The common conception of the American musical is little Austrian children running through fields, chimney sweeps tap-dancing on rooftops, and the ever-present rain in Spain, but HOOLIGAN Theatre Company’s production of “Bat Boy: The Musical” features blood, violence, incest and an interspecies orgy.
Based on a fictional story in the tabloid Weekly World News, “Bat Boy: The Musical” opens Friday night in Schoenberg Hall. HOOLIGAN Theatre Company, a completely student-run theater group at UCLA, is producing the show.
Traditional musical theater lovers should be forewarned that “Bat Boy” is not a typical musical.
“Some people think musical theater is campy and stupid, but there is a dark dynamic to “˜Bat Boy,'” said Emily Arkuss, a second-year communication studies student who plays one of the leads. “It makes a statement and is thought-provoking. You don’t just sit there and watch people tap-dance.”
“Bat Boy: The Musical” tells the story of a half-bat, half-boy who is raised by bats and adopted by a human family. In this new environment, Bat Boy tries to fit in with the social customs of the human community while resisting his bestial instincts for blood.
“There is a message about community, how you should treat your neighbors. At the same time, there is a story about acceptance,” said Nick Papageorge, a first-year undeclared student who will play the title role.
While some productions of “Bat Boy: The Musical” offer an over-acted and slapstick interpretation of the comedic tragedy, HOOLIGAN’s production is a more direct interpretation of “Bat Boy” that lets the comedic moments happen naturally within the tragic tale.
“My overall vision was not to bash people, but to show a trueness of human nature, of what happens when people deal with people different from themselves,” said fourth-year English student Tamara Williams, the director of the show. “The only way for a true community to be formed is through acceptance.”
In the same way, “Bat Boy: The Musical” brings together the UCLA community, with more than 57 students directly involved with various aspects of the production, from designing the costumes to playing in the orchestra to stage managing.
Students involved with “Bat Boy” have been seen spontaneously bursting into songs from the show when they see each other, solidifying the onstage and real-life communities formed through the production.
HOOLIGAN was founded by UCLA students in 2006 as a community for non-theater students who wanted to be involved in theater. With more than 250 members, the group has reached out into the community, gained a recognizable name for itself and produced four shows.
And while “Bat Boy” is a tragedy, it offers hope for the possibility of bonding over harsh and unconventional circumstances.
“You see the tragic flaw and can learn from it, which will bring the real-life community together, because the onstage community never succeeds,” said Papageorge.
“The cast and crew of “˜Bat Boy’ has its own little community, and introducing this to the UCLA community is inviting the audience to experience musical theater. … It is bonding all of us together.”