Bat Boy the Musical

Previewed 18 August 2004, opened 8 September 2004, closed 15 January 2005 at the Shaftesbury Theatre

A delicious twist on the modern day classic musical comedy, Bat Boy The Musical has a serious bite.

Bat Boy The Musical tells the story of a half boy/half bat discovered in the caves of West Virginia. Captured, caged, mockingly branded Bat Boy, and under threat of execution by the local veterinarian's Dr Parker, he finds an ally in the vet's wife, Meredith. Re-christened Edgar, he blossoms under Meredith's tutelage and becomes the paragon of a modern gentleman - courteous, educated, sensitive and irresistible to the opposite sex - in particular, the Parker's daughter, Shelley. But trouble is brewing, the cattle of Hope Falls are mysteriously dying and when several local townspeople are murdered in cold blood, the finger of suspicion points only one way - at Edgar. An angry lynch mob gathers forcing him to flee. Will he effect his escape, or will darker secrets be revealed that will shake the townspeople's existence forever?

Authors Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming united with composer and lyricist Laurence O'Keefe to create the musical inspired by the capture of a live bat-child in the hills of West Virginia as reported in The Weekly World News. A story that also skyrocketed circulation for the publication, making tabloid history. The original stage production opened in 2001 Off-Broadway to public and critical acclaim, winning the Outer Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.

The cast features Deven May as 'Bat Boy', Rebecca Vere as 'Meredith Parker', John Barr as 'Dr Thomas Parker', Emma Williams as 'Shelley Parker', Andrew Bolton as 'Sheriff Reynolds', David Beckford as 'Bud'/'Daisy'/'Doctor'/'Pan', Gareth Richards as 'Rick Taylar'/'Lorraine'/'Mr Dillon', Julie Jupp as 'Ron Taylor'/'Maggie'/'Clem', Maurey Richards as 'Mrs Taylor'/'Roy'/'Rev Billy Hightower'/'Institute Man', Robyn Isaac as 'Ruthie Taylor'/'Ned', Amanda Villamayor, Rachel Lynes, Robert Arhibald, Thomas Goodridge, Tim Driesen, and Wyn Moss.

Directed by Mark Wing-Davey, with choreography by Lynne Page, sets by Madeline Herbert, costumes by Simon Kenny, projections by Mark Logue, lighting by Tony Simpson, and sound by Mike Walker.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast, was presented at the Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse Courtyard Theatre - previewed from 21 June 2004, opened on 29 June 2004, and closed on 17 July 2004.

"This show is shouty and silly. Supposedly satirical, it has a modern humour that struck me as cruel... Rebecca Vere, as the vet's wife, has a strong voice and a trim-calved, starchy allure. Maurey Richards brings instant zing as a Baptist preacher and Emma Williams as the vet's daughter shows sweet promise. Deven May is certainly tireless in the title role of Bat Boy and the cast cannot be faulted for its energy. The trouble is where that energy is directed. The plot is absurd, Madeline Herbert's industrial-unit set is aggressively ugly and the score, complete with rap sequence and a headachey opening number, is charmless... There may have been clever jokes in all this, but I fear I am too dim to appreciate them. Maybe the play is meant to mock America's overtly Christian values. Maybe it is a skit on the sentimentalism of musicals. I simply could not tell." The Daily Mail

"Imagine some mad showbiz buff chucking Dracula, The Elephant Man, Phantom of the Opera and Pygmalion into the theatrical blender, adding bits of Frankenstein and The Lion King as afterthoughts. Then he turns on the juice, and, lo, the result is the weird mix of spoof B-movie and cherry-pie sentimentality its American creators have called Bat Boy. When I caught it off-Broadway in 2001, they hoped it would become a cult musical along the lines of Rocky Horror Show; but that didn't happen then and isn't likely to happen here in Britain. Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming's tale of the feral title-character, discovered in a dank Virginia cave and restored to humankind, is ebullient stuff, sometimes fun and occasionally even funny. But it's also pretty sophomoric and almost wilfully cluttered. The author's satiric objects also include Tolkien, who had a thing about fey creatures with pointy ears, and supermarket mags." The Times

"Musicals do not come much more weird than this... The score by Laurence O'Keefe is almost adequate but an unstarry cast of 18 play various townsfolk roles as if still uncertain whether what they are doing is meant to be a parody. Mark Wing-Davey's production veers from school play to a bizarre kind of woodland pageant, for ever searching for a style and for ever failing to find it. Yet if you believe those old supermarket tabloids, then the Bat Boy story, part-Cinderella and part-Peter Pan, has always been with us and it is just possible that in a thin time for good new musicals this variant might just survive as a kind of cult. It needs to be seen as small and experimental, preferably performed by drama students in a onepiano workshop. Seen fully staged and shakily choreographed amid the old fashioned wide open spaces of the Shaftesbury, it looks lost. A rough and ready show, which its makers seem to abandon as a bad job every 10 minutes or so before wearily sticking it together yet again in an attempt to have it make sense or reach some kind of coherent conclusion, Bat Boy still looks like work in progress." The Daily Express

"A camp, tediously trying new rock-musical from America, apparently inspired by a story in the gutter Press about the discovery of a creature with Mr Spock's pointy ears and a mousey overbite in a cave in the heart of Bible-bashing, redneck West Virginia. Bat Boy is dragged to the home of the vet whose wife welcomes him, slips into Professor Higgins mode and, in the space of a song, teaches him to walk, talk, dance and charm. The hicks from the sticks treat him as a freak and, given that the boy has a Dracula-like appetite for blood, they have good reason to fear him. Inevitably, the vet's daughter falls in love with Bat Boy. Then it's over to Blood Brothers for a plot twist. Meanwhile, there's scavenging from Frankenstein and The Rocky Horror Show, and dancing animals fresh from The Lion King before it all finishes with a multiple pileup of relations redolent of a Greek tragedy. No wonder Bat Boy fails to find its own identity, nor works out whether it's homage, spoof or parody. Some of the cast can sing but, believe me, there's nothing here to sing about." The Mail on Sunday

Bat Boy The Musical in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 18 August 2004, opened on 8 Septeber 2004, and closed on 15 January 2005.