Presented by The Office for the Arts at Harvard
Book by Kythe Farley & Brian Flemming
Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe
Directed by Ally Kiley
Music directed by Cynthia Meng
Review by Kitty Drexel
Trigger warning: sexy animal orgy, partial male nudity, incest
(Cambridge, MA) The Office for the Arts at Harvard has had the rare privilege to host the creators of Bat Boy for a workshop on their monster musical. They have made some significant edits: shortening the run time from 3 hours to 2, cutting of songs, cutting of incidental plot lines and some script editing. The current production presented in the Farkatorium Center for the Arts is still the same Pygmalion meets Edward Scissorhands meets Christ child storyline as the original except a lot simpler. The edits have smoothed over the wrinkles of the original show and kept the endearingly off-putting essence of the off-Broadway science fiction jewel.
The plot of Bat Boy is here. For those unfamiliar with the show, the creature from The Weekly World News, a tabloid of epic kitsch and derision, is found in a West Virginia cave by delinquent teens. It is told through spoopy pop rock guitar and piano riffs, intentionally terrible drag, Christian revival, and puppetry. It’s a glorious event for camp and trashy vintage aficionados. It’s a delirious acid trip for the rest of you.
Harvard’s production has a slow beginning but is otherwise fun and well-crafted. The ensemble dancing is an unfortunate mess (these are “singers who move”)… except for the chaotic animal love orgy which was hilariously perfect. The singing voices are curiously strong for a student production. In particular, Liz Kantor was a notable stand out in the ensemble. She took the stage so well that it surprises this reviewer that she wasn’t featured in a more prominent role.
Jacob Rienstra is excellent in the title role. He has a clear, strong voice and strong stage presence. He is also stacked like a Jonas brother. Casting him as Bat Boy makes sense as he has the upper body strength necessary to accommodate the role’s physical requirements. And yet, he’s about as monstrous as Alex Pettyfer in Beastly, a movie about a tormented, tattooed hottie who falls in love with Vanessa Hudgens. One look at Bat Boy’s chiseled arms and lean legs and it’s no wonder that Shelley (Tess Davison) falls for him. Factor in our culture’s obsession with vampires and resistance becomes futile. So, it’s weird that Rienstra is visibly muscular but it’s a problem that anyone with an appreciation for toned dudes can live with.
As for the updates, most of them were wise decisions. “Ugly Boy,” “Whatcha Wanna Do,” and “Another Dead Cow” were cut and the show’s pace was better for it. Dialogue was added to boost the plot in positive ways. Some of the lyrics were updated for purposes unexplained. For example, my favorite lyrics were changed. They used to be “Let me file your taxes/ I am a CPA.” While Edgar isn’t actually a CPA that isn’t the point. What matters is that he could be if he wanted to. My point is that some of the updates are arbitrary. If you are a fan, please don’t take them personally.
Harvard’s production of Bat Boy is great. It’s fun, catchy and a good time if you don’t have a stick up your butt. My suggestion is to do a teensy bit of reading up on it before attending. Otherwise, it’s a lighthearted good time with a moral compass. Don’t deny the beast inside of you even if it makes you question yourself. Hold your Bat Boy; love your Bat Boy.