The musical’s writer, director and Diversionary’s artistic director all chime in
By David Dixon
One of the goals of Matt Morrow, Diversionary Theatre’s artistic director, is to be an advocate for rising playwrights. The latest production at the LGBT friendly venue, called “Lizard Boy: The Musical,” is the latest example of having Morrow’s objective come to fruition.
This superhero-influenced adventure, which first premiered at Seattle Repertory Theatre, is from the mind of theater artist Justin Huertas. Besides being the writer, Huertas is also the star, composer, projection illustrator and co-music director.
Huertas plays Trevor, a gay Seattleite who was cursed, as a boy, with lizard skin. Although Trevor is considered to be an outcast, his life becomes more exciting after he starts dating an upbeat geek, Cary (William A. Williams). More surreal situations occur after Trevor realizes that a mysterious woman that he dreams about, Siren (Kirsten DeLohr Helland), is really a rock singer.
Morrow became interested in the tale after hearing about the 2015 run in Seattle.
“I was collaborating with Diversionary’s artistic associate Anthony Methvin on scouting new work,” Morrow said. “We heard about the first production and reached out to the original director, Brandon Ivie. He hooked us up.”
As a result, Ivie, Huertas and the two supporting leads from Seattle are all involved with the new interpretation at the theater in University Heights.
Ivie said having the original performers is critical to the show, since the three of them play various instruments throughout the evening.
“At this point, the plot doesn’t really exist without me and the three actors,” Ivie said. “The score basically exists in their heads.”
Morrow added that “Lizard Boy” would not work as well without Ivie and the ensemble.
“The specific needs of the staging require that the cast and Ivie come with it intact,” he said. “They were doing something so unique and outrageous, that recreating that would be tough.”
Directing the stars has been both an exciting and difficult process for Ivie. “There is a level of complexity to what I have to do since they are the band,” he said. “It forces me to think outside the box as a director.”
Watching the narrative unfold will be similar to a comic book brought to life for the stage.
“The script is essentially an origin superhero story,” Ivie continued. “In the staging, there are projections that are influenced by comics. I even wanted the costumes, from Erik Andor, to have iconic looks similar to superhero iconography.”
Although the plot should appeal to Marvel and DC fans, Ivie said he wants audiences to know that the night isn’t just a tribute to crime-fighting characters.
“Trevor’s narrative is also a romantic comedy and indie folk rock concert,” he said.
While there is a lot of appeal for millennial viewers, the play has a universal message and should also attract older audiences.
“I was surprised how much the Seattle interpretation bridged the gap when it came to different generations,” Ivie said. “The eve is about a young person realizing that the thing that makes him weird also makes him special. I think that’s something anyone can relate to at any point in their life.”
Morrow is not sure the next time an out-of-town theatrical event will play at Diversionary. However, he is looking forward to future possibilities.
“This has been a wonderful experience of finding a tight family to bring into San Diego,” Morrow said. “It’s a little too far into the season to know when something like this will happen again. I am open to all sorts of opportunities.”
The biggest reason Ivie said he wants theatregoers to experience “Lizard Boy” is because he believes that Huertas has crafted something fresh.
“I say it all the time, but I don’t think anyone has seen anything like this,” he said. “The uniqueness is part of what makes the book and songs special. It’s only something that Huertas could have written.”
“Lizard Boy: the Musical” will be performed through Oct. 30. For tickets or more information, visit diversionary.org or call 619-220-6830.
—A fan of film and theater from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications. You can reach him at email@example.com