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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Barter's 'Batboy' is Brain-Battering Bedlam

Ben Mackel stars in the musical
Ben Mackel stars in the musical "Batboy" on Barter Theatre's Stage II through Nov. 9.


*** The story was published Sept. 18, 2008, in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***

ABINGDON, Va. ? It could be ripped right out of this morning's headlines: "Cave explorers in West Virginia's deepest cavern discover, introduce to media, creature that is part human, part vampire bat."

Thanks to the magic of Barter's Stage II, you might find it believable or not, but the time spent, at least, may also be a lot of fun.

Ben Mackel is just perfect as the batboy as he trips around the stage, hangs upside-down inside his cage and morphs into a suave and sophisticated Chiroptera-about-town.

Instead of being euthanized as expected and demanded by the townspeople, the batboy is inexplicably taken in by the local veterinarian (Tom Angland) and his wife (Cathy Whelan) and, naturally enough, their daughter (Gwen Edwards) falls in love with their houseguest to the dismay of her parents who have ? cue organ! ? a dreadful secret involving medical school sex, bats and the cutest little Cabbage Patch doll you've ever seen.

Just so you'll know, "Batboy" contains lots of loud music, a large cast of whackos, all sorts of spoofs and send-ups, blood, cow head stumps dripping blood, shoot'n, stabb'n, throat slice'n, giant hypodermic needles, sexual innuendos, evangelistas, hatred, bigotry, stupidity, big hair and political incorrectness ? in other words, there's something to love for everybody.

And, oh yes, it all ends quite badly and very Shakespearian.

"Batboy" is suitable for all ages although parts of it might jar granny from her rocking chair and send the parents of teenagers desperately seeking a way to calm the youngsters afterwards. It makes for a fun evening and will temporarily take your mind off the really scary stuff such as planetary annihilation, $5 gasoline and power plants.

The show runs through Nov. 9. For reservations: (276) 628-3991 or

A! ExtraTopics: Music, Theatre