Trent Byers & Mike Fryman in Bat Boy:The Musical. Photo: Chicken Coop

Bat Boy: The Musical

Story and Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming
Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe
Directed by Jason Cooper

A review by Jennifer Starr

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Starr. All rights reserved.

Last night I was fortunate to witness a truly fun show that lifted my spirits and made me laugh so much that I thought the guy sitting in front of me wanted to shush me. Bat Boy: The Musical from The Chicken Coop Theatre Company is delightfully campy, moves at a great pace, features a stellar ensemble of strong and versatile performers, and left me wanting more!  It is truly a wonderful way to kick off the spooky season.

Based on a “true tale” supermarket tabloid article featured on the cover of Weekly World News in 1992, Bat Boy: The Musical premiered in 1997 in California at Tim Robbins’ Actors’ Gang Theatre on Halloween. It tells the harrowing story of a poor boy with bat-like features found by spelunkers and then brought to live in the home of a rural West Virginian family. The townsfolk get wind of the situation, nearby cattle are dying, and accusations and condemnation abound. The tension culminates when a local evangelist holds a revival where the riled-up townies, an inept sheriff, and Bat Boy’s adoptive family clash.  Souls and Salvation and Wigs! On My!

The whole cast shines in this performance, filled with dance and music. I applaud the wonderfully bawdy character-driven ensemble. Bridget Thomas, Mike Fryman, and Karly Jones play the sincere Parker Family that takes in the freakish Bat Boy and educates him. The ensemble players each had wonderful solos as different crazy town folk and were captivating, energetic storytellers. Robbie Smith, Alex Roby, Tyler Akin, Mimi Housewright, Kathy Van Ryzin, and Kate Holland Ballowe make up this dynamic package of players. Our hero, the aberration known as Bat Boy, is portrayed by the charming, velvety-voiced Trent Everett Byers. Other standouts include, Thomas’ portrayal of a devoted mother, Roby’s Evangelical Pastor, and Jones and Byers had the audience enraptured with their magnificent duet, “Inside Your Heart”.

The simple set, designed by Jason Cooper and constructed by Bluegrass Production, worked magically. I enjoyed the multi-leveled cave structure that helped create sculptured photographic images. The lighting was fitting for the ambiance and story, but there were a few cues and places that lacked enough light to see the performers’ faces at times. I enjoyed the amplification of sound with mic packs on the actors much more than I thought I would in the smaller MEX space, especially in the cave scene. There were a few instances of unbalanced and louder music tracks that could be the result of opening night technical issues, but they were overshadowed by very strong singing voices.

I am in awe of all the talent that was packed into one performance and applaud Jason Cooper’s direction and leadership in this outstanding production. Oh, it is a delightful and silly romp! I enjoyed this performance and highly recommend using the restroom prior to seeing it. 

Featuring Trent Everett Byers, Bridget Thomas, Mike Fryman, Karly Jones, Robbie Smith, Alex Roby, Tyler Akin, Mimi Housewright, Kathy Van Ryzin, and Kate Holland Ballowe

Bat Boy: The Musical

September 28, 29, 30, October 5, 6, & 7 @ 7:30 pm
October 1 & 8 @ 2:00 pm

The Chicken Coop Theatre
The MEX at The Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Jennifer Starr is a Louisville Director, Actor, Stage Manager, and avid theatre goer with a BA in Theatre Arts with minors in Music and English from Eastern Kentucky University.  She serves on the board of directors of the Mind’s Eye Theatre Company and often assists local community theatre productions with her time and talent.