On the surface, Bat Boy appears to be a show about a half-man-half-bat integrating himself into a silly hick town – an amusing situation that would never happen in real life. But this show has deeper messages waiting to be heard. The bat boy is a loner who has been dehumanized. All he wants is to be accepted by society but sometimes he can’t stop the ‘monster’ that he used to be from coming out. His journey can make the audience realize that everyone has their own streak of wickedness and we shouldn't be so quick to label others as evil. But this production of Bat Boy misses the mark and focuses too heavily on the comedic aspects. Instead of amplifying the real emotions and messages that this musical can support, director Kathryn Van Meter chooses to treat it as a farce. For the most part, each comedic moment is very well done while the serious moments are thrown away through melodrama. Again and again honest emotion is sacrificed for a cheap laugh. This makes for some hilarious numbers (Christian Charity; Show You a Thing or Two; Children, Children) but the audience doesn't leave thinking about their personal demons, the audience leaves thinking about that funny part when the woodland creatures had an orgy.
This production starts off promising. The first scene is visually creative and exciting. The sheriff, Meredith, and Shelley are all funny, talented actors, and quality singers. The cast is short a few male actors but they handle this common predicament remarkably well. The female ensemble members strap on bushy beards and play hilarious hicks. While the majority of the boys they do have are very talented: Bat Boy’s physicality is intriguing and believable, Reverend Hightower is a fantastic singer, Pan proves himself a master of fake fornication, and the audience can't keep their eyes off a certain hillbilly with a handlebar mustache. But as the story develops and requires more truthfulness to support the actions of the characters, the underlying weaknesses become blatant.
As soon as the Dr. Thomas Parker enters, the pattern of melodrama begins. At first I thought it was because Dr. Parker is the weak link in an otherwise well-cast show. But then the bat boy, instead of making his transition into a relatable human who the audience is afraid could give in to his animal instincts at any second, takes on the voice of Stewie from Family Guy and proper mannerisms that seem too natural considering he spent most of his life in a cave. By the end of act one the production has lost believability and continues to slip. In the second half of the show the audience’s laughter only stopped during Apology to a Cow, a well-deserved moment for the bat boy. However, there are so many more plot points, lines, and songs that need to be taken seriously. Characters die or discover something awful, and every time the cast stretches itself to make even these developments light-hearted, the play loses credibility.
If you choose to join this chuckling audience one night, you certainly won’t be bored. You will also get the chance to spot some surprise talent in the ensemble. However, you may wonder what the point was as you leave. And you won’t be alone.
Bat Boy: The Musical is closed
Next up at Cornish College of the Arts:
Shakespeare's Pericles and two short plays by Moliere
April 18 - 28
The Playhouse at Seattle Center
FREE admission! Ticket reservations are encouraged. Go here for Pericles and here for Moliere.