Bat Boy: The Musical is an Off-Broadway musical based on the character of Bat Boy, whose antics regularly appear in the Weekly World News tabloid. The story about a half-boy, half bat found living in a cave inspired bookwriters Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming to write a stage adaptation. They were joined by composer/lyricist Laurence O'Keefe and their first production premiered on Halloween 1997.
The musical differs in a few of its plot details from the Weekly World News portrayal of Bat Boy. In the musical, Bat Boy learns to speak from his adoptive family, yearns for acceptance and tries to join society, only to face hatred and violence from a town that fears him and jealous rage from his foster father. Although full of blood, violence, incest and interspecies sex, Bat Boy: The Musical has won several awards and rave reviews and is regarded as one of the funniest and most imaginative musicals in years. John Lahr of The New Yorker observes "this is the only play in the history of the theatre whose hero ends Act I with a rabbit in his mouth, and who moves on in Act II to an entire cow's head."
This musical premiered at Tim Robbins' Actors' Gang Theatre on Halloween, 1997 and has since been produced Off-Broadway, in London's West End, and in scores of productions throughout the world. The musical was awarded best Off-Broadway musical by both the Lucille Lortel Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award in the year 2001. Regional productions of Bat Boy have been nominated for and won dozens of awards, including the Norton awards (New England's equivalent of the Tony) and Ovation awards (Los Angeles' equivalent). The show has also proven quite popular in Korea and Japan.
Time: the present. Place: West Virginia. Three thrill-seeking teenage siblings (Rick, Ron, and Ruthie Taylor) discover a half-bat, half-boy in a cave. After this "Bat Boy" bites Ruthie on the neck, they pummel the creature and take him to the sheriff of their small town, Hope Falls. A ghostly chorus sings of the extraordinary meaning of this pivotal moment in history (HOLD ME, BAT BOY).
Sheriff Reynolds brings the creature to the house of the town veterinarian, who isn't home, but the vet's wife (Meredith) and daughter (Shelley) put Bat Boy in a cage (CHRISTIAN CHARITY). While they await the return of Dr. Parker, Bat Boy screams incessantly and refuses all food, and Shelley begins to have second thoughts about her new pet (UGLY BOY). While Meredith is in the kitchen trying to cook up something Bat Boy will actually eat, Shelley's boyfriend Rick comes over and, seeking revenge for Bat Boy's biting his sister in the cave, menaces him and leaves Bat Boy cowering and whimpering in the corner of his cage (WHATCHA WANNA DO?/HEY FREAK (since 2004)). Meredith enters, angrily ousts Rick, and sends Shelley to bed. Meredith consoles Bat Boy by promising him acceptance and love (A HOME FOR YOU).
Meanwhile, the ranchers of Hope Falls admit in a town meeting that their cows are dying for mysterious reasons, and all the townspeople at the meeting search for the potential cause, ultimately wondering if Bat Boy might have something to do with it (ANOTHER DEAD COW)
As a thunderstorm rages and the power goes out in Hope Falls, Dr. Parker finally arrives home from his goose-hunting trip. He is shocked by the creature he finds in his living room and drunkenly commiserates with Bat Boy, comparing the creature's condition to that of his own lifeless marriage. After a brief examination, the vet decides to put Bat Boy out of his "misery" with a lethal injection. As Dr. Parker is poised with the needle, Meredith enters and begs her husband not to kill Bat Boy. Dr. Parker agrees, but not before he extracts a promise from Meredith to "be a wife to me" (DANCE WITH ME, DARLING). Dr. Parker, overjoyed that there might be a chance that Meredith truly loves him again, then slashes the necks of the geese he has brought home and feeds Bat Boy the blood, which is exactly what Bat Boy needs to live.
As the mother of the injured girl demands that the Sheriff punish Bat Boy (MRS. TAYLOR'S LULLABY), the oblivious Parker family gives the remarkably intelligent and eager Bat Boy a full education. With the help of regular (and secret) feedings by Dr. Parker, Bat Boy quickly earns a mail-order diploma and transforms into an erudite and sophisticated young man, whom the family calls "Edgar" (SHOW YOU A THING OR TWO).
But the town finally delivers to Dr. Parker their concern about the "critter," and to keep them at bay Dr. Parker promises that Bat Boy will not attend the upcoming tent revival meeting (CHRISTIAN CHARITY—REPRISE). Bat Boy, however, desires to go out and see the world, and his passionate expression of this desire (A HOME FOR YOU—REPRISE) wins Meredith over. Knowing that her husband made a public promise to the contrary, Meredith nonetheless tells Bat Boy that she will take him to the revival meeting. When Dr. Parker angrily objects, Bat Boy reverts to his animal state and attacks Dr. Parker, knocking him to the ground. Meredith is overcome with concern — not for Dr. Parker, but for her dear "Edgar." Now Dr. Parker knows with certainty that Meredith, despite her recent softening toward him, truly does not love him, and, going mad, he privately vows to turn her feelings around — whatever it takes. While the town, Meredith, and Shelley all express their hope that the revival will bring joy and renewal, Dr. Parker puts in motion his sinister plot. After taunting Bat Boy with a live rabbit, Dr. Parker steals away to the hospital, where he kills Ruthie Taylor with an injection (COMFORT AND JOY).
The next day, The Reverend Billy Hightower lifts the depressed spirits of the people of Hope Falls at the revival meeting (A JOYFUL NOISE). When Bat Boy, Meredith and Shelley arrive, the town is aghast — until Bat Boy wins them over with an ardent plea for acceptance (LET ME WALK AMONG YOU). The townspeople gather around Bat Boy and embrace him (A JOYFUL NOISE—REPRISE). But the uplifting mood is dashed when Dr. Parker arrives and tells the town that Ruthie Taylor is dead — and that Bat Boy's bite is responsible. Rick Taylor enters with a gun and threatens to kill Bat Boy, who attacks Rick and flees the scene. Dr. Parker then pretends to try to save Rick, but actually kills him with an injection. Now convinced that Bat Boy is a murderous freak, the town vows to find and kill him.
Dr. Parker has managed to turn the town against Bat Boy, but, in his madness, he has failed to turn Meredith's feelings around. As Meredith and Shelley search the woods for Bat Boy, Meredith convinces Shelley that their only hope is to find Bat Boy and move without Dr. Parker to a safe and secure location (THREE BEDROOM HOUSE). But when Shelley reveals that she has fallen in love with Edgar and wants to marry him, Meredith shocks her daughter by calling such an idea "hideous."
Shelley flees Meredith and eventually finds Edgar, who obviously shares her romantic feelings. But as the two awkward youth cannot find a way to express how they feel, the forest god Pan emerges from a nearby tree and calls upon the animals of the woods to show Shelley and Bat Boy how to love (CHILDREN, CHILDREN). Meanwhile, Ron Taylor decides to search for Bat Boy at the old slaughter house. Mrs. Taylor mistakes Ron for Bat Boy and sets him on fire. She is devastated when she discovers who her victim really is. Dr. Parker quickly arrives with another syringe but is surprised to find Ron is already dead. Reynolds asks Parker to calm the fears of the townfolk. Instead, Parker tells them of the horrible atrocities that Bat Boy is capable of. The townfolk start a crazed rampage and pledge to obliterate the monstrosity(KILL THE BAT BOY). While the angry townspeople continue to search for Bat Boy, the two young lovers repose in post-coital bliss. Bat Boy, however, is now hungry, and Shelley tries to convince him to drink her blood (INSIDE YOUR HEART/MINE ALL MINE(since 2004)). But just as Bat Boy is about to sink his fangs into Shelley's arm, Meredith enters and calls their union an "abomination." When Bat Boy moves to attack Meredith for trying to keep them apart, Meredith blurts out a shocking revelation — one that makes Bat Boy and Shelley realize that they can never be together. Ever.
Bat Boy flees into the woods, finds a wandering cow, rips its head off and slakes his animal thirst. Bat Boy soliloquizes his despair to the bloody cow head he holds in his hands (APOLOGY TO A COW). The townspeople arrive and are about to kill Bat Boy when Meredith enters and begs them to spare Bat Boy's life. She promises that if they will only listen to the story she and Dr. Parker have to tell about Bat Boy's origin, they will understand why it is wrong to kill him. Dr. Parker and Meredith then reveal the astonishing tale, to the horror and disbelief of all assembled.
But the story only arouses more ire from the town, who scream for Dr. Parker to "kill the freak." Bat Boy, so devastated by the story he has just heard about himself, shocks Meredith and Shelley by agreeing with the mob — he wants to die, too. He goads Dr. Parker by calling him a coward and revealing the recent violation of his daughter. Despite the pleas of his wife, Dr. Parker is now ready to kill. With his knife, he slices his own neck open, causing Edgar instinctively to feed. With Bat Boy attached to his throat, Dr. Parker stabs him in the back. As Dr. Parker raises the knife for a second thrust, Meredith jumps on top of Bat Boy, and she receives her own fatal blow. Meredith and Dr. Parker fall to the ground, dead (FINALE: I IMAGINE YOU'RE UPSET).
Shelley catches Bat Boy as he falls, and she alone hears his final words, with which he renounces the world of humankind and chooses to embrace what he has obviously come to see as his better half: "I am not a boy, I am an animal." (FINALE: I AM NOT A BOY) Shelley mourns her loss, and the townspeople transform into a ghostly chorus, reminding us of the lesson of the play: "Don't deny your beast inside." (HOLD ME, BAT BOY—REPRISE)
The musical production contains depictions of violence, gore, incest, and rape which has roused some debate. In 2005, a California high school attempted to perform Bat Boy: The Musical for the school's spring play, but several parents objected to the play's content saying that it "was not age-appropriate". Many within the school defended their right to perform it. National radio program Focus on the Family discussed the story, expressing some criticism towards the play. However, Independence High School of San Jose, California finished its closing night production of Bat Boy on March 25, 2006, though the production became very close to being shut down by several disgruntled parents, as well as the school board. However there have been schools that have been able to tone down the themes of the play to turn it into a successful high school musical. Scotts Valley High School in California, for instance, influenced the play with Kabuki themes to make it less bloody, sexual, and controversial. The most recent high schools to stage the play are: Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts on April 28, 2006 through April 29, 2006; Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California, whose unabridged performance opened on Friday, May 5, 2006; El Dorado High School in Placerville, California opened on Wednesday May 3, 2006; Quinte Secondary School in Belleville, Ontario, Canada on May 4,5, and 6, 2006 and Winthrop High School in Winthrop, Massachusetts, performances on May 11, 12, and 13, 2006; Kimberly High School, Kimberly, WI, performances on July 27-30, 2006, and Aug. 2-5, 2006. It will also be performed at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, a summer camp in upstate New York, on August 4-5, 2006. Closer to Halloween, it will be performed by San Mateo High School in San Mateo, California on October 26-29, 2006.
Bat Boy will be filmed in 2006, directed by John Landis, director of Animal House, The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London.