Bat Boy: The Musical a bloody shame
Patrick Street’s production of Bat Boy: The Musical is in trouble from the first line of Act One, which is rendered in a condescendingly fake Southern drawl. As is the second line, and the third, and the fourth.
Alas, since the original Weekly World News story has Bat Boy being found in a cave in West Virginia, this show’s creators scuttled a potentially brilliant show by making the most unimaginative decision possible: stuff the show with cheap and easy laughs at the expense of redneck Southerners. And the result is an unholy monster of a production that claims to be about the tragedy of prejudice, yet comes off stinking of prejudice itself.
The writers give far, far too much stage time to the antics of this gaggle of obnoxious, one-dimensional hillbillies we didn’t pay to see. They’re stupid! They’re ignorant! They’re afraid of people who are different! And they’re so crass they even hold a town council meeting in the local slaughterhouse. None of this is inspired—it’s nothing more than ugly stereotyping.
Meanwhile, the veterinarian’s wife saves Bat Boy from her euthanasia-crazed husband by… wait for it… promising to have sex with him. Because, ha ha, she hasn’t had sex with hubby in years! Ah, stale mid-20th Century marital clichés—what would this show be without them?
A lot better, that’s what.
Thanks to the writers’ preoccupation with pitchfork-waving rednecks and frigid wives, Bat Boy isn’t even a proper character in his own show until 45 minutes into Act One, when he finally starts learning English. If only Bat Boy had been allowed to make meaningful contact with his discoverers in the first scene, he could have started talking right there in the cave and emerged from his underground lair as a character we could care about.
Buying the stage rights to the Bat Boy character was the most inspired decision this show’s creators made—because in their hands, this Bat Boy barely gets to second base. The book should be shredded and rewritten from scratch; instead of being a recycled witch-hunt story, this show would be so much more fun as a musical revue—an elderly Bat Boy sits in his rocking chair and is interviewed by a wide-eyed rookie journalist, recounting various adventures from his incredible life as reported in the Weekly World News. It would be funnier, more entertaining and truer to the original tabloid stories, without making us sit through scene after scene of intolerable hillbilly burlesque.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a silver lining or not, but this production does a reasonably good job with the source material. Scott Perrie and Bree Greig shine as Bat Boy and his love interest Shelley, and thanks to them, and a handful of laugh-out-loud lines, this show is worth perhaps $20 of its $44 ticket price.
Its unusual subject matter may bring in the crowds, but those who take a bite of Bat Boy: The Musical will find this show isn’t nearly as bloody good as it ought to be.
At the Normal Rothstein Theatre (950 West 41st Avenue at Oak) until April 18. Tickets at TicketsTonight.com