Love Him, Fear Him: Bat Boy, the Musical, Begins Off-Bway Previews March 3

News   Love Him, Fear Him: Bat Boy, the Musical, Begins Off-Bway Previews March 3 Bat Boy, the Musical, which flapped its wings in a West Coast staging and several developmental readings over the past few years, will hang out — as bats do — at Off-Broadway's Union Square Theatre beginning March 3, leading to a March 21 opening.
Deven May as Bat Boy
Deven May as Bat Boy (Richie Fahey)

Bat Boy, the Musical, which flapped its wings in a West Coast staging and several developmental readings over the past few years, will hang out — as bats do — at Off-Broadway's Union Square Theatre beginning March 3, leading to a March 21 opening.

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. Producers are Nancy Nagel Gibbs, RIOT Entertainment, Robyn Goodman, Jean Doumanian and The Producing Office.

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."

Designers are Richard Hoover and Bryan Johnson (set), Howell Binkley (lighting), Fabio Toblini (costume) and Sunjil Rajan (sound). Musical director is Alex Lacamoire.

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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."

The summer 2000 workshop cast included Robert Evan, Kaitlin Hopkins, Amy Rutberg, Clarke Thorell, Kena Dorsey, Jim Pryce, Ken Prymus, Rick Pruitt and Christine Zbornick.

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 was also contributed to the regional hit, 3hree, a trio of one-act musicals, which is said to be a Broadway hopeful.

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