Welcome To Hope Falls, a city inhabited by red-necks and simple closed-minded townspeople. When three doped out locals discover a ‘bat boy” in a deep cave and capture him all hell breaks loose. Giving him to local vet Dr Parker to have him put down, the doctors wife Meredith civilises and educates him.
Like Menken and Ashman’s Little Shop Of Horrors and Dempsey and Rowe’s Zombie Prom, Bat Boy seeks to take a bizarre story and turn it into a camp musical classic, although in the case of Bat Boy the story is based on a news feature in the World Weekly News published in 1992.
Bat Boy the musical mostly runs at a breakneck pace. The show’s energy comes from a hard-working ensemble of performers who play a plethora of parts including the Mayor, Mother Nature (no I’m not joking), a revival preacher, news reporters, the Sheriff, townsfolk and others. They’re all widely drawn characters with some of the tackiest wigs you will ever see on stage. The ensemble hold Bat Boy together and allow Rob Compton (Edgar the Bat Boy), Lauren Ward (Meredith Parker) and Georgina Hagen (Shelley Parker) a chance to savour special moments when the lunacy slows and some magical relationship comedy takes over.
There’s no doubt though that the night belongs to Rob Compton whose portrayal of Edgar the Bat Boy is part Nosferatu and part older Eddie Munster. His make-up is simple but sensational in its effect. Combined with Compton’s incredible physicality especially during the first part of the production. He actually makes you believe he’s been hanging bat-like from the roof of a cave for over a decade.
Musically, the score and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe are fun and suitably catchy allowing some fabulous moments to develop. In A Home For You, a moment of emotional contact is turned into musical comedy gold as Meredith Parker (Lauren Ward) discovers a musical connection with Edgar.
It’s the central relationships between Edgar, Meredith and Shelley Parker that carries Bat Boy across the finishing line, but it’s a task that is made difficult by the show’s book which seems to run out of fizz in the last twenty minutes or so. There’s no big show crescendo in Bat Boy which is a bit of a disappointment.
Benjamin Walden’s video designs are inspired and give Bat Boy a real comic book horror spoof to the proceedings. They are simple and never out of place, however, a few sound syncing problems with news footage marred a near faultless integration of video and projection with live-action.
Luke Fredericks’s direction and Joey McKneely’s choreography is tight and functional. Sound-wise some work needs to be done to balance out the show’s driving rock score with the cast vocals which frequently got lost by sound imbalance.
Bat Boy is a lot of campy fun. I’ve missed Bat Boy’s previously UK incarnations and walked into the show without really knowing what to expect but have walked out a Bat Boy fan who will definitely be going back for seconds.
Bat Boy the musical is now playing at the Southwark Playhouse until 31 January. For more information visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk