Bat Boy, the darkly comic pop-and-rock-infused musical that earned a cult following at the Union Square Theatre in Manhattan, closes Dec. 2 due to anemic ticket sales.
Despite taking a nearly monthlong break to weather theatregoer trepidation following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Off Broadway musical about a mutated half-boy/half bat who sucks the blood of local cows, didn't resurge at the box office. By Dec. 2, the show will have played 278 performances.
A spokesperson for the show said regional and British producers have expressed interest (possibly for a fall 2002 London staging), but no further information is available yet.
Bat Boy hibernated Sept. 23-Oct. 17 but resumed Oct. 18 at the Union Square Theatre for a special night that welcomed a weekly five-performance schedule playing 8 PM Fridays and Saturdays, 3 PM and 7:30 PM Sundays, and 8 PM Mondays. Ticket sales continued during the hiatus, and the most recent Off-Broadway cast (slightly different than the spring cast) returned to the show, which is "bat by popular demand," according to ads. Options about a future for the show in other cities are being explored. The quirky cult show would seemingly be at home in cities such as Chicago or San Francisco, where an under-40 crowd traditionally embraces edgy, pop musical comedies. A cast album on the RCA Victor label preserves the Off-Broadway company.
Donning pointy ears and gray-green pancake makeup, Deven May repeats the title Bat Boy role he created in 1997 for The Actors' Gang in Los Angeles. He took home an Ovation Award and a Drama-Logue Award for his work and has been involved in subsequent Bat Boy readings and workshops. Kaitlin Hopkins plays Meredith, the Bat Boy's mother figure (whose daughter, Shelley, becomes a love interest for the creature). Hopkins created the role in L.A. The company includes Sean McCourt (Titanic, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues), Kerry Butler (Les Miserables, Blood Brothers) as Shelley, Kathy Brier, Charles Gray, Daria Hardeman, Trent Armand Kendall (The Wizard of Oz), Leslie Kritzer, J.P. Potter, Jim Price, Richard Pruitt and Doug Storm.
Scott Schwartz (Jane Eyre) directs the offbeat tuner by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming (story and book), with music and lyrics by Lawrence O'Keefe, who recently won a 2001 Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award. Songs in the show include "Hold Me, Bat Boy," "Ugly Boy," "More Blood," "Apology to a Cow," "A Joyful Noise," "Comfort and Joy," "Christian Charity," "Let Me Walk Among You."
Producers are Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Michael Alden, RIOT Entertainment, Robyn Goodman, Jean Doumanian and The Producing Office. The piece underwent some scene changes and book tweaks during its Off-Broadway previews.
Bat Boy, which flapped its way through a West Coast staging and several developmental readings over the past few years, has been hanging out — as bats do — at Off Broadway's Union Square Theatre since March 3. Its full wingspan was seen March 21, when it opened to shrieks — and cries of laughter.
The musical focuses on the tabloid-drawn tale of a half-boy, half-bat who struggles with his thirst for blood and feelings of self and love, in the hills of West Virginia. He becomes involved with a local family headed by a veterinarian. The story of the grotesque Bat Boy boosted sales of the Weekly World News, the supermarket tabloid that has also reported about Elvis being alive and U.S. presidents playing golf with aliens.
"I heard about it through the grapevine," said Goodman, one of the producers. "I asked if I could get involved they sent me a CD. Within 20 minutes I said, 'I have to do this show!' I fell in love with the music. I hadn't heard anything so fresh and witty and original. Then I read the book and it made me roar and I found it very moving. Deven May is a star, in my opinion. He really is the one who makes it all work — along with director Scott Schwartz. His performance is magical."
The musical first spread its wings Oct. 31, 1997, in a staging by at the Actors' Gang Theatre in Hollywood, CA, with Deven May in the title role. May also performed the part in the 2000 New York workshop. Keythe Farley directed the Hollywood staging, and Schwartz (co-director of Jane Eyre) was subsequently brought on.
The musical, punctuated with rock 'n' roll and gospel, won the 1999 Richard Rodgers Development Award for staged readings. A reading was held in October 1999, as well.
In summer 2000, Schwartz said the 10-actor, July 17-Aug. 5 workshop and presentations had a dual purpose: To seek backers, but also "to experiment with staging concepts and rewrites."
Schwartz told Playbill On-Line, "The tone is dark comedy. It's very high camp, but the actors play the show quite seriously. It's wild, and rock and roll and very edgy."
Composer O'Keefe began composing at Harvard for Hasty Pudding Theatricals. He has written music and lyrics for Euphoria and The Imaginary Invalid at The Actors' Gang and arranged dance music for Disney's "Geppetto." He also composed music to The Mice, a one act musical that is one-third of a trio of tuners under the umbrella title, 3hree.
Bat Boy tickets are $35-$55. The Union Square Theatre is at 100 E. 17th Street in Manhattan. For tickets, call (212) 307-4100. Visit the website at www.batboy themusical.com.
Bat Boy won the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Off Broadway Musical.
— By Kenneth Jones