Musical comedy should be an exercise in absurdity. And in that sense, Idaho Shakespeare Festival's production of Bat Boy: The Musical is a smashing success.
The story follows the adventures of Weekly World News mascot, "the bat boy," and his adventures trying to integrate into society, after being discovered in a cave near a town of bumpkins with necks so red, they'd probably call Jeff Foxworthy, "the professor."
Mitch McCarrell in the title role provided the standout performance of the show. His every look and posture screamed lovably awkward monster and he managed to make those character elements gradually evolve over the course of Bat Boy's development as a character
The ol' torch-and-pitchfork rabble of a chorus also did admirably in their roles, especially because of some amusing cross-gender casting that portrayed a kitten-loving trailer park bottle-blonde and her eternally housecoat-clad neighbor with a thick coat of stubble.
No, problems in the production were not in the acting but in the singing. While the central characters of the show—Bat Boy and his adopted family—were all consistently on key, the notes in some of the chorus' songs—primarily in the first third of the show—were a bit of a grab bag of sweet and sour.
And in those same songs, the choreography was distracting, not just because it was beyond the capabilities of some of the dancers, but because while being good for the beat and structure of the music, it seemed far too disciplined for the characters. Seeing the Pete's Dragon-era Mickey Rooney of a sheriff (Aled Davies) move to the beat like he was in a fan-made Britney Spears video was like watching your dad sweat to the oldies. Heavily. Funny, but not intentionally.
Effective comedy plays the audience like a puppet, and requires total immersion to sell the disbelief. The dancing and sour notes were distracting enough to momentarily pull me out of the story as a viewer, lessening the impact of those scenes, but it by no means was enough to overshadow the enjoyable script or McCarrell's excellent performance.
Make sure to catch Bat Boy at ISF before he breaks loose for yet another of his trademark rampages across the country.
Bat Boy runs through July 24. Visit idahoshakespeare.org for tickets and times.