“There are themes of discrimination, tolerance, prejudice and acceptance,” says Davel. “It fits so well into the history of our country.”

The geographical setting of Bat Boy is also rather apt, says Davel.

“It’s set in a coal mining town where the coal is dried up and they are forced to farm cattle to survive. We are looking at the translation from Broadway theatre into the South African theatre. So it fitted that criterion.”

Why did Davel try to make a well-known musical like Bat Boy relevant for South African audiences?

“I think musical theatre is in a bit of a crisis in our country. We have this amazing history of South African musical theatre, which came out of protest theatre. And suddenly after that has dialed down, there is no more money for protest theatre because we don’t have to protest anymore,” says Davel.

“Now the big producers will only produce shows that they know are going to make money. We see a lot of musicals that don’t speak to us as South Africans.”

Davel’s student production was workshopped with the cast, something that helps make it more South African.

“We started off exploring our own backgrounds and our own cultural heritage and our own ideas about life,” said Davel of the process.

With music and lyrics from Laurence O’Keefe, Davel says that the music is challenging.

“The music is so hard and so difficult. Even the band is challenging. It’s really a difficult show musically.”

To solve the problem, Davel roped in musical director Dr Harold Mortimor, whose trip was sponsored by the United States Embassy.

“He is so knowledgeable and brings so much and the students learn so much from him. They will take it with them in their careers for the rest of their lives,” says Davel. 

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