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"Bat Boy" Sighting a Pleasantly Strange Event

By Beryl C.D. Lipton, Crimson Staff Writer

It seemed like an improbable love affair. By June 1992, The Weekly World News had already been conjuring bizarre creatures, unusual sightings, and freakish situations for 13 years, and if Hollywood hadn’t already put the public through the ringer of supernatural scenarios, then WWN was probably coming scarily close to filling any gaps in the collective imagination. But whether it was the strangely sympathetic, glassy round eyes or the face that rivaled Macaulay Culkin’s “Scream” impression, Bat Boy, who made an appearance for the first time that month, caught the attention of shoppers and soon became the sweetheart of supermarket tabloid.

Five years later, the half-boy, half-bat sensation was causing a stir off-Broadway as the lead character in “Bat Boy: The Musical,” a production created in cooperation with WWN. Currently playing at the New College Theatre under the direction of Matthew I. Bohrer ’10 through Dec. 11, this adaptation of the creature’s life from his discovery onward indulges the audience in the spectacular task of answering the question “What is it?” Part moral inquiry, part love story, and primarily ridiculous, “Bat Boy: The Musical” does not fail to entertain with its tragically comic and campy story of acceptance. Unfortunately, though, just like the idea of the Bat Boy himself, the show, at times, sounds a little off.

“Bat Boy” opens on three teens—Ron, Rick, and Ruthie Taylor—preparing to get just a little bit closer to nature in the dark environs of a local cave, but they are promptly interrupted by the appearance of the show’s namesake, played by Walter B. Klyce ’10. After the confused cave creature bites young Ruthie (Maya S. Sugarman), he is taken to the home of the dashing and devilish Dr. Thomas Parker (Adam M. Lathram), where his charming wife Meredith (Megan L. Amram ’10) and daughter Shelley (Samara R. Oster ’13) take charge of his care. What unfolds is a story familiar in its conception if not in its ultimate resolution. Slowly but surely, the strange monster is civilized, though the religious townspeople continue to live in a hypocritical state of fear of this foreign creature (his strangeness cemented in the humorous acquisition of a British accent); once their cautious acceptance is granted, a bizarre twist of events unjustly casts the Bat Boy—deemed Edgar by his new family—back into the position of a dangerous beast, and the climatic chase ensues.

Set in the aptly named Hope Falls, West Virginia, “Bat Boy” could be seen as a critique of the hypocrisy inherent in “Christian charity” (obviously, they don’t want the strange man-bat creature to attend their special revival weekend) or as the painful journey to ignore one’s inner animal instincts and just fit in. Even more strangely, it could be seen as a story of love: the failed love of Dr. and Mrs. Parker or the bizarre romance that develops between Shelley and Edgar. The first act, though entertaining for the most part, drags on, as it is merely a set up for the surprisingly ridiculous second half, in which the latter love story reveals itself—surprisingly, since throughout the earlier interactions between two, their chemistry suggests nothing more than a platonic relationship, as between a brother and sister. The one instance in which they find themselves uncomfortably close is hardly enough to foreshadow the extent to which Shelley’s feelings for Edgar grow; these are eventually manifested in a scene that imagines an orgy set in the Garden of Eden, an instance of debauchery that pays tribute to the skills of choreographer Ricky D. Kuperman ’11.

In fact the whole cast is, perhaps not surprisingly, very talented. Klyce’s portrayal of Bat Boy is particularly remarkable; his arms and legs contort through most of the show into the sharp angles of a bat’s claws and legs in a performance that conveys a particularly strange animalistic posture with amazing naturalness. As the show progresses, his stance adjusts in an impressive expression of humanity through body language, and his voice transforms from the gargles of playful stupidity to the more articulate confusion of one bewildered but generally prepared to cope with the strangeness of society (for fans of “Futurama,” Gunther could be used as a reference point).

Equally impressive is the freshman Oster. She is thoroughly endearing as the Beauty to Klyce’s Beast, capturing each of her songs with a soulfulness that can make even the most comedic of numbers heart-wrenching. Her only shortfall comes with the uncomfortable rhythm of “Whatcha Wanna Do?” a rap duet that neither she nor her partner, Jonathan Finn-Gamino ’12 as her temporary love interest Rick Taylor, can salvage; the initial idea itself is not doomed, however, and it’s a number that could be fun if only they could get hold of the beat and lose the awkwardness inherent in the rapping of a pair of white kids.

It is in these sorts of unfortunate musical incongruities that the show—from the outset walking the line between theatrical wit and tackiness—stumbles, keeping it from being the completely charming piece of outrageous spectacle that it is meant to be. It is in instances when the music, directed by Alex B. Lipton ’11, competes too closely with the voices of the players or in moments when the confusing appearance of seemingly bored back-up singers provide a negative contrast rather than the overwhelming complement that was probably intended, that the production falters and the audience is uncomfortably snapped out of the enchantment they had just been lured into.

Nonetheless, the silly extravaganza that is the “fact meets fiction” of “Bat Boy: The Musical” manages to keep the wonder going even beyond the show’s incredibly tragic end. In the world of tabloid fantasy, love can be open to all, death is no longer a barrier to hope, and the optimism of the seemingly impossible can still ring out: Bat Boy lives!

—Staff writer Beryl C.D. Lipton can be reached at

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