At the time of the extension, 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?”
Set in a small town in 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, prior to the West End, it ran for four weeks at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.
In the 16-strong cast, American Deven May, from the New York production, reprises his performance in the title role, with Emma Williams co-starring as love interest Shelley Parker and John Barr and Rebecca Vere as her parents, Dr and Mrs Parker. The 16-strong cast also features. Mark Wing-Davey directs with designs by Madeline Herbert.
Bat Boy has been nominated for four Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards – Best Actor in a Musical (Deven May), Best Actress in a Musical (Rebecca Vere) and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Emma Williams) - click here to vote now.
Next at the Shaftesbury, The Far Pavilions, a new stage musical version of MM Kaye’s popular historical novel, will receive its world premiere on 14 April 2005, following previews from 24 March (See News, 26 Oct 2004).
- by Terri Paddock