Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming
Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe
Directed by Scott Weinstein
Music Direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster
Choreography by Rhett Guter
Produced by Griffin Theatre Company
Playing at The Den Theatre’s Heath Main Stage
Bat Boy Makes Camp At The Den
Griffin Theatre concludes its 2015-16 season with a Chicago premiere of Bat Boy: The Musical, the camp-horror comedy-cum-social satire based on The Weekly World News article of a half-boy, half-bat found in a West Virginia cave. Featuring a curious story, music and singing of various genres, and many strong, comedic performances, this off-beat musical will find a happily entertained audience in most fans of musical theatre, particularly those hip to its camp-inclined sense of humor.
While out spelunking one day, the Taylor siblings encounter a strange bat/boy creature (Henry McGinniss) living deep in a cave. After it bites their sister Ruthie (Erin Daly), Ron (Kelley Abell) and Rick (Jeff Meyer) capture it in a sack and deliver it to Sheriff Reynolds (Michael Kingston). Not wishing to stir up any publicity during his re-election campaign, the Sheriff delivers the “Bat Boy” to the only person in Hope Falls (pop. 500) qualified enough to handle the anomaly: Dr. Parker (Matt W. Wiles), the town veterinarian. But before Dr. Parker has a chance to kill him, his wife Meredith (Anne Sheridan Smith) becomes strangely attached to Bat Boy and seduces her affection-starved husband into sparing his life.
While Meredith and her daughter Shelley (Tiffany Tatreau) begin teaching the Bat Boy (now renamed “Edgar”) how to speak, paranoia spreads through Hope Falls as its cattle population experiences an inexplicably drop. The answer seems obvious: the Bat Boy must be behind it. And their suspicions are seemingly confirmed when Ruthie Taylor is found dead, supposedly of her bite wound. But as the town arms itself against the fanged menace, something stronger than mere “Christian charity” begins to stir in Shelley Parker’s breast, and she and Edgar must flee in order to save their love and Edgar’s life.
Griffin Theatre’s production of Bat Boy: The Musical delivers exactly what it promises: a riotously entertaining musical comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Though at times the production seems squeezed into its tight space of The Den and the (exceptional) live band drowns out some of the lyrics and dialogue (an issue that I imagine will be rectified), the production as a whole — the performances, singing and choreography — all exhibit the professional quality one might expect from a Broadway production, exemplifying the talent Chicago is fortunate to foster in its black boxes.
To single out any one performance in this production seems impossible: it was expertly casted. From the principal roles all the way down to the chorus, I felt that every member of the cast brought something unique to their roles and that each had his or her own moment to shine. My favorite, however, would have to be Jeff Meyer, whose satirical portrayal of Rick, the knife-wielding redneck, and whose dead-pan delivery as Lorraine, the squirrelly and judgmental townswoman, I found highly amusing, if not laugh-out-loud funny.
As someone who is not often partial to comedies or musicals, Bat Boy: The Musical found a willing and entertained viewer in me. Though I imagine its humor is especially suited to Millennials and younger generations, I think fans of musical theatre in general could find something to enjoy in this show, provided they are amenable to camp humor.
Playing at The Den Theatre Heath Main Stage, 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $39.50, with student, senior, and veteran tickets of $34.50. For tickets and information, call the 866-811-4111, or visit GriffinTheatre.com. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., through July 24th. Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.