East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, January 07, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Image 17

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East Oregonian
atman has the reputation of
a brooding, high-tech crime
fighter who swoops down
and powerfully saves the day. But
the Dark Knight has a softer, more
emotional side too — and he can
carry a tune.
So can the Joker, for that matter.
As a middle school student in
Hermiston, Riley Mulvihill began
crafting a musical starring the
caped crusader and his nemesis,
Joker, that clown prince of crime.
Songs took shape in the boy’s mind
over months and years, eventually
enough for an entire production.
Mulvihill’s play, “Dark Knight:
The Musical,” finally made it
to the stage in November at the
University of Oregon’s Pocket
Playhouse. The UO senior acted as
playwright, financier and director,
not to mention scenery painter and
costume designer.
Mulvihill calls his creation “a
loving parody.”
The original movie plot of
“Dark Knight” is “ridiculous,” he
said, featuring “a billionaire who
dresses up as a bat that goes out at
night and beats up criminals.” The
musical ratchets up the crazy factor
even farther, he said.
For years, the tunes inside
Mulvilhill’s mind both morphed
and crystallized. He didn’t put
them on paper, unskilled as he was
at transferring music from brain to
sheet music. One day, the teenager
told Hermiston High School choir
director Joshua Rist about his
mental collection of original songs.
“Show me what you got,”
Mulvihill recalled Rist saying. “I
sang him one of my songs. He sat
down and started playing it.”
That was the beginning of a
collaboration that lasted the rest
of Mulvihill’s senior year and
beyond. The pair met after school
a few times a week to hone the
songs. Eventually, they recorded
some of them.
“I was Joker and Joshua was
Batman,” said Mulvihill, who is
now a senior at the University of
Oregon. “We got kids from choir
to come in and sing other parts.”
Mulvihill and a couple of
other singers performed “Kill the
Bat,” the musical’s showstopping
number, during the high school’s
final concert of the year.
“It brought the house down,”
Rist said. “I think he realized then
that this was a show people would
Mulvihill, 21, is no stranger to
the theatre. He started acting in
middle school when his mother,
a teacher at the high school,
persuaded him to try out for
“Romeo and Juliet.”
He prefers the offbeat roles.
At University of Oregon,
Mulvihill performed various
roles, but his favorite was playing
the part of Joe in the Edward
Scissorhands-esque production
of “Steelhand Joe,” a western
featuring a cowboy born with guns
for hands. The show, as outlandish
as it was, had heart and a good
“Everyone was afraid of
him because he had firearms
for hands,” Mulvihill said. “But
he was really sensitive and
He said “Dark Knight” has
that same mix of ridiculousness
and heart. The show also uses a
Shakespeare-like strategy of two
plots (one of the lower class and
one of the upper crust) coming
together. The “Dark Knight” plot
provides a backdrop of a second
story about a street criminal named
Rob who chooses good in the end.
Earlier this year, Rist and
Mulvihill got back together to flesh
out the show so Mulvihill could
submit it for consideration at the
Pocket Playhouse. Just before the
deadline, Mulvihill spent about 10
straight hours writing dialogue to
tie the songs together.
“I didn’t leave my room,” he
Production fluttered to life in
Hermiston middle schooler’s mind
Photo by Ben Jones
Batman (Cameron Engle) and the Joker (Andrew Tesoriero) trade lines during “Dark Knight: The Musical” at the Pocket Playhouse in
November at the University of Oregon.
Photo by Ben Jones
Photo by Ben Jones
Riley Mulvihill started dreaming up songs for “Dark Knight: The
Musical” as a middle school student in Hermiston.
The cast and crew of “Dark Knight: The Musical” pose for a photo at
the University of Oregon’s Pocket Playhouse.
said. “I wrote the entire script.”
When the playhouse board
chose Mulvihill to direct his play,
he began his journey into theater
dressed up like a bat,” Alfred sings
to the crime-fighting millionaire.
“Remember that poor gangster
you stopped last week. You kicked
in his face and knocked out all
his teeth. He slipped into a coma
and he’s drinking through a tube,
yet that man ain’t whining half as
much as you.”
“Of course he wasn’t,” Batman
sings in reply. “He was in a coma.”
During performances, Mulvihill
sat in the audience and soaked in
the reaction. When one scene went
awry, he chewed his fingernails
as his actors improvised and
Actor Stephen Radke, who
played Rob, said Mulvihill
excelled in his first production role.
“He was the chillest director
I’ve ever had,” Radke said. “He
had an image of what he wanted.
He had good energy. It just felt
The audiences in the small
theater gave the actors a warm
reception and many returned
during the two-week run. But
the audience member that made
Photo by Ben Jones
Batman/Bruce Wayne (Cameron Engle) listens with annoyance as
his butler Alfred (Bryton Dorland) sings a song chiding him for his
bad attitude called “Cheer the F**k Up” during a performance
of “Dark Knight: The Musical” in November at the University of
Oregon’s Pocket Playhouse.
“There was a surprise around
every corner,” he said. “It was
stressful, but in all the good ways.
I didn’t doubt my team for a
Mulvihill said he didn’t have to
worry about getting permission to
use the “Dark Knight” characters
since the show was a parody and
also created in an educational
The show included an elaborate
fight scene and 11 original songs.
The dialogue evolved during
“The best plays are alive,”
Mulvihill said. “They grow with
the production.”
The songs he had dreamed up
as a middle-schooler came alive
on the stage. Along with “Kill the
Bat,” there is a duet between Joker
and Batman and another in which
Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred,
chides Batman for his melancholy
mood after a romantic breakup.
“People hurt and people cry,
there’s a place for that, but it is
pathetic coming from a grown man
Mulvihill smile the broadest was
Rist. The choir director, who now
teaches at McNary High School
in Keizer, drove to Eugene to see
the production. As Rist watched,
he realized the boy who had
performed impromptu rap songs
on the bus during high school
choir trips had become a seasoned
“I was so proud of him,” Rist
said. “He has a phenomenal work
ethic and a lot of drive. He stuck
with something so long that it
came to fruition.”
Mulvihill said he feels nothing
but gratitude to his former choir
“There wouldn’t have been a
show without him,” Mulvihill said.
Mulvihill said he would love to
direct the show again in the future.
Though he seems destined for a
life in theater, he said he is actually
headed for a career in computer
Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@
eastoregonian.com or call