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Queerty: Queer love survives, scales and all, in Off-Broadway’s ‘Lizard Boy’


Justin Huertas in 'Lizard Boy'Justin Huertas (center) in ‘Lizard Boy.’ Photo by Billy Bustamante

The Rundown

If sugar, spice, and everything nice (and Chemical X) make up the Power Puff Girls, then Justin Huertas’ Lizard Boy (a Prospect Theater Company production at Theatre Row) is made from a combination of indie folk rock, Pacific Northwest vibes, superhero comic books, and gay pop culture from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Grindr slang. 

The musical centers on Trevor (Justin Huertas), whose discomfort with his lizard skin (the result of a childhood encounter with a dragon) keeps him mostly at home alone, where he composes songs, plays his cello, and draws Spider-Man and Jinkx Monsoon. But during the local Monster Festival (think Seattle-specific Comic Con), Trevor ventures out and manages to meet a boy, Cary (William A. Williams), who genuinely likes him for who he is. They also encounter Siren (Kiki deLohr), a rock singer with an agenda of her own.


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No Tea, No Shade

(l-r) William A. Williams, Kiki deLohr, and Justin Huertas in 'Lizard Boy.'(l-r) William A. Williams, Kiki deLohr, and Justin Huertas in ‘Lizard Boy.’ Photo by Billy Bustamente

Set in a CBGB-style music club, Lizard Boy playfully uses story theater to transform the space; scenic adaptation by Suzu Sakai, projections by Kate Freer, and direction by Brandon Ivie morph the space in unexpected and delightful ways, creatively using sound carts and instruments as sets and props. Likewise, the three cast members are all adept actor-musicians, each playing a score of instruments (a fitting choice for a play about three musicians). They are also vocally quite strong, delivering tight three-part harmonies.

In addition to playing the title character, Huertas wrote the book and lyrics and composed the score — the rare musical theater quadruple threat. He proves himself a virtuoso comedic actor as well as a clever composer. Lizard Boy’s score is funny, catchy, and musically engaging, with a musical theater-meets rock/pop sound similar to Spring Awakening and Be More Chill (which achieved viral success with the release of “Michael in the Bathroom,” 6.2 million YouTube views to date). Lizard Boy, too, could catch on as an internet fan favorite; it’s quirky and loveable, has pluck all its own, and delights in its nerdiness. 

Still, Lizard Boy’s book could shed some of its skin. While many scenes are full of clever jokes, the plot (particularly the story’s lore) confuses rather than propels the action — the backstory about how the supernatural elements work can be hard to follow and seem to change constantly. There are transferable powers, murdering for stolen blood, and a doomsday conspiracy theory.

Then there’s the central element: Trevor’s lizard skin, which seems allegorical, though unclear for what: Queerness? Disability? Trauma? Race (the script specifies a non-white actor must play the character)? HIV (there’s much anxiety about Trevor bleeding and potential contagion)?

Let’s Have a Moment

(l-r) Justin Huertas, William A. Williams, and Kiki deLohr in 'Lizard Boy.'(l-r) Justin Huertas, William A. Williams, and Kiki deLohr in ‘Lizard Boy.’ Photo by Billy Bustamente

Its orchestration is the strongest, most singular, and most memorable part of Lizard Boy. Throughout the 90-minute musical, the three performers play a wide range of instruments that include standards like cello, acoustic guitar, and piano, as well as less conventional noisemakers, including a child’s glockenspiel, melodica (that mini keyboard you blow into), woodblocks, egg shakers, and even kazoos. This creates such a one-of-a-kind sonic experience and one well-suited to the musical (though the score would be strengthened by more persistent percussion). The instruments also provide sound cues, often to great effect, as when Trevor and Cary chat on Grindr and a strummed ukulele recreates the app’s signature notification noise.

The Last Word

Lizard Boy has had quite a life: the Off-Broadway premiere is its seventh production. The quirky show delivers heartfelt, comic gold and a terrific score that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. While some of its broader messaging may get muddled, its strong commitment to exploring queer identity makes for a perfect Pride outing. Just as Trevor finds his Cary, I bet that Lizard Boy can find its own adoring and adorable fans who love it for exactly what it is, scales and all. 

Lizard Boy plays Off-Broadway at Theatre Row through July 1, 2023.

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