The Department of Performing Arts’ ‘Bat Boy’ rock musical shocks audience with dark themes and humorous dialogue
Audience leaves theater with confusion and hope for a less divided society
American University's Department of Performing Arts adaptation of “Bat Boy: The Musical,” entertained, offended and alarmed audiences all at once with its unique plot and encrypted messages. The plot seemed to be out-of-the-box, and the cast and crew did a wonderful job bringing this quirky story to life.
In this story, a half-bat, half-boy creature is found by a group of teenagers in a cave in Hope Falls, West Virginia in 1992, unable to speak or understand his surroundings.
Over time, audiences watch Bat Boy, named Edgar, transform into a distinguished and educated young man, hoping to be accepted in society. Unfortunately, society is not so eager to accept him into their world, and Edgar faces the consequences of not fitting into the societal “norm.”
The story was a difficult one to tell, not only because of the plot, but also because of the excessive amount of preparation the creative and production staff went through, due to the complicated elements included in the show.
“I thought this afternoon’s run was really good. I feel like they’ve just been getting better every time we do it,” Jason Zuckerman, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences who played Edgar/Bat Boy, said. “There are a lot of elements to this show, to put in the fights, the music, the blood, so the more we do it, I just feel like the better it gets.”
Audiences first are introduced to the concept of the show with the opening song, “Hold Me, Bat Boy,” with lyrics like, “Would no one defend him, protect him, befriend him, would none hear his cry? Or would they detest him, arrest him, molest him? You can’t just stand by.” Laughs and glances of confusion at each other by the crowd were seen by almost all.
“I really like our opening scene, I think it gives us a lot of energy,” Valerie Nagel, a senior in CAS who played Reverend Billy Hightower, said. “I love being able to talk to the audience during my scene.”
“Bat Boy” is filled with unexpected twists, tragic backstories and uncomfortable revelations that can be uniquely experienced to their full extent by an in-person audience. AU’s cast does a sublime job at portraying such tough topics with light and maturity.
“It’s really nice getting the preparation, having people explain exactly what’s going to happen,” said CAS sophomore Hannah Briceño Knauss who plays Mother and was the Dance Captain for the show. “I really liked the director’s vision of ‘implication, not imitation,’ which I think was really important and displayed throughout the whole show and opened up a lot of discussion to where we can talk about the things we never really shied away from.”
As mentioned in the trigger warning for the show, the musical tackles heavy topics like suicide and murder. Yet, the writing manages to keep a humorous dialogue alongside the more troublesome scenes.
“I think the show went really well,” CAS sophomore Robin Kane, who played Mayor Maggie and was the Fight Captain for the show, said. “The energy was good, the vibes were there. I think we all worked really hard, and it paid off. Making the stakes and the intentions really serious for the characters makes it funny for the audience, and it helps get darker themes across in a lighter way.”
It seemed the cast was self-aware of the unusual concept of the show and almost played into that idea when portraying each character. The cast seemed to know when people would want to laugh, or cringe, and adapted their dialogue to match the mood.
“It definitely takes some practice to be able to separate yourself from the content once the show is over,” Zuckerman said. “That’s something we talked about from the very beginning of the process, and how to get yourself in and out of character. It really just took a lot of practice from me to leave everything on the stage.”
This article was edited by Hannah Langenfeld, Kylie Bill and Nina Heller. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Sophia Rocha and Stella Guzik.