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Bat Boy: The Musical | London Palladium

Where else would London’s musical theatre community be on Halloween than the London Palladium, watching a horror rock musical about a bat child who just wants to be loved but is spurned due to his unfortunate appetite for blood?

Inspired by a spoof news article about a half-boy half-bat creature found in a cave in rural America, Bat Boy is the brainchild of composer and lyricist Laurence O’Keefe and writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, brought to London for one night only by producers Shanay Holmes and Chris Steward for West End Musical Productions and directed by Dean Johnson.

Bat Boy (Jordan Luke Gage), or Edgar to his friends, is brought into the home of local vet Dr Parker (Trevor Dion Nicholas) where the vet’s wife Meredith (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) takes pity on him and teaches him to speak. He soon becomes more eloquent (and much more British) than the rest of his adopted family, and sets his heart on finding acceptance in the town, a difficult task when they are convinced that he is killing their cattle. But he does find something of what he is looking for in the Parkers’ daughter Shelley (Jodie Steele), until secrets are revealed which will blow all of their lives apart.

This production promised fan favourite Jordan Luke Gage “as fans have never seen him before”, and it certainly does not disappoint, as he is transformed into the Bat Boy complete with fangs, contact lenses and prosthetic ears. Thankfully though, the fangs do not hinder his spectacular singing voice, with standout songs including ‘Apology to a Cow’ and ‘Let Me Walk Among You.’

But it is Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who is the standout, commanding the stage in her portrayal of Meredith, with her expressive face and spectacular comic timing. Her songs, too, stop the audience in their tracks, particularly ‘A Home For You’ and ‘Three Bedroom House’, the latter a duet with on-stage daughter Jodie Steele.

Steele brings a darker edge to Shelley, typically played as an all-American girl, and her Goth portrayal gives the developing relationship with Edgar more weight. She is given limited opportunity to showcase her vocal range in the first act, but comes into her own in the second with the powerful ‘Inside Your Heart.

Rounding out the principal cast is Trevor Dion Nicholas as Dr Parker. Nicholas brings a humour to Parker’s character which almost makes it possible to forget that he is the one making everything go wrong, while he is also able to raise the roof with songs including ‘Dance With Me, Darling.’

Among the rest of the cast there are standout performances from Jenny O’Leary as Mayor Maggie, and Tosh Wanogho-Maud as Reverend Hightower, whose rousing performance of ‘A Joyful Noise’ at the top of the second act welcomes the audience back from the interval with a bang. 

The West End has seen its fair share of staged concerts in recent years, ranging from low-key open-book affairs to concerts so staged that they are practically a full production. This falls somewhere between the two, with sufficient staging to set the scene while remaining noticeably pared down.

The use of torches shining into the audience in several sequences is a dramatic, if sometimes blinding choice, while projections onto the curtained backdrop work well to set the scene, particularly when video from designers Dan Light and Andrea Scott is used to provide a glimpse into the past. Rhys Wilkinson’s outstanding movement direction also requires a mention, as this really enhances the production, particularly in the scene where Shelley and Edgar meet for the first time.

O’Keefe’s score is flawless, and both his lyrics and Farley and Flemming’s book are tight, witty and utterly absurd, even with one of the strangest songs (‘Children, Children’, which features the Greek god Pan, animal orgies and an incest wedding) cut to tone down the plot twist slightly.

The songs are performed with a live band and backing from members of the West End Musical Choir, but there were some sound issues during the production, with the band sometimes drowning out the actors’ voices, particularly in the group numbers which are important to the advancement of the plot.

Bat Boy is a horror musical, and it certainly does horrify, but even in this toned-down version it is a little (or perhaps a lot) too dark and twisted to be anything but a cult classic. But a cult following is hardly a meagre achievement, and given a longer run to work out some of its kinks the success of this production is only likely to grow.


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