Saxtons River >> Main Street Arts (MSA) announced the opening of its production of "Bat Boy, the Musical", beginning Friday at 7:30 p.m., with additional evening shows on Saturday, Thursday March 10, Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12. MSA will also host 2 p.m. matinees this Saturday and Sunday, and again on Sunday, March 13.
The show, which Managing Director Margo Ghia called,"The loudest, funniest, and easily the flat-out weirdest show Main Street Arts has ever produced," is an edgy mix of slapstick surrealism, and camp horror which mixes elements of hillbilly rock and post-modern Broadway into its boisterous score. Bat Boy's take on contemporary violence and prejudice is far from subtle. It is probably not suitable for kids or the easily offended, but if you are ready for a show that MSA Board member Michael Duffin characterized as "Hamlet meets Rocky Horror in a coal mining town with weird animal science," then this is the musical for you.
The show is based on a long running series of "news" stories that were carried by an extremely odd little supermarket tabloid newspaper called the Weekly World News. Buried next to the checkout line alongside US Magazine and the National Enquirer, it would regular feature stories about Elvis sightings, and the unlikely adventures of "Bat Boy;" a half-bat half human hybrid, that was trying to make his way in America's heartland.
Of course the story was all the most fatuous nonsense. The Weekly World News was a satirical publication that happily trashed every tacky convention of the tabloid world even as it won a deeply devoted group of followers who wished every unlikely conspiracy story it contained was true. But over time, tabloid TV news and the Internet got too weird and sad to make fun of anymore. The publishers closed shop, then asked themselves, what would be the consequence today if their odd bat boy fable was true? What if something that strange actually occurred in America's increasingly intolerant heartland? Bat Boy the Musical was their answer.
The show's plot is simple and weird: Alien/vampire bat creature is discovered in Middle America; Alien tries to fit in; Alien is subjected to bigotry and religious panic; All hell breaks loose; Alien gets really mad, and hungry (and that's not good).
If this sounds really stupid, it's supposed to. But within a brilliantly bizarre and intentionally tacky celebration of fanaticism, prejudice and mindless hysteria is a surprisingly thoughtful plea for tolerance. In fact, Bat Boy might contain the most sophisticated take on the origins of terrorism and mass violence to be found in American theater today. It's a surprise to find this in a musical show that gleefully celebrates its own triviality.
According to Artistic Director David Stern, the music is "high-quality, pure Americana. It's a rich mix of blues, gospel, and old time rock-n-roll all supported by great acting and singing in a production with all the creative touches you expect of Main Street Arts."
MSA's theater company has increasingly distinguished itself for the quality of its productions. Like MSA"s production of "Les Miserables" last year, the show makes the most of MSA's intimate Heptebo Theater. The audience will find itself in the heart of a root-and-branch filled cave completely surrounded by the action.
Stern promises that if the action is a little intense sometimes, the results are more than worth-while. He says, "It's kind of nuts. You'll like it"
Tickets are $20 in advance, $23 at the door, and are being sold at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Misty Valley Books in Chester, at Main Street Arts in Saxtons River. They also available online at mainstreetarts.org and can be purchased over the phone at 802-869-2960.
(Parental Advisory; this show features adult themes and violence that makes it unsuitable for young children).