Producer Bites Back, Extends Bat Despite CriticsDate: 1 October 2004
Despite largely negative reviews, poor houses and the exit of the show’s UK partners, the American producers of Bat Boy - The Musical have decided to extend its season in the West End by three and a half months. Following its four-week UK premiere run at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this summer, it opened on 8 September 2004 (previews from 18 August) at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where it had been booking up to 30 October. It is now booking up to 14 February 2005.
Michael Alden, the lead US producer who has backed Bat Boy since its Off-Broadway run in 2001, explained to Whatsonstage.com that he was determined to keep the show on despite the reservations of his former partners: “The day after we opened in the West End, the main UK partners (Robert Mackintosh and Martin Yates for West End International Ltd) looked at Sheridan Morley and Benedict Nightingale, they looked at the power of press here and they felt that grass-roots efforts would not be enough, which is what I’ve always thought this show is about.”
Alden said that, after the withdrawal of West End International, he took a fortnight to consider what to do next. Though disappointed with his co-producers’ decision, he said he reserved his anger for the critics. “It’s not about liking or not liking it, it’s about being fair to the experience,” he said. “So many of the critics are devoid of journalistic responsibility – they’re not even telling you what the story is. It’s like an internal competition between them to see who can come up with the funniest line. One said, I wrote this seven minutes after leaving the theatre. Well, why not wait five minutes to actually think about it?”
In the end, Alden – with his American partner Kevin Schon - put trust in the audiences “as small as they are” who are “delighting” in the show each night. “I’ve had a lot of stinkers in my life,” he said. “Bat Boy isn’t one. This is a lovely worthwhile show and I’m going to support it. It deserves a place here.”
”Here’s my goal,” declared Alden, “twenty-two years and six months.” After a shaky start, he still aims for Bats to beat Cats in the theatrical longevity record books (See The Goss, 29 Jun 2004).
Set in small town West Virginia, the musical is a Weekly World News tabloid tale brought to life, the story of a half-boy, half-bat who takes up with a veterinarian's family while struggling with his self-image and thirst for blood. It has a story and book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe. Songs include "Apology to a Cow", "Comfort and Joy", “Christian Charity” “A Joyful Noise”, “Hey Freak” and "More Blood".
Originally seen in Los Angeles in 1997, the cult show opened Off-Broadway in March 2001, but closed the following December having been badly hit after 9/11. Despite its premature departure, Bat Boy won both New York’s Outer Critics Circle and the Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical.
In the UK, American Deven May, from the New York production, reprises his performance in the title role, with Emma Williams (Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) co-starring as love interest Shelley Parker. The 16-strong cast also features John Barr and Rebecca Vere as Dr and Mrs Parker. Mark Wing-Davey directs with designs by Madeline Herbert.
- by Terri Paddock