In the late '90s, an entirely credible publication called The Weekly World News reported on the discovery of a strange half boy/half bat in a cave near a small town in Virginia. A lot of rednecks picked up the issue on the way back to the trailer park; prompting WWN to do a series of follow up articles on the infamous Bat Boy. Additional rednecks believed the articles and bat-fever took hold of the town. But it didn't pick up a following until the Simpson's quoting hive called the Internet transformed Bat Boy into a cult sensation born at the fingertips of nerds in their mothers' basements. The CEO of WWN enjoyed a hearty laugh at the world's expense.
Any arts enthusiast worth their salt will agree--if the Bat Boy mythos screamed for one thing, it was a musical theatre adaptation. Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming answered these screams with Bat Boy: The Musical, which opened to rave reviews in the United States and Europe. A few smaller performances occurred in Eastern Canada, but Mob Hit Productions brings this story of love, loss and circus freaks to the west.
"I think that the authors used the idea of Bat Boy to write a story of bigotry and someone trying to find acceptance, so I think it's a story that runs on its own merits," says Adrian Marchuk, who plays the titular character. "People who don't know anything about the Bat Boy and his adventures in the Weekly World News will still enjoy this story. It's a captivating tale."
The play condenses the events of the original WWN article, focusing on the Bat Boy's discovery, education and attempts to fit in amongst the West Virginian townsfolk. Easily comparable to Edward Scissorhands, the play focuses on the character of Bat Boy and how a freakish outsider can sometimes be more human than the supposedly normal people around him.
"The family that takes in Bat Boy, the Parkers, is sort of like 'the nuclear family.' They're very Ward and Jude Cleaver on the surface, but there's a lot of dark secrets bubbling underneath," explains Marchuk of the play's diverse cast of characters. "Although the story is very comedic and very silly, the characters themselves have to be played 100 per cent seriously. They're larger than life, but they're not stereotypes so much as archetypes."
Writing a play based on a joke newspaper as anything other than a comedy would be difficult. However, rather than relying on obvious jokes and toilet humor, Bat Boy purportedly takes the high road by using its musical context and deadpan melodramatic delivery as its primary humour devices.
"Because the show deals with somewhat absurd themes, going into an elevated form like musical theatre gives you license to a broader scope of human experience and a depth of emotion and intensity that you wouldn't get in telling a story straight," says Marchuk. "Even the most insane comedic circumstances have to be played truthfully in order to work. You can't play it for the laughs, because you won't get them."
Strip the play's absurdities away and you're left with a story of a boy's attempt to fit in an unaccepting world. Bat Boy: The Musical should not be dismissed as fluff, it promises enough heart and laughs to get even the most redneck of us to cheer.