Riley Mulvihill, director of Pocket Playhouse’s most recent production, Dark Knight: The Musical, says it’s Batman’s time to shine. Pocket Playhouse is a student-run theatre company, and as Mulvihill told the Emerald in an interview at the green room of Villard Hall, “Spiderman already has his musical. It’s time for someone else.”
That “someone else” is Gotham City’s superhero vigilante, or as Mulvihill says, “a man dressed up as a bat, punching criminals.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Mulvihill continued. “Musicals have a way of making the ridiculousness part of the world.”
Mulvihill, who started writing the show in middle school with the help of his choir director, Josh Rist, is capitalizing on the current “superhero hysteria” seen on the silver screen with Marvel and DC. His favorite actor to play the Joker is Mark Hamill, but he says the others who have played him — most notably Heath Ledger and Cesar Romero — are also fantastic.
As a senior, Mulvihill hopes to mount a production of the show on a larger scale someday, but is excited to be producing it with Pocket Playhouse because it’s an organization he’s been involved with since his freshman year.
“My first audition, I got a lead role in a Pocket show,” Mulvihill said. “What I love about Pocket is that it is original content. The directors are normally the playwrights … There’s room for creativity and imagination, but this is the first time I have seen where an original musical is being done.”
Pocket Playhouse sponsors four to six student-created plays per term and has a board of students who select pitches given by directors. This is Mulvihill’s first time directing and writing a theatrical script, but he has acted since middle school when his mom made him try out for Romeo and Juliet. He hated the process, but fell in love with performing.
“We performed and I got that applause from the audience and I felt the love,” Mulvihill said. “And I’ve done it ever since.”
Recently, he has enjoyed the change from acting to directing.
“Moving toward directing instead of acting has really shown me another side of theatre, and it’s a little less egotistical,” Mulvihill said.
With 11 songs, Dark Knight is a full-length musical. Mulvihill has had help from many people, both during the five-week rehearsal process and before rehearsals had officially begun. Mulvihill noted his production team as essential helpers during the rehearsal process.
It hasn’t been easy though, according to Mulvihill. For now, the space only allows for a piano accompanist, Kevin Dempsey, but Mulvihill hopes to one day feature a full orchestra.
“That was a big step for us to be able to get live accompaniment,” Mulvihill said.
His favorite song in the show is called “Kill the Bat.” Audiences should look out for the Joker’s big reveal, which according to Mulvihill features three-part harmonies reminiscent of scenes from Les Miserables like “One Day More” and “The Confrontation Scene.”
Michael Malek Najjar, an assistant professor in the UO theatre department, noted that his students are excited for Pocket’s first original musical, despite its short rehearsal process.
As Mulvihill said of the piece, “It’s going to make you laugh, going to make you cry and going to make you want to come back for more.”
Dark Knight: The Musical runs Thursday through Saturday at 5 p.m. in Villard 102, and entry is first-come, first-serve. Although tickets are free, there is a suggested donation to support student-made theatre.