Scotch'n'Soda goes wild with Bat Boy

The cast of Scotch'n'Soda's Bat Boy: The Musical sings to a horrified yet fascinated audience. (credit: Briana  Williams/) The cast of Scotch'n'Soda's Bat Boy: The Musical sings to a horrified yet fascinated audience. (credit: Briana Williams/)

Bat Boy: The Musical can be summed up in one word: insane.

That’s not to say it isn’t a great musical. Scotch’n’Soda’s newest production is insane in all the right ways. It’s a show that combines death, twisted love, and existential suffering with a cheerful, dimple-on-the-cheek kind of humor. The dialogue is hilarious, the story dances in logical leaps, and the body count is high: Six characters and several animals are killed on stage by the end of the show.

Bat Boy is the story of the titular Bat Boy, a strange, deformed boy discovered in a West Virginian mine. Bat Boy is taken in by a veterinarian’s wife, christened “Edgar,” and taught to be a part of civilization. However, the town blames him for the deaths of several cows and hates him for his strageness and hideous appearance. Bat Boy longs for acceptance, but he has a dark secret he feels he cannot reconcile with the civilized world.

Though the premise for Bat Boy sounds absolutely ridiculous, Scotch’n’Soda does a fantastic job of giving it a sense of depth and realism. The student directors, senior psychology and decision science double major Corinne Rockoff and senior math major William Veer, left a note in the program: “In this production, we took the dark, heavy, and gory portions of the script and brought them to the forefront. What we hoped to achieve was a clearer and more poignant picture of the oppression and suppression of an outsider; accented, but not pervaded, by funny dialogue.”

The musical has a penchant for taking a darker turn at the flip of a switch. A perfectly happy musical number could be in mid-swing when a Gothic timbre suddenly rolls in: The lighting turns a deep red, and all goes to hell. The audience is kept in intense anticipation, especially in the latter part of the show when the plot takes unexpected turns.

The cast members of Bat Boy are highly enthusiastic in their roles and bring out much of the show’s humor and energy.

The lead performances were especially strong: Throughout the insane action of the story, they managed to ground their characters as real, sympathetic people. Senior decision science major John Oravec, who portrayed Bat Boy/Edgar, brings out the character’s desperate suffering. Undeclared senior CFA student James Alexander excels in his role as Dr. Parker — a pathetic, unloved man who ultimately turns to villainy. Also stellar is sophomore vocal performance major Sophia Emanuel as Dr. Parker’s wife, Meredith, who is very troubled as the only person trying to do the right thing in a cruel, unforgiving world.

As for the music, Bat Boy has a number of highly enjoyable songs. The musical makes distinctive use of electric guitar, which gives the show a darker edge. “Dance With Me Darling” is at first a soft, romantic tango that becomes more sinister as the song progresses. “Show You a Thing or Two” is a clever little song that serves as a bright and cheery segue into the darker portions of the show. “A Joyful Noise,” a blast of gospel music, was one of the most energetic songs in the show and had the audience clapping to the rhythm. In “Children, Children,” the pagan god Pan shows up to deliver a rowdy serenade on love and sensuality.

However, the show shines brightest at its most macabre. In “Apology to a Cow,” Edgar, previously established as educated and well dressed, comes onto the scene with his chest and face smeared in blood, and eulogizes his lost humanity over a decapitated cow’s head. It is raw, uncompromising, and unforgettable.

After the Saturday night show, many audience members gave highly positive reviews of the production.

“I think the directors’ choices in casting were perfect, especially James and Sophia,” said senior chemical engineering major Deanna Bucci. Bucci also praised the excellent music direction of the production.

“The show was great. The special effects and blood were great. Bat Boy is very different from most musicals. I hadn’t known about the show before and haven’t seen anything like this ... but I really enjoyed it. I thought the performances for Bat Boy and Meredith were spot on,” remarked senior economics and statistics major Emily Wright.

“There was a lot of social commentary. The Bat Boy was really great himself, and the mother. The music direction was particularly fantastic,” said sophomore cognitive science major Sam Cheyette.

As for the message of Bat Boy, it focuses on the conflict between man’s dual natures, human versus beast, and the difficulty of being a social outsider. The remaining social commentary plays second fiddle to the bizarre spectacle of the show. The first few bars of the introduction say there is a lesson to be learned, but what lesson is that exactly? Society is cruel? Love blinds? Don’t raise cows on mountains?

The unclear message aside, Bat Boy is endlessly entertaining. It’s a ridiculous story mixed with gruesome tragedy, which makes a perfect combination for Halloween.