FEATURE: Charlie Russell Directs “Bat Boy: The Musical” at the Falcon

BB PosterToday we talk with Charlie Russell, the direct of Bat Boy: The Musical opening this Friday at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY.  
Hi Charlie!  Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us.  Can you tell us about yourself and your background in theatre?
 I graduated from Ohio University with a BFA in theatre directing in 1999, since then I’ve been working in the greater Cincinnati area with about 8 different groups, both on and off stage.  I decided early on the “starving artist” route was not for me.  With the large and thriving community, and semi-professional theater groups around town there was ample opportunity to practice my craft and still hold down a full time J.O.B. which feeds my stomach, while theatre feeds my soul.  I’ve directed 17 shows since graduation including some comedies, dramas, musicals and Shakespeare.
Tell us about Bat Boy: The Musical and why you are directing it?

In recent years I’ve taken a “sabbatical” from directing to focus on my new family.  I have a 3 year old son and 7 month old daughter who currently have taken on the role of feeding my soul.  But when Ted ask me to direct BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL, it was an opportunity I could not pass up!  This is a great show with many challenges and few groups in town willing to risk the subject matter.  Ted knew I could not refuse under those circumstances.

I thrive on challenges. The project should stretch me as a director/artist.  A quote I like to use from one of my college mentors, David McClelland,  is “It is the director’s job is to make the actor better then they have any right to be”.  That has stuck with me, and I try to apply it to all artists involved with the show, including myself.  After all, if I don’t challenge myself as the director who will?
Tell us more about some of those challenges.
Bat Boy: The Musical is challenging on MANY levels.  The music in the show is complex and there is a lot of it.  My music director, Jay Myers, and I often comment how this show reminds us of Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera, in many ways.
The genera of show is very difficult to place.  It is widely promoted as a musical comedy, but the music has a real rock feel to it.  At it’s heart the story being told is a text book tragedy as we follow the rise and fall of the protagonist, a half-human/half-bat child that is found in a cave of the mountain town Hope Falls, WV.  Of course you can’t base your story around a half-human half-nocturnal predator character without having elements of horror in your tale.  Combining all these distinct styles together was the biggest challenge of the process, and one myself and the cast have enjoyed.
Robert Breslin - Bat Boy -  in  his most recent Falcon show, "Striking 12" / Photo by Mikki Schaffner
Robert Breslin, who plays Bat Boy, in his most recent Falcon show, “Striking 12” / Photo by Mikki Schaffner

I really can’t wait to see it.  Tell me more about your Bat Boy team.

I can’t say enough about my team both on and off stage for this production.  The dedication and talent is incredible!  Each person involved in this show has surpassed my expectations.
The Parker family, who take in the Bat Boy, have truly dove into the hearts and minds of these broken human beings with all their ability and passion.  Staying grounded in the telling of this tragic tale while surrounded by the craziness of the ensemble has been no small feet.  My ensemble cast of 7 are playing over 15 roles, and really bring the musical comedy element of this show to life in their portrayal of the townsfolk of Hope Falls who are trying desperately to raise cows in their mountain town after thier coal mine dried up.  When the cows are malnourished and dying they are desperate to find a resolution, at least a scapegoat.
The role of Bat Boy is one of the most difficult I have ever encountered.  The vocal range, physical demands and the ability to portray the rapid growth of this poor creature from feral beast child, to Summa Cum Laude and finally to the prey of an angry mob,  is a task few actors can manage.  Robert Breslin is doing an absolutely incredible job of accomplishing all of this in our production!  I will be at a loss when our creation process is over, but thrilled to share our work with the audience.
What’s next for you after this show? 

After directing Bat Boy; The Musical I will be spending a few years focusing on my family life. (Unless Ted calls me with another show I cannot refuse!) I fully plan on returning to the theatre community, and the director’s chair again once my little ones are bit older.  There are already future productions in the works for me with Falcon, but I can’t give away any secrets just yet.

Well, we’ll look forward to what both Falcon and you have in store for us.  Thanks, Charlie!

BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL runs Friday, May 16th – May 31st at Falcon Theatre in Newport, KY.  Tickets and more information are available here.  Don’t hesitate – this show will sell out.


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