Arts Beat Exclusive!!!!
Bat Boy Found Living at The Abbey!!!!
Ricky Cona sinks his teeth into the title role.
If all you had to go on was the title, you might guess that Bat Boy, The Musical is a nostalgic baseball yarn, maybe about a fresh-faced kid with polio who is befriended by Babe Ruth and winds up kicking off his braces and rounding third with his hero after the Bambino hits the homer he promised.
But who’d believe a story like that? No, Bat Boy is a realistic, straight-from-the-headlines tale, about a half-boy, half-bat, blood-sucking creature with pointy ears and fangs who talks with a British accent and sheds his wings every three years in order to regenerate a new pair.
You can’t make this stuff up. Well, actually, yes you can. The existence of bat boy was breathtakingly revealed in an early-‘90s cover story in the Weekly World News supermarket tabloid (“Bat Child Found in Cave!’’). In subsequent stories, bat boy was pursued by police in a hectic car chased but escaped; lived in the New York City’s subway system; and endorsed John McCain’s presidential bid but later switched to Barack Obama.
Sadly, the Weekly World News went out of business, and for some reason or other, no other newspaper picked up the story. But bat boy lives on in this musical, which had a successful off-Broadway run in 2001 and is being staged at The Abbey through Oct. 31. It’s a perfect fit for the spooky season and that scrappy Thornton Park cabaret, where director Kenny Howard has established an excellent, um, batting average with a series of well-polished productions.
In this one, he and an enthusiastic cast have figured out the secret of putting on a show like this, which is to use the same strategy the tabloids do: You play it straight. You put on a musical that features choreography and singing that is so spectacular that the audience forgets how ridiculous the story line is.
Ricky Cona not only sings beautifully for a guy with a set of plastic fangs in his mouth but projects a believable bat boy (who knew you’d ever see “believable” and “bat boy” in the same sentence?) as he emerges from the cave and tries to convince the residents of a nearby town to accept him. Rebecca Fisher and William Flanagan, as a couple who more or less adopt him, have an astounding dance number and are adept at, um, batting tricky lyrics back and forth. And Jennafer Newberry makes a charming love interest when bat boy swoops her up in his arms. Claws. Whatever.
This show inspires me so much that I am considering writing a song and offering it to Kenny Howard to incorporate into the production. I don’t have a melody or any lyrics yet but I have a great title: I’m Guano Love You Forever.
For tickets: abbeyorlando.com