This time around, Bat Boy doesn't quite fly right.

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This time around, Bat Boy doesn't quite fly right.

With the exception of West Side Story and Gypsy, there's not a musical I've seen more often than Bat Boy. I took in the original Off-Broadway production at New York's Union Square Theatre three times (with never one understudy in view) and saw it here in December when it blew away all of the Unicorn's box office records. With the show back for an encore engagement, I had to go again.

Compared with a show like Moving Out, which ties a worn thread through twenty-year-old Billy Joel songs, or a Full Monty, which mines a rich tale from the outset, Bat Boy is something extraordinarily rare: a show created out of thin air. The absurdist story of a feral half-bat, half-boy who is civilized by a kindly veterinarian's family and then vilified by their bigoted neighbors is neither a revue nor a remake; it is fresh and new because its creators, Keythe Farley, Brian Flemming and Laurence O'Keefe, willed it to be so.

Still, I wondered if such an electric show could lose some of its voltage with repeated exposure. Based on the rather listless opening-night performance, the answer leans toward a qualified yes.

Six actors from the December production are back reprising their roles, with mixed results. Only Seth Golay, as the title character, and Julie Taylor, as the vet's daughter, ripen their work from the earlier version -- especially Taylor, whose vocals and characterization are flashier and better crafted.

On the other hand, Damron Russel Armstrong's Reverend Hightower has been pumping too much helium under his choir robe. He opens the second act with the mistaken impression that the show is about him. Ensemble members Vincent Onofrio Monachino and Angela Wildflower Polk seem denatured of anything distinctive, and Sarah Crawford looks bored, registering only as a second-act silhouette behind a scrim.

Four newcomers to the cast are adventurous but far from marvelous. As the adoptive mother figure, Karen Errington aces the satire, but her singing is uncharacteristically tentative. As the husband, Kipp Simmons never communicates the doctor's morbid pathology; he's so wan that the show's parodic menace evaporates. Brian Adkins and Dustin Cates are energetic and boy-band cute, which aren't bad qualities in a show that feels this decaffeinated.

Bat Boy virgins who haven't experienced the show should go; the script remains subversively witty (it has more killer jokes than a week of must-see TV), and Golay and Taylor are full of zest. But Bat Boy veterans who have left previous productions stoked by the show's vivacity may wonder where it went.

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