The opening weekend of Equinox Theatre's Bat Boy: The Musical last month was a smash -- sold-out houses on both nights, and standing ovations for the cast. But a few days later came the horrifying news that Adam Perkes, the intense actor who played Bat Boy, had been found dead in a Glenwood Springs hotel.
"It's a huge loss to the community and to me personally," says Equinox producer Deb Flomberg. "He was a tremendous artist, and basically an Equinox family member."
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Flomberg and her partner, Colin Roybal, who directs and choreographs Bat Boy, talked to the grief-stricken cast about whether the play's run at the Bug should continue. "They'd grown very close. We got them all together and told them in person--we didn't want them to hear about Adam's death on Facebook," Flomberg remembers. "We told them if they wanted to close the show, that would be fine."
But after a few days, the unanimous decision was that the performances should continue. "My one thought was that if we just closed it and walked away, we would look back on that show with nothing but pain," Flomberg says. "It was better to come together and find some way to triumph over the pain.
Enter Nick Sugar, who had played the role of Bat Boy at Theatre On Broadway some years ago and had also directed the musical for the Town Hall Arts Center. "My heart broke for them," he says of Equinox. "It was a terrible tragedy."
And when he was asked to take over the part of Bat Boy, he adds, "I thought about the company of actors, and what a small theater has to go through financially" -- and so he agreed. The show re-opens at Friday, March 8, with Sugar in the lead and will continue with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday through March 16.
"Here's this man who hadn't seen the show, doesn't know us well and who's frankly a much bigger name than we are willing to step in," says Flomberg. "He's been working so hard, and he's tremendous onstage. Working with him as a cast has been a little bit of a way for us all to heal."
"I think instead of everyone coming together and crying, it's better if they can come together and laugh and tell stories," says Sugar.
Campy, funny and touching, Bat Boy tells the story of a creature half-bat, half-human who's found in a cave, and his attempts to make a place for himself in a conventional American small town. In Sugar's interpretation, comments Flomberg, audiences will see "a little bit Nick and a little bit Adam."
Sugar's participation and the revival of the production illustrate how members of Denver's theater community can help and support each other through loss and grief. "The first time we ran the show again was one of the hardest nights we've ever faced," Flomberg says. "The show tends to mimic a lot of what was going on with Adam -- it's about someone who feels very alone, isolated and rejected. Towards the end of the show, there's a song that directly correlates with Adam, and I quoted the words at his wake. Listening to that song the first night of rehearsal, the entire cast just broke down."
Let go the fears to which you cling And through your tears you'll hear him sing. Lift up your ears and join his song.
Tickets to Equinox's production of Bat Boy at the Bug are $20 each (group rates are available); go to equinoxtheatredenver.com.