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“Bat Boy: The Musical” embraces difference

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer

Why did we as a species create the phenomena of cryptids? Why are we so fascinated with creatures such as the Chupacabra and the Loch Ness Monster? Going beyond those beasties, why have people in the past visited traveling circuses and their living attractions? We are terrified of what we don’t understand, and that includes people who face difficulties physically and/or mentally so humor and laughter is used as a coping mechanism. RIC’s “Bat Boy: The Musical” takes this idea and weaves it into a heartwarming narrative, revealing these so-called “oddities” as people just like ourselves.

Going into this musical, I was expecting nothing more than a straightforward bloody and messy horror play. Instead, what I got was a refreshingly nuanced spin on the idea of “cryptids.” The musical is a commentary on the fabrications created by the media and mass hysteria, and how when all those sensationalist layers are peeled away, the kernel of truth that’s left is far more emotional and tender than anyone expects it to be. This doesn’t just apply to “cryptids,” but to the entire 21st century as a whole.

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“Bat Boy: The Musical” begins in a town called Hope Falls. The Taylor kids, Ron, Ruthie and Rick, find a boy resembling a bat inside a cave. The boy injures Ruthie, leaving her hospitalized. The child is then captured by Sheriff Parker and placed under the care of the town veterinarian Dr. Parker. As Dr. Parker’s wife Meredith and sister Shelley begin to warm up to and care for the young outcast, Dr. Parker and the rest of the town plot to get rid of him. Tensions flare up amidst the townspeople. Sheriff Parker tries to keep the situation calm, but he can only keep a lid on things for so long. A storm is fast approaching.

“Bat Boy: The Musical” is bloody and messy, but I think that’s part of the point of it all. Bat Boy being met with disgust for doing things he sees as natural is problematic. I’m glad something is finally calling attention to the human tendency to reject the unusual. This tendency is exactly what creates societal outcasts in the first place. If we treated them with the same warm and empathetic compassion that we use with everyone else, then they’d feel accepted for who they are. Who a person is should not under any circumstances be determined by what they look like.

This play reminds me of my own self-image issues. This idea that a person has to “look nice” to avoid being judged by others is ridiculous. Who cares what they look like? People have the right to dress however they want to dress without being persecuted. We as a society put too much focus on the idea that everyone has to “fit in” by making themselves appear “normal.” Here’s the thing: “normal” means nothing when everyone is really unique.

I was blown away by the raw power and emotion conveyed in the performance. It took my breath away and it was hilarious to boot. I was laughing at the absurdity as much as I was crying at the tragedy.

In summation, “Bat Boy: The Musical” reminds us that everyone deserves to be loved, no matter who they are and/or what they look like. Nobody’s a monster in the end.


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