Some theatrical musicals originate as great novels (Les Misérables), others (The Lion King) as beloved cinema. Some come to us by way of historical biographies (Hamilton) and some, believe it or not, are still written from scratch. But only one popular musical began as a story in the Weekly World News supermarket tabloid. Bat Boy: The Musical was written in 1997 by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe and made it all the way to London’s West End.
No, it’s not about a caped crime-fighter battling a preteen Joker and Catgirl. Rather, it’s about Edgar, a mutant child adopted by a West Virginia family (Allie Milburn, Chelsea Pedro and Guy Simpson III) after being discovered by spelunkers (Sky Bastedo, G. Forest Melchert and Payton White). Think Frankenstein or Edward Scissorhands, but with fangs and a five-piece rock combo. It’s directed by Dr. Lauren Love, a fall 2016 hire as drama professor for South Puget Sound Community College, aided by musical director (and SPSCC music professor) John Lehrack.
Love earned her master of fine arts degree in performance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a doctorate in theater history, criticism and theory at the University of Minnesota. She comes to SPSCC from a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County. “I really had a feminist, avant-garde sort of bent,” she says. “I was trained in an Asian theater discipline.” Her expertise as an actor includes the (Tadashi) Suzuki method, choreographer Mary Overlie’s Viewpoints and other body-based performance techniques, which, she explains, are about “breaking down the elements physically and vocally.”
Bat Boy: The Musical is “a really abstract way of dealing with some specific things we’re dealing with right now,” says Love, referring to both SPSCC’s student body and the world at large. “It’s about the individual’s relationship to society. How do we make room for everyone — not only make room but celebrate our differences?”
Love characterizes her production of Bat Boy: The Musical as having “a dark, edgy quality. The shadows are important.” It turns out, in fact, that Edgar (Ethan Grabowski) isn’t its only unusual character. “There’s something unique about them,” says Love, emphasizing the theme. “It’s that very thing that makes them wonderful.”
(Note: This production had to be postponed for a month due to unavoidable technical issues. The dates below have been revised to reflect that delay.)
What: Bat Boy: The Musical
Where: Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts,
South Puget Sound Community College,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia
When: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays;
2 p.m. Sundays, June 23 and July 2
How much: $10-$15
Learn more: 360-596-5200 | SPSCC