“Bat Boy: The Musical” brings to life the legendary youth, discovered in a cave in Hope Falls, W.Va., with the body of a boy but a hideously deformed head with pointy ears and razor-sharp teeth. Much to the dismay of the townsfolk who want the beast destroyed, the cautious Sheriff (Don Luce) turns the creature over to the local vet, Thomas Parker (Chris Wells).
Immediately, Parker’s wife, Meredith (Kaitlin Hopkins), and 14-year-old daughter, Shelley (Ann Closs), name the boy Edgar and proceed to civilize the incredibly fast-learning youth to the point where soon he is speaking with a British accent and reading the classics. But Dr. Parker is harboring secret, foreboding information about Edgar’s origins and surreptitiously plots to destroy the child.
The clever scenario, though outrageous, always contains an aura of intriguing plausibility. And to his credit, Farley (with the able assistance of special-effects/mask designers David Rockbello, Xander Berkeley, Greg Gibbs and Chris Bell) creates a supercharged mix of heightened realism, surrealism and fantasy that is always engrossing. Much credit for this must also go to the imaginative production designs of Evan Bartoletti (set), David F. Hahn (lighting), Adam Philius (sound) and Jennifer K. Diebold (costumes).
The work is magnificently served by the emotion-charged, thoroughly realistic performance of May, who catapults himself body and soul into the seared psyche of this child who possesses the mind of a genius but the uncontrollable, blood-craving appetite of a beast. May’s highly musical baritone voice is also displayed to good effect in the reflective “Apology to a Cow.”
Memorably vivid performances are also provided by Hopkins and Closs as Bat Boy’s adoptive mother and sister, respectively. Hopkins’ Meredith exudes a magnetic concern for the boy that makes plausible his transformation. Her beautifully wrought “Brief Shining Moment” is the highlight of the first act. Closs offers an endearing presence as the callow teenager who develops a deep, glowing love for Edgar, demonstrated by her tender, “Ugly Boy” and “Let It Be Me” (in duet with May).
Unfortunately, the fine work of May, Hopkins and Closs is undermined by the unbelievably melodramatic posturing of Wells, who can’t seem to decide whether he is performing his role or commenting on it. It is as if he is acting in a different play than his fellow lead actors. Director Farley also allows this ambivalence to permeate the supporting ensemble as well.
The ingredients are all there. A bit of directorial re-examination could turn “Bat Boy: The Musical” into a true gem.