Bat Boy the Musical
When: Friday through Sunday (7: 30 p.m. shows on Dec. 7, 8 and 2 p.m. matinees on Dec. 8, 9)
Where: Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra St.
Tickets: $24, $20, $15 (ticketrocket.org/ccpa)
Bat Boy eagerly cradled a white fluffy thing at a rehearsal.
A toy kitten? Or maybe a teddy bear?
"He's holding a rabbit," said Shane Snow, director of Bat Boy the Musical. "He's trying not to eat it."
Bat Boy the Musical is a campy 1997 musical based on a notorious character created by the Weekly World News. In 1992, eager to boost sales, the supermarket tabloid concocted a half-human/half-bat monster. Faked photos portrayed Bat Boy as a humanoid with spiked teeth and pointy ears.
The Weekly World News edition introducing Bat Boy ranks as the second-bestselling in its history. Bat Boy became a minor pop-culture phenomenon, spawning the critically acclaimed musical - which has been staged off-Broadway and in London's West End.
The Victoria production of Bat Boy the Musical is mounted by Company C, a student troupe at the Canadian College of Performing Arts. Rehearsing at the college this week, dancers surrounded Bat Boy, chanting "Kill the Bat Boy! Kill the Bat Boy!" Later, Bat Boy - played by 22-year-old Vaughn Naylor - was stuffed into a jumbo sack and yanked around on a red wagon.
The musical (by Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O'Keefe) takes inspiration directly from the tabloid yarns. Bat Boy the Musical tells of three teens who discover Bat Boy while spelunking in West Virginia. He's taken to the town veterinarian, whose wife agrees to care for him.
Local ranchers suspect the creature is killing their cattle. Nonetheless, Bat Boy learns English and even earns a high school diploma.
Plenty of other silly stuff happens - much of it bloody.
In this show, the fake gore, contained in hospital IV bags, is made with corn syrup and cranberry juice.
"It's got to be edible," explained Sophie Grassick, who plays Ruthie Taylor, one of the teens who discovers Bat Boy. "That's because Vaughn gets quite a bit of it in and around his mouth."
There are 12 young performers in the Company C cast as well as a professional band. The titles of songs, ranging from rock to rap to pop, give an inkling as to the musical's flavour: Burn You Freak Burn, Apology to a Cow and Finale: Hold Me, Bat Boy.
"It's Rocky Horror meets Sweeney Todd, really crazy and lots of blood," Grassick said.
With the role of Bat Bay, Vaughn faced several challenges. For starters, he had to shave his head and body. (A friend used an electric trimmer on his noggin.) He must sing and speak through fake pointed teeth. And Bat Boy appears nude in the opening sequence, which happens in a cave.
It was only while studying the script that Vaughn realized he'd be tackling his first-ever nude scene. He didn't mind.
"I really don't have a problem with nudity myself," he said.
Snow, the show's director, graduated from the Canadian College of Performing Arts in 2001 and later co-founded Gotta Getta Gimmick with a group of CCPA grads - a troupe that continues today. Snow went on to perform with such companies as Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre.
He's now shifting increasingly to directing - this summer, he choreographed and directed Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat for Chemainus Theatre Festival.
Snow says the CCPA is particularly good at instilling a strong work ethic in its students.
"It serves them well in the professional world. You do have to be just always working. And they do work the kids to the bone here," he said.
Indeed, Naylor and Gras-sick have worked so hard on Bat Boy the Musical they're now having anxiety dreams.
"We all have them," Naylor said. Added Grassick: "We always wake up and say to each other, 'Oh, what did you dream about the show last night?' " firstname.lastname@example.org
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