Bat Boy @ Shaftesbury Theatre, London

cast list
Deven May
Emma Williams

directed by
Mark Wing-Davey

A few years ago, a little-known musical named La Cava premiered in the West End. Written by amongst others Dana Broccoli and Lawrence O’Keefe, it told the story of the Spanish invasion of Morocco. It had one of the most wonderfully well-written and passionate musical scores ever heard on the West End stage, but apparently failed for a number of reasons, including a poor publicity campaign, or so I’m told.

The writer of this score, O’Keefe, very curiously leaves this episode out of his biography in the programme for Bat Boy, his latest offering which from what I can tell was written before La Cava.

Bat Boy has a rather good advertising campaign, which may allow more people to hear O’Keefe’s work, which would be a jolly good thing.

Although more poppy than La Cava (which is scored for a full symphony orchestra without any sign of a drum kit), there are a number of musical similarities evident. O’Keefe is certainly one of the most exciting young musical composers around, and he manages to do what Leonard Bernstein achieved so perfectly in, for instance, West Side Story: technically interesting harmonies and rhythms with an equally singable melody line.

The story concerns the discovery of a bat-like human in a cave ‘many miles to the South’, who is taken in and brought up by the good doctor’s family, much to the horror of the local villagers, whose cows keep dying – which is naturally blamed on Bat Boy.

Well, that’s it. But it’s certainly great fun, and the audience were in hysterics on the night I was there. Reviews have been saying it has the ingredients of a cult hit, but Bat Boy has far more technical mastery, humour and morals than is normally present within the label of ‘cult’.

Deven May is brilliant as Bat Boy himself, has been with the show since in premiered in America almost 10 years ago, and has won many prestigious awards for the role. Indeed, the musical had a successful New York off-Broadway run, which was cut short by the terrorist atrocities in 2001.

Bat Boy The Musical has some wonderful songs, extremely witty lyrics, and a very interesting set design featuring much use of technological projections – but not to the detriment of the story – which can be so often the case.

Bat Boy is much better than most of the musicals doing the rounds for the moment, but be cautioned: contrary to what a national Sunday broadsheet claimed, Bat Boy is certainly not suitable for children.

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