STAGE: Tabloid-inspired Bat Boy good, trashy fun
The lonely freak-show is a beloved pop-culture and literary staple. Be it Frankenstein, Quasimodo, or Edward Scissorhands, these stories often double as social commentary, offering plenty to mock in the masses’ obsession with maintaining status quo. But none goes for society’s jugular with quite so much gusto as the ultimate outsider satire, Bat Boy: The Musical.
Funny and heartfelt, Bat Boy boasts all the campy, kooky, crazy zeal one might expect from an Off-Broadway show torn from the actual front-page headline of a 1992 Weekly World News story about a half-bat, half-human cave dweller. Writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming expand on the story (with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe) placing the action inside a small-minded redneck town.
After the Bat Boy (Scott Perrie) bites a young girl who stumbles into his cave, the town rustles him off to the home of the local vet, Dr. Parker (Scott Bellis). There, Mrs. Parker (Katey Wright) and their teenage daughter, Shelley (Bree Greig), bond with the young man, rename him Edgar, and transform him from feral wildling to summa cum laude faster than you can say Eliza Doolittle.
Dr. Parker, though, is soon dangling by a shred of sanity as he watches Edgar grow closer to his wife and daughter. He decides to take advantage of the town’s Bat Boy panic and frame Edgar for a variety of nefarious deeds, including murder. The action culminates with the arrival of a travelling tent-revival minister, which results in a crazy showdown after Edgar and Shelley declare their mutual love, and Dr. and Mrs. Parker face off over some long-buried secrets that have devastating consequences.
Not every musical number is fantastic (due in part to the Norman Rothstein Theatre’s ongoing battle with sound and microphone glitches), but the cast goes out of its way to make each of them sparkle. The supporting actors are tasked with numerous characters, sometimes even changing costume mid-song (!). Perrie, Wright, and Grieg shine, and every combination of their voices blends beautifully, particularly during Perrie and Wright’s sweet sort-of duet, “A Home for You.” Bellis, though utterly believable as a mad man, has a looser grip on his vocal duties, and falls decidedly flat much of the time. Bat Boy’s best number, “Children, Children”, comes in the second act, as Edgar and Shelley, on the verge of making love, encounter the mythic half-horse, half-human Pan, who oversees a rollicking inter-species orgy. It’s audacious, hilarious, and hints at just how bizarre Bat Boy could have been if the writers had truly succumbed to the story’s inherent WTF? spirit.
This is Patrick Street Productions’ third offering in as many years, and Bat Boy thankfully feels more the equal of the company’s memorable debut, Into the Woods, than last year’s uneven attempt at The Full Monty. From the cast to the costumes, Bat Boy is quirky, remarkable fun that stretches well beyond its initial kitsch factor, and marks a triumphant return to form for PSP.
Bat Boy: The Musical runs to Apr. 18 at Norman Rothstein Theatre (950 W. 41st), 8pm. Tickets $25-$44 from TicketsTonight.ca.