Kyle Kite, Emily Parker, and Ian Buff perform in Bat Boy: The Musical. (Photo by Maryann Luedtke)
Local actor Ian Buff didn’t just shave his head to look like a bad ass, nor was it to stay cool this summer. The choice, actually, wasn’t even up to him, but it wasn’t for any medical reason. He shaved his head to look more like a bat.
Buff, 18, was already used to suspending his humanity for other roles, like the snippy crab in The Little Mermaid and the hunchedback Igor in a Frankenstein parody. Now he’ll perform as a half-bat, half-human creature in Open Space CafÃ© Theatre’s comedic horror story, Bat Boy: The Musical.
“The character of Bat Boy is a challenging part because he starts the show basically as an animal but develops throughout the show into a person,” Buff said. “The character involves a wide range of emotions and personalities.”
Though it’s challenging, Buff said it’s actually quite a fun role, even if he does have to walk on all fours. “It’s much more entertaining than playing a normal person,” he said. As for the shaved head, he’s not a fan.
“I wouldn’t say I love the look, and it’s probably not a new style,” Buff said, “but it’s for the good of the show so this one time won’t hurt.”
The musical is based on a 1992 fictional news story about a half-boy, half-bat that was found living in a cave and dubbed, “bat boy.” The publication, Weekly World News, was known for publishing outlandish stories that usually featured supernatural or paranormal content. In the play, which made its premiere on Halloween in 1997, the boy is adopted, learns English and attempts to assimilate into society, however the town rejects him and instead treats him cruelly.
“I really like the musical because its music is sort of a combination of many different genres, which can make the show interesting,” Buff said. “The story itself is also very interesting, as well as strange and dramatic, but not without many fun and comical parts.”
“It really is a charming story,” said Perry Morgan, director. “It’s a beautiful story about acceptance, change, what it means to be a family, and what it means to be in love.”
He added that it’s also a clever “morality play” and asks a lot of questions for the audience to ponder. It touches on the topics of racism, hypocrisy, acceptance, forgiveness and revenge.
Morgan said the major characters are each a representation of humanity, struggling with good and evil.
The audience watches them struggle to find and do what is right, and will inevitably ask themselves, “What is right?” and maybe even question what they would do in these situations.
“It makes for good drama,” Morgan said. “Add the story of a bat-boy creature found in a cave and brought into a home; mix in some singing and dancing; it becomes quite entertaining, moving, eerie, bizarre and thought provoking.”
Morgan said his friends kept telling him he should direct this play because it was “so him,” “whatever that means.” He stayed away from it because so many people were producing it, but now he’s ready to put his mark on it.
“As a director, I like to think big immediately about every scene, every character””how far can we push the envelope? How can I tell this story in a different way from the ways it has been told before on stage, and stay true to the story itself?” “Anyone who has seen my work before knows they will see a bold, new interpretation of the script””something exciting and fresh””not ‘the way it always is done,'” Morgan continued.
His past productions include Carrie, Annie Get Your Gun, Cabaret, South Pacific, Mother Courage, and Total Abandon.
Audiences may recognize Buff from his many shows in Kernersville and Greensboro, including his roles as Harold Hill in The Music Man, Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man, Sebastian in The Little Mermaid, as well as in many other community theatre and school shows. He’s been performing since the age of six. !
Bat Boy: The Musical will be at The Crown at the Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro, July 22-25. Tickets are $24. For tickets and more information visit osctheatre.com or call 643-7374.