By Elaine Liner
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Now, onto the orgy scene, because what is a show about a blood-drinking bat child without a barnyard sex romp? Using visual references from Cats and The Lion King, the writers of Bat Boy: The Musical satirize the piousness of those creature-features by throwing an all-animal sex party for the mid-Act 2 song "Children, Children." After Edgar is liberated from his cage, he is driven into the woods by a torch-wielding mob of redneck townsfolk who blame him for unexplained cattle mutilations. Under a full moon, Edgar and Shelley are serenaded by the god Pan (Morgana Shaw). As the couple dance erotically in the woodsy mist, half a dozen farm animals (actors in leotards and fuzzy masks) creep around them and engage in full-on, slow-motion cock-a-doodle-don'ts that include some crazy cross-species threesomes. As a send-up of the be-whiskered fuzzy-wuzzies in child-friendly Disney musicals, this scene should be a scream. But the action is so X-rated, the copulating fauna look more like The Joy of Sex meets Animal Farm. Thank heavens for that overactive fog machine, which spares the audience too close a look at the graphic clucking and sucking.
Once that horror is over, we are rewarded with the best song in the show, Edgar's solo after he leaves Shelley and goes off in search of a bloody snack. In "Apology to a Cow," which clearly was inspired by Stephen Sondheim's score for Sweeney Todd, Edgar tells the severed head of the dead animal why he had to kill her:
I'm sorry, friend, I have to.
I know, I know, it's rude.
I shouldn't work my problems out with food.
Here again young Brewer soars, making this song, bizarre as it is, an absolutely heartbreaking ballad. It's this show's twisted version of Cats' "Memory." Edgar, all alone in the moonlight, chewing on cow head and ruefully ruminating.
Of course, at the end of this monster-needs-love tale, Edgar and the townsfolk call a truce and embrace each other's differences. He also finds out who his real parents are and what scientific experiment by the evil vet caused the mix-up that resulted in Edgar's unusual birth defects. He does not find love. Turns out he and Shelley are a little too closely related for that. In the finale, the characters, living and dead, return for a reprise of the show's biggest number, the rockin' "Hold Me, Bat Boy."
Flawed but fun, Bat Boy is worth seeing for the theater-insider jokes and Brewer's terrific performance. Based on his fine work in this show, this young man's career in musical theater is just a bat's squeak away.
Theatre Three has announced its next season of shows, all chosen for their iconic status as works for the stage. The Agatha Christie thriller The Hollow opens the 2003-'04 season July 10. Larry Gelbart's Sly Fox, adapted from the classic Volpone, follows in August. After that, it's Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession in October. Best title on the lineup looks to be Claudia Shear's take on Mae West, Dirty Blonde, which had an award-winning run on Broadway last year and will come to Theatre Three next March. Call 214-871-3300.