Mysterious cow disappearances, evangelical tent revivals and a bat-human mutant hybrid take the stage at Cite des Arts.

July 21, 2010
Written by Annie Bares

20100721-livingind-0101
                                      Inset photo by Robin May

Song, dance and jazz hands are standard fare in musical theatre. But mysterious cow disappearances, evangelical tent revivals and a bat-human mutant hybrid? Not so much. Bat Boy: The Musical has all of the above and is bringing its act to Lafayette for the summer. Starting July 25, local theatre group Acting Unlimited will be performing the musical at Cite des Arts.

Faithful readers of the now defunct Weekly World News will know that since his creation in 1992, Bat Boy (“50% Bat, 50% Human, 100% Awesome”) has done everything from marrying Britney Spears to advising George Bush on the invasion of Iraq. It’s speculated that he’s related to Louisiana’s own James Carville. In 1997 Bat Boy even got his own musical, courtesy of Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Theatre.

Ruth Diaz, a recent graduate of UL’s theatre program, discovered the show’s soundtrack a few years ago and has wanted to perform it since.
“It’s a beautiful script,” says Ruth, who plays Bat Boy’s adoptive mother and is one of the 24 locals participating in the production of the show. Many of the cast members are young theatre enthusiasts who have been involved in different Acadiana theatre troupes including the Abbey and Evangeline Players.

The show begins when rural West Virginia teenagers capture a bat/human creature while spelunking. They turn him over to the sheriff who puts him in the charge of a local vet, played by area playwright Cody Daigle. Bat Boy becomes “Edgar” and gets an education in civilization. The conflict comes when the small town suspects that Edgar is responsible for killing the cows that provide the backbone of their economy.

“The play is partially about a community dealing with economic devastation, which is very relevant with everything going on right now in the Gulf,” says cast member Kelly Griffin. The players emphasize that while Bat Boy is based on a Weekly World News article, they’re not taking it in the direction of the spoof or a farce genre.

“The premise is odd, but the characters are very real. This is not Rocky Horror,” explains stage manager Marie Diaz.

“The humor is grounded in the fact that you can relate to the characters,” says Ruth. The cast also says that the play touches on the serious issues of prejudice, being an outsider, and spirituality, particularly the conflict between natural and organized religions. Some of the actors’ favorite numbers include the show’s opener, “Another Dead Cow,” and the Act 1 finale, “Comfort and Joy.”

The cast is also careful to distance Bat Boy from the current vampire craze. While it may have fangs, “there is no sparkling in the show,” jokes Griffin.

“[The musical] most resembles a Greek tragedy,” says Director Walter Brown. “It’s a combination of Oedipus and Frankenstein. Humor is used as a recognition of humanity.”

Brown also emphasizes that in addition to being a fun show, Bat Boy also employs experimental theatre techniques to keep the audience thinking. For example, Erik Schneider and Phillip Smith were both cast to play Bat Boy on different nights with each performance ending differently.

A grant from the AcA allowed the production to involve a wide range of the local art community. Jason Pennington, voice coach and musician, was hired as music director, and painter Scott Bailey was pegged for set design.

Bat Boy plans to give back to Acadiana, too. Friday, July 30, will be a pay-what-you-can performance, and all proceeds from the Aug. 6 show will go to a Gulf relief fund.

Bat Boy: The Musical runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from July 29 to Aug. 14. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. at Cite des Arts on Vine Street downtown. For more information, visit www.yourbeastinside.blogspot.com.

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