Bat Boy: The Musical

Theatre, Musicals
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Some cult classics spring naturally into being, as what was once thought trash is transmuted into box-office gold, and some are made. ‘Bat Boy: The Musical’, which first premiered off-Broadway in 1997, could be the fang-toothed poster child for the latter category as it’s custom-built for the midnight-movie crowd. Inspired by the greatest ever scoop in the lunatic tabloid Weekly World News, it’s a playfully gruesome satire that revels in its own weirdness and takes gleeful potshots at the prejudices of Bible-belt America.

Bat Boy is a pointy-eared feral child found in a cave and adopted by the family of frustrated local veterinarian Dr Parker. As the fearful townspeople round on the boy for depleting their cattle population, Parker’s wife Meredith and daughter Shelley fall for the Boy’s toothy charms and raise him into a model citizen. A model citizen with a craving for fresh blood, that is.

The book and lyrics are nowhere near as subversive as they think they are, but they’re tremendous fun, particularly as the tension ratchets up in act two and the focus shifts on to the Parkers’ unconventional family dynamics. It’s also where the score really takes off, with raucous revival number ‘A Joyful Noise’ and the standout ‘Three Bedroom House’ that sees Shelley and Meredith plan a perfect future with their new arrival.

It’s all been given a stunning production by Luke Fredericks and Morphic Graffiti, with a cooking band under conductor Mark Crossland. Rob Compton strikes the perfect balance between repulsive and alluring as the titular teenager, with protruding shoulder blades arching like batwings from his back, and Lauren Ward is pitch-perfect in every way as his defender Meredith.

Against some witty projection work from Benjamin Walden and a brilliantly trashy set from Stewart Charlesworth (the spelunking Barbie dolls are a particular treat), ‘Bat Boy: The Musical’ further cements the Southwark Playhouse’s status as one of the city’s go-to venues for razor-sharp musical theatre.

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