director John Schmor
Our American Musical history is the product of great poverty and war, telling us to “hope” against experience, or sometimes engaging the best in us to encounter the worst in us. Our musicals offer songs in the face of our racism, songs butting the old puritan principles up against romance, offering unhinged fantasy, hoping nuns can thwart Nazis,or puppets can open a school for monsters, and always always immigrants can sing to each other (and dance!) to bridge their rivalries. In all these ways, BAT BOY is a traditional musical, or maybe a musical about the tradition, askant. Our musicals often propose every good boy gets his good girl, and all will be well because the “town” can sing in unison. Indeed, the American Musical, despite its best intentions, often makes an odd reach to “universals” manufactured by gross social inequity. And yet the sheer frivolity of the musical is, I believe, also an important measure of resistance to our own misery index. When a musical sings both of our delights and of the things we socially deny, it’s no wonder the form remains so potent, despite its improbable conventions. Listen to any musical and it will sing: we know these days are troubled – we know something is changing – we know love is both a blessing and a problem (ending tragically or comically – doesn’t matter so long as the duets are good). Perhaps most important, the musical reminds us we know hope rises AND hope falls, and that’s why we need more often to sing and dance, not just to “get by,” but to enlarge the imagination’s capacity for that next good reason to hope. BAT BOY was among the first post-Sondheim musicals to critique its own place, its own merit, in queer honesty about its own lies and ties to this marvelous tradition. I love this show, set in Hope Falls, West Virginia, for its willfully queer carnival of American bigotries facing eccentricity. I love it for its witty embrace of the full range of the American Musical tradition, its camp willingness to start from a tabloid pleasure that risks thwarting that tradition for the sake of weird delight. You have to want to take the ride here – no promise but weird delight. God knows we’ve had enough weird dismay lately.
Love your bat boy.