Werewulff, a musical with book, music and lyrics by Bill Brohn and Bob Cessna; directed by John Going; choreographed by Robin Reseen; scenery and lighting by Joseph St. Germain; costumes by Virginia Schwartz.

With Brian Matthews, Maisie Mountcastle, K.C. Wilson, Marilyn Cameron, Elwood J. Annaheim, Bernard DeLeo, Anthony Risoli and Andrea D. Almeida.

At the Hartke Theatre through April 27.

Of all the strange beasts that come to life when the mood is full, one of the strangest is the awkward young musical comedy.

The creators of "Werewulff" clearly have ambitious designs for their baby, and there is already a great deal of technical prowess evident in the music, the scenery and the staging of ths semi-collegiate, semi-professional production. But if "Werewulff" is going to be the pioneer horror musical of the '80s, authors Bill Brohn and Bob Cessna will have to do a few megatons of work on the charming-one-moment-and-deadly-the-next concoction that opened Tuesday night at Catholic University's Hartke Theatre.

Brohn and Cessna's underlying idea was to bring the schlocky traditions of the horrow movie and the operetta together under one proscenium arch. Reasonable men may disagree about the immediate, utilitarian urgency of this project, but if it is to be done at all, it had better be done well. When you poke fun, even affectionately, at something second-rate, the poking must be first-rate.

"Werewulff" is already that in a few brief spurts. When the Prince of Sklavonia, Friedrich Von Windischgratz (a.k.a. "Fritz") forms a posse to track down the monster that has been terrorizing the neighborhood, he sings a splendidly idiotic song called "Give Me a Man" that summons memories of Sigmund Romberg's "Stout-Hearted Men" as performed by Nelson Eddy.

As Fritz, Brian Matthews has the requisite noble air, good looks, strong voice and over-earnest delivery. And among his cohorts, Anthony Risoli and Marilyn Cameron provide valuable comic support.

The daytime identity of the werewolf is, of course, a secret no self-respecting critic would disclose. It can be revealed that in another of "Werewulff's" jollier scenes, when this unfortunate man bemoans the fact that he is a murderer and can't do anything about it, a friend warns him to "stop feeling sorry for yourself!" "Werewulff" needs more such inspired madness, and less of the bland, time-killing matter that fills most of the first act and a healthy pocket of the second.

Brohn, Cessna and director John Going may have the pluck and talent to make "Werewulff" the killer it ought to be. One thing they don't have, however, is a great deal of time -- not if they go commercial. For even as we speak, Broadway producers are hatching stiff competition in the form of musicals based on "Frankenstein," "Jack the Ripper" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

So lock the doors, citizens, and get out the garlic!