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"Bat Boy" and "Joseph" rock Orange County stages

Looking for some great, inexpensive, summer entertainment? Why not check out the local community theatre scene? Two plays currently showing in Fullerton and La Habra are particularly fun.

At first glance, the Hunger Artists Company’s production of “Bat Boy – The Musical” might seem a little off-putting. Based on the fictional half-bat/half-boy character from the now-defunct supermarket tabloid “The Weekly World News,” this play imagines how a small West Virginia community would cope when faced with the sudden appearance of a freakish new member. But there’s nothing particularly “freakish” about this production beyond the strange subject matter. The musical follows classic theatrical conventions, and seems far more suitable to a Broadway stage than to a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” venue.

The main character “Bat Boy” is no monstrous “Big Foot” either. Rather, he is a shy teenager who simply wants to find acceptance from his neighbors. Taken in by a local veterinarian’s family, Bat Boy blossoms into an articulate and thoughtful young man. But the townspeople refuse to welcome him, and blame him instead as a scapegoat for all of their problems.

The La Habra Depot Theatre’s production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s first big hit – “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” – tells a more traditional tale. But while the play’s narrator reminds the audience that “it’s all there in Chapter 39 of Genesis,” this biblical story also focuses upon a young man who faces constant rejection from his community. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and thrown unjustly into prison by his first master, Joseph has to deal with as many obstacles as the freakish “Bat Boy” does. But he rises above the slings and arrows of his outrageous fortune and becomes “Pharaoh’s Number Two” man in Egypt.

Both plays feature outstanding casts, but a few actors demand special recognition. Steven Joseph Alcantar (Bat Boy) has an extraordinarily sweet voice, which makes his character’s tragic plight all the more poignant. Kathleen Switzer brings a warm depth to her portrayal of the veterinarian’s sympathetic wife. The bond she forges with Bat Boy creates the heart and soul of the musical.

Fifteen-year-old prodigy Zack Hillman gives a truly bravado performance as the title character Joseph, though he is supported by talented, high-energy cast of young actors. Singers Lauren Howard (Narrator) and Eric Halsig (Ruben) each brought down the house with their fine voices, and Lauren Ross (Poptiphar’s Wife) lights up the stage each time she dances.

“Bat Boy” runs weekends through August 15 in Fullerton. Tickets are $20 ($18 for students), except on Thursday, August 12, when all seats cost $5. For more information, check out the Hunger Artist’s website:

http://www.hungerartists.com/

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” also runs weekends through August 15 at the beautifully-restored La Habra Depot Theatre (an Orange County Historical Landmark). Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for students and children. For more information, log onto:

http://www.lhdepottheatre.org/
 

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