The upward flight of the strange, bloody musical Bat Boy has been unique in the annals of theatre. After being promised for year after year, this spin on the popular Weekly World News character finally opened at the Actors' Gang El Centro Space with a short one-month run in Nov., 1997. I was there on opening night--it was actually the first time I met the late Polly Warfield, who was there reviewing for Drama-Logue. I had a good old time at the show, though I hardly imagined it would make it beyond this incarnation. Among the cast of that production were the inimitable Chris Wells, the awesome Kaitlin Hopkins, the charming Ann Closs-Farley (who also did the costumes, I recall), and the striking Deven May as the titular creature himself.
Only Deven is still with the show, which made it to Off-Broadway in 2001 (with Hopkins still on board), and is now on London's West End. While the reception has been decidedly mixed--with many critics wondering what this sick, campy romp is doing in such exalted surroundings--the show is still running, and I was happy to pass the Shaftesbury Theatre several times on my recent visit, and read with pride the names of authors Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming, and composer/lyricist Laurence O'Keefe. I even took this crappy picture with my Motorola phone camera:
Note the main blurb over the door: "Yuk!" Obviously the show's marketers understand what they've got here, better than critics who've called it "one of those cultish New York shows that should quickly be returned to sender," or quipped, "Like its vampiric hero, Bat Boy sometimes bites, but it also sucks." And London audiences seem to get it, too--also on the West End is the uproarious Jerry Springer, the Opera (now featuring David Soul--yes, that David Soul--in the lead). Even the current Sweeney revival I raved about here is pretty non-traditional fare for the tony West End. I don't expect Broadway, which made such quick work of Caroline, or Change and Assassins, to embrace such innovation or irreverence any time soon, alas. But in L.A. and London, it seems, there's still hope.
For more information about the various infestations--ahem, incarnations of this musical entertainment, you can hang out here.