Seattle audiences have two more weeks to see Lizard Boy, Seattle Repertory Theatre’s latest offering. This unique work could best be described as a cosplay-gaymer-superhero musical for the 2010s, yet narrow definitions hardly do justice to this borderline genial and relevant three-person musical.
Much like its reclusive protagonist, the musical Lizard Boy had to be coaxed out of its shell, in this case by former Education Director Andrea Allen, who commissioned it four years ago in 2011. Originally a play about writer/composer Justin Huertas’ life and his process of coming out to his family, it soon transformed into a compelling musical with newly-added superpowers given to each of the main characters.
With surprises around every turn, it is no wonder that the musical keeps you glued to the action from start to finish. While it is difficult to describe the plot without divulging any of its charming revelations, Lizard Boy pays tribute to superhero culture, gay culture (including cosplay/gaymer culture), and most specifically Seattle culture. It is delightful to see references in a musical to the architecture, stereotypes, publications and even cuisine that make the city unique, and the overall effect is one of genuine reverence rather than a gimmicky ploy to court local audiences. The general tone of Lizard Boy makes it appealing across demographics (although Seattleites will definitely enjoy some of the location-specific references more) and the talent of this cast more than makes up for any hesitance on the part of theatre-goers’ preferences in subject matter.
Lizard Boy sees director and current it-boy Brandon Ivie’s Seattle Rep debut. Ivie also directed 5th Avenue Theatre’s recent A Christmas Story and Cinderella and is the director of the upcoming Jasper in Deadland. Design team L.B. Morse (scenes) and Robert J. Aguilar (lights) provide the musical’s Roy Lichtenstein cartoon-inspired punch, aided by Erik Andor’s spot-on costume design.
The three cast members are each excellent, multi-talented musicians in their own right. Lizard Boy‘s actors are well-trained singers and proficient with several traditional and less traditional instruments, employed creatively and interactively with the unfolding of the plot—altogether a rare sight.
Writer and composer Jason Huertas plays the role of Trevor, a severely reclusive young self-confessed “techie” who reaches out via one of “those apps they have nowadays” to the world outside his apartment. His cyber-path crosses with Cary— played by the tautonymously named William A. Williams—an innocent new arrival trying to fit into big city dating-culture, often to hilariously awkward effect. The third member of the Lizard Boy trio, Kirsten deLohr Helland, serves as the perfect antagonist to their fumbling, stumbling love story as punk-rocker slash singer Siren.
The musical quality of the production is nothing short of astounding, with (already-mentioned) innovative instrumentation and voice blending and pure harmonization seldom witnessed on Seattle stages. Apart from Lizard Boy, Huertas and Helland frequently sing together as the acoustic-rock duo “Hanschen & Ilse”, and it shows. Helland was especially impressive in her gritty punk-rock lower register and soaring, intensifying higher notes showcasing her vast range. Williams, a Cornish graduate and frequent feature in productions of the late Balagan Theatre, The Village Theatre and Seattle Shakespeare Company, similarly brought the naïveté and likable goofiness of his character to life through his nuanced singing and playing.
The coming-out experience of American youth is the genesis of Lizard Boy‘s story, but its true revelation is that of vulnerability as a powerful mechanism for self-realization. Its urgent, relevant theme is delivered with humor and wit, superbly acted and performed, making it a must-see for Seattle audiences—who may also enjoy lighthearted jabs at local culture.
Seattle Repertory Theatre Presents Lizard Boy
When: Runs until May 2.
Where: Seattle Repertory Theatre (155 Mercer St.)
Tickets available through www.seattlerep.org