MvVO Art Launches AD ART SHOW
Out of Town

Bat Boy: The Musical – Terrific Tabloid Trash

Bat Boy: The Musical – Terrific Tabloid Trash

Bat Boy

Who would have guessed a musical based on an article from a trashy tabloid would end up so outrageously entertaining? Director Scott Weinstein helms the highly gratifying Griffin Theatre Company’s latest presentation, Bat Boy: The Musical, currently occupying the main stage of the Den Theatre. This Chicago premiere is loosely based on a story from one of those scandalous supermarket tabloids, The Weekly World News. Playwrights Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming’s cleaver and witty book, matched with sharp and precise lyrics from  Laurence O’Keefe, may have initially debuted in 1997, but their material is just as topical today. Equal parts laughs, sentiment and tongue-in-cheek satire, Bat Boy shines an uncomfortable, if not accurate, light upon religious hypocrisy. This made me wonder if this isn’t a Bat Boy ploy for the current GOP? #Batboylivesmatter? How could they have been so dead on in their concept? What crystal ball was this creative team gazing upon which so accurately predicted how society would evolve? Clever writing and astute foreshadowing aside, this boundlessly resolute score, ranging from edgy rock and roll to rap, power ballads to gospel, wrapped itself up to be one of the must see shows of this summer in Chicagoland.

Bat Boy

The story begins when Bat Boy (Henry McGinniss) is discovered by some locals exploring a dark cave in West Virginia. The half boy/half bat bites one of the teens, honestly out of fear for his own safety, then is quickly captured by the police and brought to the local veterinarian, Dr. Parker (Matt Miles) who proves to be the true villain of the showcase. Instead of allowing him to be put down, Mrs. Meredith Parker (the astounding Anne Sheridan Smith) and her material nature kick in. She decides to help Bat Boy instead. He is let of his cage, yes, they house him in a cage, renamed Edger, and then Mrs. Parker works tirelessly with him to refine all of his rough edges through lessons of language, elocution and faith. The Parkers turn him into the perfect, aristocratic gentleman, complete with a new found British accent. Shelley (Tiffany Tatreau) the Parker family daughter has initial contempt and distain for the freakish house guest, which quickly turns to teenaged desire and love. This combination of Frankenstein’s monster meets Romeo and Juliet truly hits all the right notes. Well, almost.

Bat Boy

The townsfolk are suspicious of anything different.  Hiding their collective unapologetic bigotry behind a thinly veiled cloak of “Christian charity,” the inhabitants want him gone. Ron King plays double rolls, one as the spirited Reverend Hightower and the other as vengeful Mrs. Taylor Roy, the mother of the initial bite victim. Both are pure comic gold. From his overwrought prancing and preening as the Spiritual Leader to his aggressive and insistent “pat your weave” head tapping as the mother, King is Grade A ham of the highest quality. It isn’t long before the townspeople decide to make Edger a scapegoat for a murder he did not commit. On the run with his one true love Shelley, Bat Boy’s calamity of conscious concludes as only a true tabloid could, with murder, incest, infighting, scandal, infidelity, animal sacrifice, divorce and absolute side-splitting laughter.

Bat Boy

Henry McGinniss’ star turn is nothing short of masterful. The prosthetic ears and fangs he wears do not detract from his extraordinary singing voice. Tatreau, so wonderful in the recent Lincolnshire production of Sister Act, proves, once again, she has grand leading lady potential. They are both gifted with magnificent voices and solid comic timing as well. The rest of the creative team involved included choreographer Rhett Guter, costumer Izumi Inaba and set design from Jeff Kmiec and Greg Pinsoneault. The Den’s stage can be tricky as there are building support beams in the middle of the action. With high-energy performances and spirited dance moves from the entire troupe, the visual distraction of the beams was surprisingly minimal. Kudos must also be awarded to the ingenious puppetry courtesy of Lolly Extract and Amber Marsh. From the Act 2 sacrificially bunny rabbit to the outrageously scandalous Bat Boy origin story scene, this unique ruse was just picture-perfect. Charlotte Rivard-Hoster’s music direction was also superb. Hope Falls, West Virginia has never sounded better.

Bat Boy

With a frantic, frenetic, and seriously funny script that carefully navigates between serious and satire, Bat Boy: The Musical is nothing short of a blast. Wagging a (semi-judgmental) finger at society while simultaneously shaking it’s collective hips to a truly infectious beat, this cult hit warrants and deserves a wide audience. Between Cubs games and the cornucopia of summertime street festivals, make time for the must see Bat Boy: The Musical. 

Griffin Theatre Company presents Bat Boy: The Musical is now playing at The Den Theater’s Main Stage thorough July 24, 2016.

Out of Town

Stephen S. Best is currently a freelance writer for the Times Square Chronicles, covering the performing arts scene in the greater Chicagoland area. He has been a theater aficionado for years, attending his first live production, Annie, at the tender age of six. After graduating from Purdue University, Stephen honed his skills attending live theater, concerts and art installations in New York and Chicago. Stephen's keen eye and thorough appreciation for both theater patrons' time and entertainment dollar makes him a valuable asset and his recommendations key. Stephen currently lives in downtown Chicago.

More in Out of Town

At The National Theatre in London Hex the Musical

Suzanna BowlingJanuary 15, 2022

Paper Mill Playhouse Announces Cast for Clue

Suzanna BowlingJanuary 11, 2022

The Avett Brothers Swept Away Begins Performances at Berkeley Rep.

Suzanna BowlingJanuary 9, 2022

Round House Theatre Brings The American Premiere of Natasha Gordon’s Nine Night

Suzanna BowlingJanuary 9, 2022

The Ocean at the End of the Lane Ripples Out Grief and Bravery for All

RossJanuary 5, 2022

Cabaret Circles Berlin Triumphantly Deep Inside London’s West End

RossDecember 19, 2021

Theatre News: Dear Evan Hansen, Mrs. Doubtfire, Little Shop Of Horrors, Freestyle Love Supreme, Stephen Sondheim and Diana

Suzanna BowlingDecember 13, 2021

The Jesus Christ Superstar Tour Rocks Flat

RossDecember 12, 2021

Miami’s Luxurious Restaurant The Deck at Island Gardens Offers Grand Winter Escape

WriterDecember 11, 2021