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Lizard Boy

Charming and intimate cabaret musical offers a timely fantasy story about self-acceptance and self-realization by the multitalented performer, composer, lyricist and book writer Justin Huertas.

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Justin Huertas, William A. Williams and Kiki deLohr in a scene from Huertas’ Lizard Boy at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Billy Bustamante)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Joseph Losey’s 1949 cult classic The Boy with Green Hair and superhero comics are combined in the charming and intimate cabaret musical Lizard Boy finally reaching New York after a premiere at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2015 and other productions around the country as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. The talented and charismatic original cast made up of quadruple threat Justin Huertas who wrote the book, musical and lyrics and also plays the leading role as well as the cello, William A. Williams and Kiki deLohr has been reunited and they also make up the band playing their own instruments. Very timely with a theme that counteracts bigotry and racism with a message about self-acceptance, self-realization and self-identity, Lizard Boy is a folk-rock fantasy that is performed concert style but feels like a fully produced musical.

Huertas plays Trevor, a twenty-something reclusive gay man who 20 years ago was a child at the playground of Seattle’s Point Defiance Elementary School when Mount St. Helens Volcano erupted spewing out a dragon that scared the city. When the soldiers killed it in the playground, the blood of the dragon splattered on all six children. In Trevor’s case the blood turned him into a scaly, green lizard. Now an adult, he remains at home writing songs except for Monster Fest, the one day a year when the city celebrates the killing of the dragon with people dressed up as green lizards, allowing Trevor walk the streets and fit in.

William A. Williams and Justin Huertas in a scene from Huertas’ Lizard Boy at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Billy Bustamante)

The previous year he risked going on Grindr and locating a possible boyfriend who dumped him when he found out his green skin was for real. This year after dreaming of a blonde bombshell called “The Girl of Your Dreams,” Trevor tries again and is contacted by Cary (like Cary Grant) also a singer-songwriter who is looking for a hook-up. When Trevor visits him, he sees the blonde woman, “Siren,” on the cover of a local music magazine and discovers that she is a singer appearing at the Crocodile. He convinces Cary to attend her concert.

When Trevor meets her backstage, it turns out that they have a very real connection and have met 20 years before. This leads to a bizarre adventure that takes all of Trevor’s superhero powers and then some before things are put right by the next morning. Trevor comes to accept his differences while Cary finds his needed boyfriend. When they finally kiss they are cheered on by the audience. The twisty, surprising story line is always engrossing and compelling.

Kiki deLohr in a scene from Huertas’ Lizard Boy at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Billy Bustamante)

The melodic and witty songs are mainly powerful ballads sung alternately by the cast in groups of twos and threes as well as solos. The cast plays an extraordinary array of instruments including guitar, ukulele, piano, glockenspiel, percussion, kazoo, melodica with Huertas on the cello and Williams on the beatbox. This is not like in John Doyle’s productions where the actors hired then learn how to play instruments substituting for the more usual orchestra, whereas here the trio are virtuosos on their instruments. Directed by Brandon Ivie, also responsible for the inventive musical staging, the cast could not be better. As the hero Trevor, Huertas is sympathetic and vulnerable, while Williams’ Cary is confident, compassionate and comic. DeLohr is in a class by herself as the feline, sinister Siren who is as threatening as she is commanding.

As designed by Suzu Sakai, credited with scenic adaptation and environmental design (original production design by L.B. Morse), the stage looks like a seedy underground club with a platform center stage and with old posters on a brick wall, a piano on the stage itself and many road cases which are regrouped for various locales. While Katherine Freer’s projection design and additional illustrations appear just before the first scene to recount what happened on the playground 20 years previously, it is too early for us to understand what we are seeing. Luckily, Trevor explains the events that changed his life later on so that we are able follow the backstory. (There is also a split screen sequence and a flashback, both of which need better introductions.) Freer offers magnificent sketches of various characters and superheroes which also appear on the back wall, often used as a screen, as well as on Trevor’s own wall in a road case.

Kiki deLohr, Justin Huertas and William A. Williams in a scene from Huertas’ Lizard Boy at Theatre Row (Photo credit: Billy Bustamante)

The musical instruments are scattered round the stage and picked up by the performers as needed. In the climactic scene, the characters duel with the instruments as weapons, so we fear both for their lives as well as the well-being of the musical instruments. In Erik Andor’s costume design, Trevor does not have green skin but is lit by Brian Tovar in green lights, while deLohr’s Siren, dressed all in a tight satiny red jumper, is also lit accordingly. While Trevor is dressed in underground fashion, Cary’s costumes are a hoot from track pants and Star Wars tank top, to brightly colored briefs, to a one-piece baby costume complete with pacifier and bright yellow sneakers with teddy bear heads on the tongues.

Scheduled to run only until July 1, Lizard Boy deserves a longer life as one of the most satisfying musical theater offerings to be seen currently in New York. While the message of tolerance and diversity is not heavy, the theme is dramatized so that no one can mistake its intent. The three-person cast is superb in the acting, singing and musical departments. Brandon Ivie’s staging is clever and imaginative, while the book, music and lyrics by Justin Huertas make theatergoers look forward to his next project with eager anticipation.

Lizard Boy (through July 1, 2023)

Prospect Theater Company

Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-714-2442 x45 or visit http://www.bfany.org/theatre-row

Running time: one hour and 40 minutes without an intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (969 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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