) is like watching a toddler take those first uncertain steps. DeMita and music director Jason Whiting capture the innocence way inside the story and by doing so, they bring home the show’s serious message about tolerance…but not so you really notice. It’s still a gas.
Lindsay Hurley is the ever ready, but flustered, sheriff. Emma Putnam is Batboy’s lovely squeeze. Kacee Staiti does funny double, no triple duty, as do most of the actors. Tom Rimer is, among other characters, Batboy’s nemesis and AnneMarie Alvarez is Rimer’s longsuffering mother. Brooke Haney, alas, is dispatched by Andrew Darcey but she returns in furry hunting cap to call for her previous character’s death to be avenged. Kyle Hemingway leads the wacky animal ballet at play’s end. What more is there to say: The songs are delightful. The story is outrageous and you’d be a fool to miss it.
[FOOTNOTE: "F.U.D.G.E." = "Friends United Developing Genuine Enertainment" (Honest!) ]