Bat Boy: The Musical
|Bat Boy: The Musical|
original off-Broadway poster
|Basis||Weekly World News's Bat Boy|
|Productions||1997 World Premiere (Los Angeles)
2001 Off Broadway
2003 St. Louis
2004 West End
|Awards||Lucille Lortel Awards
Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Musical Production
Richard Rodgers Development Award
Richard Rodgers Production Award
Outer Critics Circle Award
Bat Boy: The Musical is an American rock musical with a book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe, based on a June 23, 1992 Weekly World News story about a half-boy, half-bat, dubbed "Bat Boy", who grew up living in a cave.
Bat Boy: The Musical was developed at the Directors Company  and premiered at Tim Robbins' Actors Gang Theatre on October 31, 1997. Directed by Keythe Farley, and choreography by Derick LaSalla. The cast featured Deven May as Bat Boy and Kaitlin Hopkins as Meredith Parker.
The musical opened off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre on March 21, 2001 and closed on December 2, 2001. Produced by Michael Alden and directed by Scott Schwartz, with choreography by Christopher Gattelli, the cast featured Deven May as Bat Boy and Kaitlin Hopkins as Meredith, Sean McCourt as Dr. Thomas Parker, Kerry Butler as Shelley Parker, Kathy Brier as Maggie/Ron Taylor, Daria Hardeman as Ruthie Taylor/Ned, Trent Armand Kendall as Rev. Hightower/Mrs. Taylor/Roy/Institute Man, Jim Price as Bud/Daisy/Pan, Richard Pruitt as Sheriff, Doug Storm as Rick Taylor/Lorraine. The swings and understudies included John Treacy Egan, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and J.P. Potter. The show was musically directed/keyboards by Alex Lacamoire, keyboards/assistant musical director Jason Debord, acoustic/ electric guitars Greg Skaff, electric bass Matt Rubano, drums Ed Fast. For the original cast album, the band was augmented by cello (Jeanne LeBlanc), French horn (Jeff Lang), flute/clarinet/oboe (C. Anderson), trumpet (Robert Millikan), and trombone (James E. Pugh).
The musical opened in the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre on September 8, 2004 and ran through January 15, 2005. It again starred Deven May as Bat Boy, along with Rebecca Vere as Meredith, Johnny Barr as Dr. Parker and Emma Williams as Shelley. It had previously played at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
It entered regional theatre in 2002 beginning with the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, followed by New Line Theatre in St. Louis, MO in 2003 and 2006. Performance rights are currently administered by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.
The Weekly World News 1992 story about Bat Boy, a half-boy, half-bat found living in a cave inspired writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming to write a stage adaptation. They were joined by American composer/lyricist Laurence O'Keefe and their first production premiered on Halloween, 1997.
The later London production introduced significant changes to the script and score, including the replacement of the song 'Inside Your Heart' with 'Mine, All Mine'.
The musical differs in a few of its plot details from the Weekly World News portrayal of Bat Boy. In the musical, Bat Boy learns to speak from his adoptive family, yearns for acceptance and tries to join society, only to face hatred and violence from a town that fears him and jealous rage from his foster father.
The book deals with serious themes (such as hypocrisy, acceptance, forgiveness, racism, revenge and scapegoating), but often punctures the most serious moments with slapstick, surreallism, camp-horror and irony. The show also contains religious themes with biblical allusions, such as the quoting of Psalm 23 and Genesis 9:4 in scene 9. Act II begins with a religious revival tent meeting featuring a faith healer.
The score was written to be played by a five-piece band of guitar, two keyboards, bass and drums, but the original cast album (RCA Records) contains seven extra instruments (cello, flute, clarinet, oboe, French horn, trumpet, trombone). The music covers many styles, from rock to rap to horror-movie film score and opera. The musical was written to be performed by a cast of 10, with six men and four women playing all the roles.
In the fictional town of Hope Falls, West Virginia three teenage spelunkers; Ron, Rick and Ruthie Taylor discover the Bat Boy, a deformed humanoid creature. Bat Boy attacks Ruthie and is taken captive by Rick and Ron (“Hold Me Bat Boy”).
Ruthie is taken to the hospital and the Bat Boy is placed in the care of Sheriff Reynolds who brings him to the home of local veterinarian Dr. Parker. Meredith, Parker’s wife, agrees to take him in (“Christian Charity”).
Shelley, the Parkers' teenage daughter, is repulsed by the Bat Boy and infuriated by his constant screaming but Meredith pities him and christens him with a new name; Edgar (“Ugly Boy”). Rick Taylor, Shelley’s boyfriend, arrives and, infuriated by Edgar’s presence, threatens to kill him with a knife (“Whatcha Wanna Do?”). This upsets Shelley and Meredith makes Rick leave. Meredith attempts to comfort Edgar (“A Home For You”).
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Hope Falls and the local ranchers are worried by their cattle which are dying inexplicably. The rumours of the discovery of a Bat Boy lead them to believe he must be preying on the cattle (“Another Dead Cow”).
Dr. Parker returns home and is about to euthanize Edgar when Meredith intervenes. Meredith begs Parker not to kill Edgar and he consents when she agrees to sleep with him. Parker celebrates what he sees as an upturn in his failing marriage and feeds Edgar animal blood (“Dance With Me Darling”).
At the hospital Ruthie is delirious from her injuries, but her mother promises the Sheriff will kill the Bat Boy or be fired (“Mrs. Taylor’s Lullaby”).
With the help of Meredith’s patient teaching and Dr. Parker’s secret feedings of blood Edgar learns speech, etiquette and how to dress and obtains a high-school equivalency diploma (“Show You A Thing or Two”).
The town council implore Dr. Parker to prevent the reviled Edgar from attending the upcoming revival meeting. Parker protests, insisting Edgar is not a threat to anyone, but is pressured into giving his word that Edgar will not attend the revival (“Christian Charity (Reprise)”)
Edgar begs the Parkers to let him go to the revival (“A Home For You (Reprise)”) and Meredith eventually relents. Incensed by Meredith undermining his word, Dr. Parker grabs her aggressively and Edgar instinctively attacks him. Meredith runs to comfort Edgar over her husband, leaving Parker humiliated and furious. Parker begins to devise a way to destroy Edgar and save his marriage to Meredith; he taunts a hungry Edgar with a live rabbit and Edgar struggles with his feral urges to kill. Just as it seems Edgar is overcoming his hunger, Parker draws blood from the rabbit and Edgar eats it. Parker gives Ruthie Taylor a lethal injection in her hospital room, intending to blame her death on Edgar (“Comfort and Joy”).
At the revival meeting Reverend Hightower offers a faith healing (“A Joyful Noise”). Meredith, Shelley and Edgar arrive and Edgar volunteers himself for the faith healing. The town are disgusted by his presence but Edgar implores them to accept him (“Let Me Walk Among You”). The townsfolk are won over by Edgar’s eloquence and civility and embrace him (“A Joyful Noise (Reprise)”).
Dr. Parker arrives at the revival and reveals Ruthie has died, blaming her death on Edgar. The townsfolk are furious and, once again, turn on Edgar. In the ensuing struggle Edgar attacks Rick Taylor; under the pretense of tending to his wounds Dr. Parker administers Rick with a lethal injection to serve as further proof that Edgar is dangerous. The townsfolk form a mob, led by Parker, and pursue Edgar into the woods.
In the woods Shelley and Meredith look for Edgar. Together they decide that they will run away from Hope Falls and Dr. Parker. Shelley tells Meredith she is falling in love with Edgar and Meredith’s horrified response causes Shelley to run away deeper into the woods (“Three Bedroom House”). There she meets Edgar and the two comfort each other and confess their love for each other. The Greek God of nature Pan arrives to preside over the union of Edgar and Shelley, with the help of the woodland creatures (“Children, Children”).
Ron Taylor, determined to get revenge for his brother and sister, searches the slaughterhouse for Edgar. The mob mistake the noise coming from the slaughterhouse as a sign of Edgar’s presence and Mrs. Taylor sets fire to the slaughterhouse, inadvertently burning her remaining child to death. The Sheriff asks Doctor Parker to placate the mob but, instead, he whips them into a bloodthirsty frenzy and the hunt for Edgar resumes (“More Blood/Kill The Bat Boy!”).
Back in the woods Edgar is hungry for blood and begs Shelley to leave him for her own safety. Instead Shelley offers her arm to Edgar for him to feed on (“Inside Your Heart”). Just as he is about to bite, Meredith arrives and reveals she is Edgar’s mother.
Overcome with grief and shame Edgar kills a cow and runs away to the cave where he was discovered. Incensed at Dr. Parker’s betrayal and Meredith’s deceit, Edgar pledges to kill the pair of them and embrace his inner beast (“Apology To A Cow”).
The mob arrives at the cave as do Parker and Meredith. Together they reveal to the town that Edgar was the result of an experiment gone wrong; a young Parker accidentally spilled a prototype pheromone on Meredith which caused him to go mad and sexually violate her. As Meredith ran home in tears, the pheromone also attracted a colony of bats that violated her as well. Nine months later she gave birth to Shelley and Edgar. Repulsed by the deformed Edgar, Meredith asked Parker to kill him, but he could not and instead left him at the mouth of the cave where the bats adopted him.
Edgar begs Parker to kill him, but he cannot; so Edgar reveals that he slept with Shelley. Furious and overcome with grief Parker slits his own throat causing Edgar to leap upon him and feed, whilst Parker stabs him in the back. Meredith tries to intervene but is stabbed as well and the three fall to the ground, dead (“Finale: I Imagine You’re Upset/I Am Not A Boy”).
In the aftermath Shelley and the townsfolk reflect on the tale and the lessons they have learned (“Hold Me Bat Boy (Reprise)”).
The musical is written for a cast of ten people to play all twenty-two roles. Except for the actors playing Bat Boy, Meredith, Dr. Parker and Shelley, every cast member plays multiple roles, including at least one of another gender. The cast breakdown is usually thus:
- Sheriff Reynolds/Delia (male actor)
- Rick Taylor/Lorraine/Mr. Dillon (male actor)
- Ron Taylor/Maggie/Clem (female actor)
- Ruthie Taylor/Ned (female actor)
- Mrs. Taylor/Roy/Reverend Billy Hightower/Institute Man (male actor)
- Daisy/Bud/Pan/Doctor (male actor)
(As they appear in the Piano/Conductor Score)
*Appears on the Original Cast Recording.
"More Blood/Kill the Bat Boy!" is included on the Original London Cast Recording. For the London West End production and cast recording, "Inside Your Heart" is replaced with the song "Mine, All Mine", and "Ugly Boy"/"Whatcha Wanna Do?" are replaced by a song called "Hey Freak". This recording begins with the end portion of dialogue before (and segues into) "Hold Me, Bat Boy". It is underscored by a portion of the song "The Cave". The track is titled "Dude! What is It?".
Awards and critical reception
Bat Boy: The Musical won the awards for best Off-Broadway musical including the Lucille Lortel Award, two Richard Rodgers Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Outer Critics Circle Award in 2001. Regional productions of Bat Boy have been nominated for and won awards including the 2003 Elliot Norton Award (Boston, Massachusetts). and the 1998 Ovation Awards (Los Angeles).
The off-Broadway production received very positive reviews. The New York Times review stated, "It's remarkable what [this show's] intelligent wit can accomplish". John Lahr of The New Yorker called it "a giggling cult hit" and "the only play in the history of the theatre whose hero ends Act I with a rabbit in his mouth, and who moves on in Act II to an entire cow's head." Curtain-Up praised : "Laurence O'Keefe's peppy and melodic pop-rock score... played by a five piece combo". Deven May received the Theatre World Award for his performance.
The West End reviews were less positive. The Curtain Up review notes: "...unless Bat Boy The Musical gathers a cult audience, I fear it will not linger. The newspaper critics do sometimes get it wrong, ...but they have been less kind to Bat Boy than the West Virginians portrayed in the musical." The subsequent sell-out 2006 Edinburgh Festival production of the revised score used in the West End received very positive reviews, with many suggesting the show suited this more 'scaled-down' style.
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