The lights are low, my phone’s set to silent, and I’m frantically searching “are monsters real and are there any close to me,” which can mean only one thing: it’s time for Screaming in Harmony, where we shine a spotlight on monstrous murderous musical mayhem! Since we’re celebrating this month as March Break here at Nightmare, tonight’s show is inspired by Breaking News. Ripped straight from the headlines of yesteryear, this is Bat Boy: The Musical!
In case you didn’t spend the whole 90s looking at tabloid covers in the grocery store, Bat Boy was the half bat/half man cover darling of countless issues of Weekly World News. Back when conspiracy theories were fun and goofy and not the reason you had to block your uncle on social media, WWN put this little freak on newsstands right next to “serious” newspapers speculating wildly about Jennifer Aniston. Because the world is a beautiful place, the musical adaptation of this tabloid monster’s life story premiered in 1997. Bat Boy: The Musical received critical acclaim, as well as a bunch of theatre awards. Not bad for a show that sounds like a punchline!
THE SHORT VERSION
Bat Boy: The Musical tells the story of a bloodsucking cryptid (the titular Bat Boy) found living in a West Virginia cave. He attacks a girl and is trapped by her brothers, leading to the local sheriff taking him to a vet. The vet’s wife, Meredith, takes care of Bat Boy, names him Edgar, and teaches him to speak. Meredith’s daughter Shelley initially hates Edgar, but he grows on her as he becomes more civilized.
That’s all well and good, but the local livestock is dropping like flies. When Edgar goes to a religious revival, he’s slowly accepted by the town. Then, he’s attacked by… basically everyone, and he flees to a nearby forest. From there on out, Bat Boy: The Musical takes way more cues from Greek tragedy than you would expect, and anything else I say would be a huge spoiler. What will become of the townspeople and, more interestingly, Edgar? Find out by watching Bat Boy: The Musical!
GORE AND SCORE
With a couple of exceptions for gospel interludes, the songs from Bat Boy: The Musical fall into the “rock musical” camp. That is to say, it’s heavier than My Fair Lady but doesn’t sound like AC/DC. Standout tracks include “Hold Me, Bat Boy” (the opening number that sets the stage for the rest of the show), “Christian Charity” (a bouncy little number that sounds like it could be from Into the Woods, but with added sprechgesang*), “Show You A Thing Or Two” (where Bat Boy becomes Edgar), “A Joyful Noise” (the aforementioned gospel interlude), and “Three Bedroom House” (a harmonious tour de force duet between Meredith and Shelley). The Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording is on Spotify if you want to hear the tracks performed by the original actors!
*Isn’t sprechgesang a fun word? It means sing-talking, like Fred Schneider from the B-52s or spell-your-name-with-a-dollar-sign era Ke$ha. The Germans really do have a word for everything!
This may come as a surprise, but the star of Bat Boy: The Musical is Bat Boy. It’s an extremely demanding role, requiring an actor who can sing, act, and creep around like a half-bat monster. In theatre circles, that’s what’s known as a “triple threat.” If this show ever makes it to the big screen, Doug Jones would have to do all the body work. You might think it’s easy to hang upside down, but try doing it while singing. Let’s all give a huge round of applause for every brave actor who takes on this challenging role.
Bat Boy: The Musical is what theatre critics call “a weird one.” Though there’s no movie version (yet! And probably ever), we live in the future and you can pull up videos of performances right now for free on YouTube. These run the gamut from Off-Broadway professionals to ambitious college groups to high school’s that got away with way more than my high school drama department, so if you don’t like one cast you can just switch to another! There are no rules!
Are you a mysterious bloodsucking beast that lives in a cave and also likes to sing? Me too! Let’s talk about it on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page! For more reviews, recommendations, and performances that’ll get your principal like a million angry emails, stay tuned to Nightmare on Film Street.