BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O'Keefe, directed by Michael McGinn, with Jay T. Schramek, Jayne Lewis and David Rosser. Presented by Hot Feat Productions with Morris Berchard at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst). Runs to April 16, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm. $45-$55, stu $25, limited rush $20. 416-872-5555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Why have the stodgy critics gone after Bat Boy: The Musical with such bloodlust? Mid-winter crankiness?
Sure, the creators aren't exactly Andrew Lloyd Sondheim, and the show won't move from its suitably shabby digs over at the Bathurst Street Theatre to one of the Mirvish houses. Given the slaughter it's been through in the dailies, it will be lucky to play out its planned run till mid-April.
But judging from the entertaining and perfectly fine production I saw two performances after opening night, it's not trying to be anything but a campy, semi-parodic musical.
Set in a West Virginia town, the musical shows what happens when a half-boy, half-bat creature (the nimble Jay T. Schramek ) is captured in a cave and then forced to live in the home of the Parkers, overseen by 50s throwback mom Meredith ( Jayne Lewis ) and increasingly unhinged town vet Thomas ( David Rosser ). There's also daughter Shelley ( Laura Caswell ), who's first repulsed by the creature and then smitten.
Meanwhile, in a few too many town council scenes, the regular folks - thinking the creature is destroying their livestock - plan to kill it.
As befits a show that began off-Broadway, this one sends up everything from My Fair Lady (Bat Boy gets elocution lessons) to The Lion King and its eco-friendly message.
But it also parodies the conventions of musical theatre, as when the company takes a great big audible breath before embarking on a sustained long note. Actors switch characters onstage with an intended lack of subtlety by donning wigs or hats.
Laurence O'Keefe 's lyrics have a banal silliness, and his score is a pastiche of genres from hiphop to romantic ballads. The book, while occasionally clunky, is subversive in its upending of clichés and its attack on cheap moralizing.
Glenn Davidson 's set fits nicely into the difficult-to-stage former church. He's even found a use for the creaky old staircases running up either side of the playing area.
And if the voices aren't first-rate - Schramek, Lewis and Caswell being the exceptions - I think you can argue that uniformly pristine voices would only make the show seem more serious than intended.
It's a comedy, get it?