Musical `Bat Boy` puts a wacky, hilarious spin on concept of misfit

  • Published : Apr 6, 2010 - 13:48
  • Updated : Apr 6, 2010 - 13:48

The unorthodox Off-Broadway musical "Bat Boy" is set to greet Korean audiences from Aug. 11, posing questions about the meaning of being normal in a society that is unwilling to shed its selfish and exclusive tendency.
Despite the thought-provoking theme, the musical offers an eclectic score, ranging from rock to musical theater, country to the near-operatic. What`s more, Shoo, a member of now-disbanded female pop group S.E.S., plays Shelly, who leads the musical together with Bat Boy.
"I really like this musical`s artistic achievement, and the music is so good, though I`m still confused and trying to adapt to the Korean version," Shoo said in a recent news conference.
Shoo is shifting not from the original Off-Broadway version but from the Japanese version. Shoo, born in Japan and fluent in Japanese, finished off a one-month performance of "Bat Boy" in five Japanese cities early this year and is scheduled to run another tour in Japan next January.

Kim Soo-yong, who plays Bat Boy in the Korean version, said Shoo is quick to absorb the musical`s intricate nuances and is working smoothly with other cast members. "She`s a fast learner, and it seems like she`s already gotten into the musical`s core," Kim said.
Aside from greater publicity effect, Shoo`s foray into the musical scene is part of the new trend in which local actors rush to experiment with genres they are not initially trained for. Particularly noticeable is the influx of television, movie and pop music stars into the fast-growing stage musicals industry.
While Shoo represents the combination of pop music stardom and theatrical performances, the musical itself involves the bizarre combination of a human being and, as the title suggests, a bat.
Inspired by a tabloid news item about the "believe-it-or-not" discovery of a half-boy and half-bat, the musical explores people`s innermost fears and morbid curiosity about those who seem different in appearances.
In the musical, Bat Boy is brought to Hope Falls in West Virginia, initially confined to a cage but gradually civilized. Shelley, the town veterinarian`s daughter, befriends him, and a love story develops as Bat Boy adapts to society.
But his newly-discovered comfort of a home and family is destined to disappear when the secret of his origin is discovered and human vagary plays a lethal part in getting the plot to flutter forward.
Unlike the popular comic and movie franchise Batman armed with a chic cape, Bat Boy is not admired by people around him. Nor does he have cool looking wings with which he can fly out of the confines set by prejudice-soaked society.
The social misfit endowed with pointy ears, razor-sharp teeth and allegedly a thirst for blood, however, is a tough role to play. "In the first half of Act One, I have to keep silent as a bat. But I didn`t have any idea about bats and how they live, so I`m working on their image and nature in recent days," Kim said. "And the musical also pokes fun at hypocrisy we have."
Director Sam Viverito, who has been working with Seensee Musical Company which produces the musical, admitted the overall difficulty of staging the wacky and yet hilarious show.
"It`s a really tough play but I try and keep it as honest as possible, because it`s honesty that humor really comes from," Viverito said.
Although skewering humor, especially about the musical`s campy take on Broadway musicals, may come as a bit outlandish for some local viewers, its well-made rock music scores wedded with a sophisticated theater style is expected to offer a refreshing alternative to standard Broadway fare.
"Bat Boy" will run at Seensee Musical Theater in Hyehwa-dong, Seoul, from Aug. 11 to Sept. 11. Tickets are 30,000 won and 40,000 won. For reservations, call 1544-1555 or 1588-7890.

By Yang Sung-jin