Tell your friends you’re off to see a musical called Bat Out of Hell and you’re almost guaranteed a response beyond the usual pleasant but nonetheless nonchalant ‘have a good time’ and ‘enjoy your evening’. There are those, for instance, who wonder if it is a jukebox musical or one with a credible book. It’s definitely far more ‘book’ than ‘jukebox’, on balance, and I would recommend having a look at the information sheet disguised as a newspaper that’s left on each seat. Ideally, have a read before the show starts. The background details were incredibly helpful (though not, admittedly, utterly essential) in terms of being able to follow what was going on.
As it’s a rock musical set in the future, there’s a temptation, albeit a fleeting one, to draw a comparison between Bat Out of Hell and We Will Rock You, the latter having run for 12 years at the Dominion Theatre. But there’s a proper storyline going on here, albeit a predictable one. Boy meets girl, girl’s father objects, girl’s mother is supportive but there’s only so much she can do (or is there?). Events conspire to ultimately soften the father’s stance and there’s a blockbuster musical happy ending.
And yet, and yet – there’s so much more to it than that. Jim Steinman’s lyrics often tell a story anyway, and it pleasantly surprised me over and over again as the evening progressed how seamlessly these songs, most of them made famous by Meat Loaf (though you already knew that, of course), fit like gloves into the narrative. As I understand it, Bat Out of Hell was originally conceived as a musical anyway, and only a couple of songs have been especially written for this finalised production – the rest, lyrics from Meat Loaf’s back catalogue, just slotted themselves in perfectly, with only the very slightest of modifications for the show.
Even the radio commentary during ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’. Even the question before ‘You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth’, “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?” Particularly powerful and poignant is the rendering of the not-so-succinctly titled ‘Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’, sung by multiple characters telling different stories but all in one song.
“It helps that we know all the words,” someone in my row remarked to me as we settled in, somewhat refreshed from the interval on an (ahem) hot summer night, for the second half. It also helps that the staging is exceptional (look out for a Cadillac that ends up somewhere unexpected), with considerable use of video technology. The motorbike is to Bat Out of Hell what the flying carpet is to Aladdin, and the scenes involving the former at the London Coliseum are as convincing as the ones involving the latter at the Prince Edward Theatre. Andrew Polec, as Strat (leader of ‘The Lost’, a collective of young rebels) leads a ridiculously talented cast with flair, energy and intensity. Polec’s vocals are outstanding, his stage presence amazing, and he was conspicuous by his absence whenever off-stage.
The chemistry between Strat (don’t you just love American names?) and Raven (Christina Bennington) is so palpably strong. It comes as no surprise that no amount of scheming on the part of Falco (Rob Fowler), the dictator of this dystopian kingdom called Obsidian, was ever going to ultimately stop the relentless force called love. Strat climbs through Raven’s bedroom window one night, to take her on a ride (as it were), and he thinks, with some justification, that Falco’s forces are out to get him, so he must “be gone when the morning comes” (geddit?). It sounds corny, but I assure you, it works. To add to Falco’s woes, his other half Sloane (a delightful Sharon Sexton) eventually has quite enough and has her bags packed.
Zahara (Danielle Steers) and Jagwire (Dom Hartley-Harris) put in a splendid ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’, and later, a breathtakingly thrilling ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ more than hit the mark. The show saves the best for last, culminating in the iconic ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’. All things considered, this is a lively, loud and loveable production. To say “there are moments of gold and there were flashes of light” is understating the sheer spectacle of this show. Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure, I enjoyed it so much I’ve booked to see it again. I urge you, go to Hell.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Join the eternally young Strat and his wild gang, The Lost, as they roam the streets of Obsidian, a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, ruled by the wicked and tyrannical Falco. When Strat first sets eyes on Falco’s daughter, Raven, who has been locked away in the palace towers, he sets out to rescue her from her evil father’s clutches in a full throttle tale of teenage love, youthful rebellion and living the rock and roll dream.
Bat Out of Hell is a breath-taking new musical that features 17 of Meat Loaf’s greatest hits including I’d Do Anything for Love, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), Dead Ringer For Love, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Bat Out of Hell and more.
Directed by award-winning theatre and opera director Jay Scheib, the cast of Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is led by newcomer Andrew Polec as Strat and Christina Bennington as Raven, with Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as Sloane. Also starring will be Aran MacRae as Tink, Danielle Steers as Zahara, Dom Hartley-Harris as Jagwire, Giovanni Spano as Ledoux and Patrick Sullivan as Blake. Also in the cast will be Jemma Alexander, Emily Benjamin, Stuart Boother, Georgia Carling, Natalie Chua, Jonathan Cordin, Amy Di Bartolomeo, Jordan Lee Davies, Olly Dobson, Hannah Ducharme, Phoebe Hart, Rosalind James, Michael Naylor, Eve Norris, Tim Oxbrow, Andrew Patrick-Walker, Benjamin Purkiss, Anthony Selwyn, Courtney Stapleton and Ruben Van keer.
5 June to 22 August 2017
St Martin’s Lane
London, WC2N 4ES
Performances: Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, Thurs & Sat at 2.30pm