Bat Boy: from cave to theater to USF

If a half-child/ half-bat creature was alive, news agencies would be all over the story, and TV stations would have unending coverage. From that mish mash of information, the general public would hardly be able to discern truth from myth. Fortunately for all, the scoop of the aviary mammal/ child combo is exclusive to the Weekly World News. But now even the measly USF student can experience Bat Boy in all his glory.

“(The Weekly World News) published the first Bat Boy story about 10 years ago,” Michael Innocenti, a senior in theater arts, said. “It was one of their most successful stories.”

Evidently, the story of Bat Boy was exciting to Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, who decided to pay homage to the creature and write a play about him. Their off-Broadway musical includes rock, rap, gospel and show tunes. The play opens at USF Theatre I tonight.

“(Bat Boy is) not normal theater,” said Innocenti, who plays the part of Bat Boy himself. “It’s a spoof of all musicals ever made. We use puppets to spoof Lion King (for example). This play has every element: horror, comedy, romance. It’s unlike anybody has ever seen.”

The play fits in with the season, too.

“It’s perfect for Halloween,” said Brandon Wilson, a senior majoring in theater performance playing Dr. Parker. “There’s lots of blood and (it’s) gruesome. You know, things people will enjoy.”

Director Robin Gordon chose to produce this particular play for other reasons.

“I saw it two years ago in New York and I found it very funny,” she said. “The music is accessible to college students, the characters are young. Also, the rights (for the play) came through this year.”

The story follows Bat Boy who was found in a cave near a fictional Hope Falls, West Virginia.

“In general, (the play is) about (Bat Boy’s) attempt to integrate into society,” Gordon said. “Ultimately it’s about how we judge people as a result of our prejudices.”

During the show, 12 actors play almost 20 different characters.

“We have a chance to go into different characters right in front of the audience,” said Tina Gonzalez, playing both Ruthie and Ned in the production. “It’s obvious we’re changing (because we do it on stage).”

Gordon says that the on-stage changes were in the original production she saw as well.

“It’s part of the goofiness of the play,” she said. “It’s not to be taken too seriously.”

The musical, which includes a varied score, is very modern.

“Every time people hear about musicals they think about people singing lots of songs,” Innocenti said. “But this is (a play for the) new era. There are so many eclectic types of music that come together (here).”

A live band — including two keyboard players each with two keyboards — performs the score of the production.

“It’s a four-piece band that plays like a full orchestra,” said Alex Crow, a senior majoring in theater performance.

But Bat Boy isn’t just about carnage and wild beasts.

“(Bat Boy) has a moral lesson,” Innocenti said. “It’s about a thing that’s not accepted and finally when he starts to fit in, everyone turns against him.”