Fringe 2019 – Holy Bat Knight, Batman!
Riddle me this, Batman… Can a low-budget musical tribute to the beloved DC hero be a success at the Hollywood Fringe Festival?
You batter believe it!
Bat Knight, now playing at Hollywood Fringe, is both a parody and a tribute to Batman and his many formidable foes – the main baddy, of course, being the Clown Prince of Crime himself, Joker. The premise of the production is… messy. It seems as if writers Cameron Parker and Cameron Rose picked several story lines from DC comics canon and cobbled them together. After Joker sprays the unassuming audience with a toxic gas, an especially flagrant felony leads to the legalization of killing costumed criminals (despite Batman’s poignant principled protestations). And, of course, there are plenty of masked marauders on the loose – Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Joker and Harley Quinn. How ever will Batman – with help from Robin, Batgirl, Jim Gordon, Alfred, and even Superman – put a stop to this rogues’ gallery’s gratuitous rampage?
Even though the plot of Bat Knight needs reworking, the production makes up for the fractious Frankenstien’s monster of a narrative with gobs of campy fun and solid action. The punny jokes and merry-go-round of larger-than-life characters keep the show moving and endlessly entertaining. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and impressively impactful. The low-budget costumes (by Elizabeth Burmingham) are commendably clever (especially the sponges on Batman’s utility belt). The animated sequences (by Cameron Parker) projected on the back wall of the stage are imaginative and allow for some audience activity. And the story line of Superman promoting his own one-man musical for Fringe has insiders howling with laughter.
While Bat Knight’s actors are not the best of singers during the two or three musical numbers, their commitment to their characters is astounding. Cameron Parker’s Batman oscillates between Christian Bale’s deep growls and screaming like a little girl; Cameron Rose’s Robin is a perky go-getter… until he has to go to a carnival; Carson Lambing gives Superman a fussy prissiness that comes across as an affectionate lampooning; and Benjamin McNamara is a fantastic and menacing Joker that channels Mark Hamill’s version from the Arkham video game series. Renee Wylder as Catwoman purrfectly purrs in her delivery of an amazing amount of cat puns. Elizabeth Birmingham brings buckets of energy to her dual roles of Batgirl and Poison Ivy, showing off her range as both the plucky sidekick vigilante and the vampy, seductive plant-mistress. Hank Doughan (Riddler / Alfred), Jay Parker (Gordon / Penguin) and Janelle Luczon (Harley Quinn) round out the cast and each give bat-tastic performances. It is especially funny (for me anyway) when the actors teeter on the edge of breaking or laughing at each other’s shenanigans. If nothing else, it’s proof that they’re just as aware as the audience of how silly the whole thing is. Despite their own obvious amusement at the hilarious hijinks, they always managed to pull back and continue their hamming it up for our entertainment.
Clearly a love letter to the DC characters, Bat Knight is just so much fun and extremely entertaining – flaws and all – the hour-long show flew by on bat wings. The engaging and infectious cast makes the show blossom like one of Ivy’s unmanageable plants, and the audience (myself definitely included) was grinning ear to ear, much like a certain shady scoundrel we all love to hate.