Like other shows whose wings were clipped at the box office by the recent terrorist attack on New York City, Bat Boy, the Musical, has posted a closing notice for Sept. 23 according to a production source for the Off-Broadway musical.
Insiders say that unless some special measures are taken quickly, the darkly comic show about a half boy-half bat will indeed shutter at the Union Square Theatre. The producers are said to be exploring options for the show, in the hope of keeping it going in New York. The musical, a quirky cult favorite, is expected to have a future in regional theatres eventually. A cast album is on store shelves.
Theatregoers and tourists have kept away from Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theatres (also hotels and restaurants) since the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Some 5,400 are missing or dead on the murderous destruction of the Twin Towers.
Bat Boy 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 will be seen March 21, when it opens to shrieks — and cries of laughter.
The darkly comic 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. 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.
Scott Schwartz (Jane Eyre) directs the offbeat tuner by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming (story and book), with music and lyrics by Laurence 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, RIOT Entertainment, Robyn Goodman, Jean Doumanian and The Producing Office. The piece underwent some scene changes and book tweaks during its Off-Broadway previews.
Deven May repeats the title 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 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), Trent Armand Kendall (The Wizard of Oz), Kathy Brier, Daria Hardeman, Jim Price, Richard Pruitt and Doug Storm.
"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."
Observers of the readings have called the show funny and weird and romantic and heartbreaking.
"They walk that line," Goodman agreed. "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 $50-$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.
— By Kenneth Jones