Unabashedly Fucked Up
Bat Boy: The Musical at ArtsWest
Though the dearly departed Weekly World News no longer beckons from supermarket check stands—proffering arcane secrets and the world's fattest cats—its musical spawn soldiers on with a little soft shoe and jazz hands and the old razzle-dazzle. Half boy, half bat, he of bald pate, wide mouth, and ears "better than radar," the infamous Bat Boy has forsaken dark caverns for bright footlights.
Deep in a West Virginia cave, three unlucky spelunkers meet a boy who is also a bat. They bring the hissy, sulky creature back to town, sentence him to death, and deliver him to the local veterinarian for the final, fatal poke. After a brief rap interlude (wow—not brief enough), some bartering of sexual favors, and an assortment of hilarious grunts from Bat Boy, the veterinarian's wife (Heather Hawkins, always funny, always flawless) convinces her husband to let the creature live. Because why not? He's just a terrifying beast from the bowels of the earth! He only EATS BLOOD!
In no time at all, thanks to a little love and some BBC language tapes, Bat Boy is transformed into a nocturnal, carnivorous Mary Poppins. He is genteel. He is helpful. He is British. He just wants to belong: "Let me file your taxes—I am a CPA! And maybe then you'll shake my hand some daaaaay!"
I don't know why, exactly—maybe it's the old ladies selling Diet Coke or the white bread pleasantness of West Seattle—but I always think of ArtsWest as a family-values kind of theater. And, true to form, when Bat Boy makes his first appearance, "naked" in flesh-colored man-panties, the sleepy granny next to me yelled (literally yelled), "OH MY GOD!" (She left at intermission.) But Bat Boy is unabashedly fucked up: There's rape and incest and interspecies humping and one huge furry magical forest forever-boner that you might never forget.
Here and there, the cast imposes a level of goofiness that detracts from the absurdity and pathos of Edgar's alienation. But it's hard to resist an idea as great as Bat Boy, verifiably the best stage-musical-based-on-a-comical-tabloid-headline ever written. At least until someone gets around to Kitten Guilty of Murder!: The Musical or Hillary Names Bigfoot as Her Running Mate!: The Musical or even—be still my heart—Saddam and Osama Adopt Shaved Baby Ape!: The Musical.