Up at Bat
Deven May, the high-flying star of Bat Boy The Musical, raps with Ricky Spears.
Bat Boy The Musical, at the Union Square Theatre, is one of the best of this breed of shows, and the Bat Boy character is the crown prince of musical misfits. Based on a bogus news story published in the even more bogus Weekly World News, Bat Boy is the story of a lost boy raised by bats in a cave and pulled back into the human world by a weird, West Virginia family. The Bat Boy himself is played by newcomer Deven May, whose Playbill biography is just mysterious enough to make one wonder where this talented fellow with the big voice has been hanging out (pardon the pun) until now. Inquiring minds want to know, so Theatermania snagged the critter just before a Sunday matinee performance.
THEATERMANIA: Let's swoop right into this. Where are you from?
DEVEN MAY: I'm from California, I like to call the San Diego area my home; I spent most of my life there.
TM: Did you do lots of theater in high school?
DEVEN: Actually, when I was in elementary school in Whittier, where I was born, I was in a band and a choir. By the time we moved to San Diego, I had been playing trombone for a couple of years. In Whittier, our instruments were subsidized; but in Vista, near San Diego, where I was in school, you had to own your own instrument. My parents said we couldn't afford to buy me a trombone, so I said I'd learn to do something on stage.
TM: What was the first musical you ever performed in?
DEVEN: The Twelve Days of Christmas.
TM: Did college follow high school?
DEVEN: Yes, Southern Utah University--but I haven't finished yet. I dropped out. I took an extended hiatus, I guess you'd call it. I just wanted to get out in the real world and work.
TM: Does this production of Bat Boy mark your first trip to New York?
DEVEN: Well, almost. My first trip to New York was a couple of years ago, when I came here to do a reading of the show over at The Director's Company. That's when [director] Scott Schwartz got involved.
TM: How did you first hear about Bat Boy?
DEVEN: A friend gave me a tip. He called me up and said I had to come over and read this script he'd gotten ahold of. I sat down and read it one day while I was over at his house, and I really identified with the character. I had to go out and audition for it! That's how it happened. Bat Boy ran in California for about two months and got great reviews. I won the 1998 Ovation award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical, which was a wonderful experience.
TM: Has this show consumed all of your time over the last couple of years, or have you done other things?
DEVEN: For a while, I was in Vegas doing a show called Notre Dame de Paris.
DEVEN: It's a great place to live if you're working there, and L.A. is only a 45-minute flight away.
TM: How are you adjusting to New York?
DEVEN: I'd love to stay for awhile. That's my plan.
TM: Do you get homesick?
DEVEN: Sure. I miss my dog. I've lived in California for virtually my whole life, but New York is somewhere I've always wanted to be.
TM: Where's your family now?
DEVEN: I've got a little bit of family in Florida, but my mom and dad are still in San Diego.
TM: Have they come to the big city to see the show?
DEVEN: Not yet. But, soon, they'll make the trip.
TM: Your singing voice is quite astonishing.
DEVEN: Gosh, I've probably done about 50 or 60 musicals since I was in junior high school. There was a point when I was doing easily five or six shows a year--as many as I could. Out in San Diego, I worked for a year at the Lawrence Welk Theatre and got to do a lot of shows there. I was what you would call "raised on musical theater."
TM: Yet there's a twinge of the operatic in the way you sing.
DEVEN: My voice teacher in San Diego, Jim Cook, trained me in opera and encouraged me to go that route, but I really didn't want to. I love musicals!
TM: I don't think I've ever before heard anyone sing while doing pull ups, hanging a good 10 feet off the ground. How did that find its way into the script?
DEVEN: I insisted on that being in the show. They told me at one point that it wouldn't work, but we finally found the one part of the set where I could do it.
TM: How do you get so pumped with energy for each performance?
DEVEN: As far as my warm-up goes, I really don't do much except try to get as much rest as I can. By Monday, let me tell you, I'm pretty well laid out.
TM: You said that, from your first reading of Bat Boy, you felt a connection with the character. In what way?
DEVEN: I battled with obesity for most of my young life and some of my adult life, so I know what the character is going through in being ostracized.
TM: How did you lose the weight?
DEVEN: I stopped eating a package of Entenmann's donuts every other day! Also, seriously, I started exercising. I was into power lifting when I was younger, and I got really big--but, when I stopped the power lifting, I gained a lot of weight. To get it off, I used Sugar Busters. I didn't eat sugar for about two years.
DEVEN: I'm not sure about that, but I have heard of people who've seen the show, like, 13 times. They're identifying with Bat Boy, and that's a good thing.
TM: One last question. Have your bat ears ever come off during a performance?
DEVEN: Early on, when I was doing the show in Los Angeles, I hadn't started shaving my head for the role and I had long hair. So I wore a bald cap and I had these ears. At one performance, during the song "Show You a Thing Or Two" with the full company, I was out there doing the choreography. As I hit this certain beat, my wig cap flew off and there went my ears! We all had to just stop and laugh.