Even those who have avoided Bat Boy The Musical, wary of the Weekly World News-inspired Off-Broadway show about a half-boy/half-bat, will find much to enjoy in the show's just-released cast recording. Produced by Andrew Lippa (best known as the composer of MTC's The Wild Party), the album clocks in at a tidy one hour and features a number of memorable songs and fine singing by a terrific ensemble. The CD is quite complete, including not only some nice reprises but also the 47-second gem "Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby," in which Trent Armand Kendall urges his little girl not to fear the Bat Boy: "Sleep little Ruthie baby/No one's gonna hurt you/Sheriff's gonna have that/Little freak destroyed/Or if he's a coward and he/Won't protect my children/Mama's gonna get the sheriff/Un-em-ployed." Well, this is a strange show.
What's best about the cast recording is that it causes one to fully realize what a wonderful and varied score composer/lyricist Laurence O'Keefe has written for Bat Boy. The show itself boasts some outstanding performances, and there are a lot of laughs in Keythe Farley & Brian Flemming's book, but many will be delighted to find that this is in fact a remarkably tuneful score, notably with songs such as "Dance With Me, Darling," "A Joyful Noise," and "Children, Children." Those who have seen the show may not even recognize that last song by its title (it's the one with the stuffed animals; need I say more?), but it has quickly become one of my favorite tracks as it's now no longer obscured by the distracting if perversely hilarious staging.
The most catchy song is probably the opening number, "Hold Me, Bat Boy," a rock anthem that may lead one to believe this is going to be a score along the lines of Rent or Tommy. It's not; the song is, in fact, one of very few of that nature. Though the band, under the musical direction of Alex Lacamoire, is of the guitar-bass-keyboards variety, the music on the whole has a very traditional sound, with items such as the sweet ballad "A Home For You" and the song-and-dance number "Show You A Thing Or Two." O'Keefe does something quite rare here in creating a pop-influenced musical comedy score that is highly effective dramatically and meshes perfectly with the book. This becomes especially apparent as the music builds to the first act finale, the rousing "Comfort and Joy."
What is not as evident in listening to this album is the full genius of some of the performances, particularly those of Deven May as Bat Boy and Kaitlin Hopkins as Meredith. Much of the humor in Bat Boy comes through in facial expressions, meaningful pauses, and sight gags; absent these things, some of the songs lose their comic punch. On the other hand, what becomes more clear is the humor in O'Keefe's lyrics. He's a handy craftsman and has a way of sticking the most unexpected phrases into his songs in keeping with the oddly earnest spirit of the show. In "Three Bedroom House," for instance, Meredith sings to her daughter about how they will move away from the town:
Gonna get a homeowner's loan
Gonna get an unlisted phone
Gonna get away from a
Town gone insane.
Then we'll get a
Three bedroom house
Three bedroom house ...
With a great big pit bull
On a chain!
A handful of extra musicians play on the recording. The CD booklet includes the complete lyrics, a synopsis, and a few color photos. With something for everyone--rock, pop, gospel, and good old-fashioned musical theater-type songs--it's a worthwhile purchase for anyone who appreciates a musical with an off-kilter sense of humor. So, hold your Bat Boy, touch your Bat Boy, buy your Bat Boy cast recording. And love it.