Steven Arends (left) feeds Joshua Midgett in Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” which is being staged through March 17 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Cam Byrnes/ Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)

Steven Arends (left) feeds Joshua Midgett in Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” which is being staged through March 17 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Cam Byrnes/ Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)

“Bat Boy: The Musical” gets nuclear family treatment from Juneau Ghost Light Theatre

Production scheduled to debut Friday, continue through March 17, at TMHS auditorium.

If the newspaper prints it then it must be true, or so goes the thinking behind a stage play inspired by a famous supermarket tabloid story about a half-boy, half-bat who grew up in a cave, and went on to have numerous adventures such as confrontations with scientists and government officials.

His discovery by a trio of teenagers in small-town America is the premise for “Bat Boy: The Musical,” being staged by Juneau Ghost Light Theatre at the Thunder Mountain High School Auditorium from Friday, March 8, through Sunday, March 17. Regular shows are scheduled Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., with pay-as-you-can shows at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

“Bat Boy” first became famous in stories published starting in 1992 by the now-defunct Weekly World News, which became fodder for the musical that debuted in 1997. Hetty Laverne, director of the local production, said she’s wanted to do the show for the past 20 years since she first learned it at the age of 15.

“I was exposed to it when I was a freshman in high school by somebody who had done it at their college, and they wanted to bring it to my small town and talked about potentially casting me in the role,” she said. “So I looked into it and started listening to the soundtrack. And they ultimately didn’t do it. (But) I fell in love with the show. And so I’ve always kind of wanted to be a part of it in some capacity.”

Pat Minick (left) plays Reverend Hightower in Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” which is being staged through March 17 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Photo courtesy of Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)

Pat Minick (left) plays Reverend Hightower in Juneau Ghost Light Theatre’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” which is being staged through March 17 at Thunder Mountain High School. (Photo courtesy of Juneau Ghost Light Theatre)

While acting in the play never happened, Laverne said previous work with Ghost Light Theatre — with recent projects including the staging of “Puffs or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” and radio productions of “War of the Worlds” and “Dracula” — convinced her to take the lead on bringing it to Juneau.

“The more that we had been planning our seasons and the more that we had done bigger productions it’s gotten to the point where I felt we were close to a place where we would be able to pull off something of this caliber,” she said. “The music’s very challenging and there’s a lot of it. So it was kind of a big dream for us for a while. And then I think we finally got to a point where we feel good about it.”

The plot, according to a Ghost Light Theatre synopsis, focuses on Bat Boy being brought to the home of the town veterinarian, where he is eventually taught to act like a normal boy by the veterinarian’s wife, Meredith, and teenage daughter, Shelley.

“But seeking acceptance from the local community proves a challenge,” the summary adds, noting the play contains “some dark comedic and sexual references.”

The mix of cultures and tensions is reflected in the sights and sounds of the local production. Laverne describes the music by a four-member live group as a rock opera that happens to have “a couple of rap songs and a couple more country-sounding songs as well.” Meanwhile, she said set designer Richard Carter provided a “pop-up book sort of set, which is something I’ve never really seen before.”

“So each set has three layers — there’s a back layer and then something more detailed in the front and then another final detail right in front of that one,” she said. “So it’s three layers of different details to kind of add depth. And it kind of looks like a pop-up book.”

As for the costumes, Laverne said she tried to use clothing conveying an idyllic society as it undergoes the disruption of Bat Boy’s arrival.

“What I wanted was to make it kind of seem like the 1950s,” she said. “So the vibe of it is going to be kind of the nuclear family element, that whole idea of what’s perfect.”

Laverne said about 25 people auditioned for the 11 roles in the play. Joshua Midgett, a longtime local theater actor and director, is appearing with fangs and red eyes as the namesake Bat Boy.

“What’s really exciting to me is this is actually a show where most of the people that are in the show I have not worked with before,” Laverne said. “So I’ve actually met new people and gotten to work with new actors that I’ve seen around town and other things, but not actually worked with our theater before.”

While she’s staging the production rather than being on stage herself as first envisioned 20 years ago, Laverne said she doesn’t regret missing a chance at that performance.

“I don’t really count myself much of a singer,” she said. “And so I don’t feel like I would have been that great in it. But being able to direct it has been nice because you kind of get to have some time with each of the characters by working with the actors. So I kind of feel like a lot of what I want is being done through them. So I feel like I’m a part of it in a very special way.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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