Bat Boy: The Musical, it is acknowledged, began with a cover story in the Weekly World News, one of those publications cooing seductively at supermarket checkout lines. One never is quite sure of how that original story came to be, but presented on stage, it’s reminiscent of a funny take on a nightmare. Stray Dog Theatre is currently staging it at Tower Grove Abbey, their home.
Logic, of course, is never a factor in this story of a half-bat/half-human guy. Corey Fraine is absolutely remarkable as Edgar, the title character, wonderfully physical as the play opens, including some popups behind the sofa in one of the musical numbers, and with a fine voice despite working with an appliance in his mouth to create the bat teeth. He’s captured in a West Virginia cave by a bunch of teenagers and taken by the sheriff to the home of a local vet, Dr. Thomas Parker (Patrick Kelly). Parker’s out hunting, so Mrs. Parker (Dawn Schmidt) and their teenaged daughter (Angela Bubash) put the creature in a large cage. The locals, we find, are not so keen on having this bat boy around – they think he’s been killing their cattle.
Kelly and Schmidt well create the tension-filled marriage and Bubash’s hormone-riddled adolescent is almost perfectly drawn. The rest of the show is traditionally cast using actors in multiple roles, always with one of each actor’s characters in the opposite gender. Some of this character-flipping is done onstage, which is fun rather than disconcerting, and the generally strong company carries it off with style. Colin Dowd, as the mother of the teenaged spelunkers, is delicious. Sara Rae Womack brings the earnestness of a young Hillary Clinton to the mayor of the town. If one were interested in a combination of Colonel Sanders and a whirling dervish, one could hardly do better than Michael A. Wells’ presentation of the Reverend Billy Hightower, a visiting evangelist.
A well-thought-out set from Robert J. Lippert gives us two levels, including a nest for the three-piece combo that accompanies the score, a cave and a stair for teenaged stomping up. Cara Hoppes McCulley’s costumes, particularly Mrs. Parker’s suit and an honest-to-god cancan petticoat, add to the fun. And overall, this is a very amusing evening, despite some very adult themes.
No one is credited with the sound design. But the opening night’s big flaw was the inability to hear much of the vocal music over the band. Some of those lyrics seem pretty funny. We deserve to hear them all.
Stray Dog is reeling from the shockingly sudden death of production manager Jay Hall as they were in rehearsal for this show. It’s to the credit of artistic director Gary F. Bell and Bat Boy’s director Justin Been that they’ve put together an almost entirely enjoyable evening despite the situation. The show, indeed, must go on, and it certainly has.
Bat Boy: The Musical
through August 20
Stray Dog Theatre
Tower Grove Abbey