Bat Boy Finds Home at EWU

Play combines music, comedy and horror


Photo by Jane Martin

Cast rehearses the play Batboy.

By Davis Hill, Eagle Life Writer


This spring, the EWU Theatre Department will perform “Bat Boy: The Musical,” a musical play based upon the infamous “Weekly World News” character.

Bat Boy, a half-boy, half-bat creature who is also a decorated U.S. Marine, first appeared in a 1992 issue of the gag supermarket tabloid “Weekly World News.” Over the course of the 1990s the tabloid documented the zany adventures of Bat Boy, which included police arrests, stints in Iraq and failed cloning projects.

In 1997, writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming decided to write a musical based upon the character of Bat Boy, with music by Laurence O’Keefe. The script is an original story based on Bat Boy’s first tabloid appearance and differs from the events depicted in the “Weekly World News.”

According to Jeff Sanders, EWU assistant professor of theater and director of the musical, the success of the “Weekly World News” articles created a cult of fans hungry for anything Bat Boy. When the musical opened off-Broadway in April 2001, it was expected to be a hit. After the September 2001 terrorist attacks, however, Bat Boy all but faded from memory.

Sanders said he is excited to bring “Bat Boy: The Musical” to Eastern, citing it as one of his favorite musicals. He explained that the play combines camp horror with slapstick and farce to reveal many unsavory aspects of human nature.

“It functions the same as ‘Dracula’ did in the Victorian age. … [it examines] anything that’s different from us,” he said. “Fear brings out the worst in people. It reminds me of ‘Frankenstein,’ or ‘Jekyll and Hyde.’”

The music, which comprises many different styles including rock, gospel and rap will be performed by a band of professional area musicians. Sanders plans to feature the band alongside the actors.

“[In] some musicals we want to try to hide the band . . . I want them to be on stage, maybe wearing bat ears,” he said. “It’s the kind of musical where we don’t hide theatricality.”

Cody Bray, a recent graduate of EWU’s music department, will play the lead role of Bat Boy.

Bray explained that the musical is extremely demanding in terms of vocal technique. The music spans a range of three and a half octaves and occupies a diverse range of styles.

A large part of Bray’s preparation for the role involves getting in touch with a more animalistic side. He has studied animal thoughts and urges, practiced running around in dark rooms and spent time working out in order to develop his physicality in the role.

Bray referenced Bat Boy’s half-human, half-animal nature as a primary factor in developing his character.

“[Bat Boy] learns how to speak, [but] the town rebels against him,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of things that devolve him back into a beast.”

Actor Lexie Hoffpauir, who plays Shelley Parker, also cited the musical’s novel mix of styles and approaches.

“Everything that you would hope for in a really big great musical and in a scary creepy horror film are combined really nicely,” she said. “This musical embodies both of those things.”

Of special interest is the musical’s use of creative and sometimes inane staging and casting. Actor Ed Warren, for example, was cast as four separate supporting characters including a tortoise and a woman.

Bray said that although the preparation is very difficult, he is excited to be working with such a fine cast.

“This cast is probably one of the best casts we could have put together,” said Bray. “Everyone is working their hardest. It’s really cool.”

Hoffpauir agreed with Bray.

“Everyone’s just so talented,” she said. “When we get on stage, all of that great fun we’re having is gonna translate. … The audience is going to love it.”