In recent years, a number of musicals have emerged based on the work of musicians: American Idiot, Viva Forever!, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical to name a few. The most recent jukebox musical, Bat Out of Hell is based on the songs by mega star Meat Loaf. The Bat Out of Hell album is one of the best selling albums of all time, reaching sales of over 43 million copies worldwide.
This Rock ‘n’ Roll musical has taken over 40 years to be constructed; going through countless drafts until it was finally ready for its premier performance at the Palace Theatre. World renowned producer/songwriter Jim Steinman is behind the music and lyrics for this show and Meat Loaf’s album.
The story revolves around the beautifully innocent Raven (Christina Bennington) and rebellious leader Strat’s (Andrew Polec) forbidden love. Strat is part of a gang known as ‘the lost’, a group of young people with mutations which mean they typically stop ageing after their 18th birthday. This does lead to a particular scene reminiscent of Twilight where Raven asks Strat how long he’s been 18. The premise does seem rather far-fetched, but then again it is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world.
However, Raven and Strat’s isn’t the only love story that exists. You have young Tink (Aran MacRae), frozen before he has fully matured, who’s unrequited love for Strat, results in an act of ultimate betrayal. However, it was hard to find any sympathy for a character that came across as whiny as he did and honesty I wasn’t surprised that Strat wasn’t interested.
The other two groups of lovers are Raven’s parents, the tyrant and Chief of Police Falco (Rob Fowler) and Sloane (Sharon Sexton). The most touching love segments were between two members of the wasted youth, Zahara (Danielle Steers) and Jagwire (Dom Hartley-Harris).
Jagwire is clearly infatuated with Zahara, but she seemingly remains too hurt by Strat’s rejection to ever love again. The rebellious leader has certainly had a number of admirers, which is hardly surprising as he spends the majority of the show parading around bare chested.
Andrew Polec carries the show on his young shoulders and he really does excel in the role. Polec bares no resemblance to Meat Loaf physically being blond and supporting a six pack. Yet they share the same immense energy which they are able to bring to a performance. Polec had an almost deranged look in his eyes throughout, but this perfectly fit the dystopian world that surrounded him. Polic’s intensity never seemed to wane. This young star certainly delivers a stellar UK debut performance.
The musical was highly comical, although I’m not sure if this was entirely intentional all the time. One of the funniest and awkward moments occurred during Falco and Sloane’s duet of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”. Raven’s parents attempt to relight the fire of their relationship, much to the embarrassment of their daughter who is still present in the room.
The couple eventually start to strip to their underwear — beware of bringing your judgemental grandparents — which isn’t that shocking when you consider that the entire cast are pretty scantily dressed throughout.
Fed-up Raven decides to interrupt by pushing the car they are dancing around into the orchestral pit. One of the many creative and impressive ways the set is used to push the boundaries of theatre.
If you aren’t a huge fan of Meat Loaf you may feel slightly out of touch with the musical. I would definitely recommend having a listen before you go. However, there are a number of times when the cast seem to out-sing even the legend himself, notably, the standout, soulful vocals of Danielle Steers, especially during “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Dead Ringer for Love”.
During both these songs Steers received spontaneous applause from the audience. Naturally the show couldn’t end on any number except with “I Would Do Anything for Love”. The show received a standing ovation before it had even finished.
That said, the musical wasn’t perfect — I still can’t work out how ‘the lost’ gang managed to escape from prison undetected — but this didn’t detract from the overall show. The staging was incredible, Motorbikes galore, Fire, an admittedly strange addition of confetti symbolising blood, they even threw in a few very realistic torture scenes. Everything was created to transport you into this dystopian world, were the wasted youth rebelled against the tyrant Falco.
The musical certainly challenged conventional musical theatre; pushing through the visual image of theatre. Projected on screens and on the set buildings were close-up views of what was happening inside the Falco residence.
This visual effect gave the ‘Big Brother’ you-are-always-being-watched-impression. However, I felt this was one of the few times where the musical fell down. The camera-person obscured the actors on stage in their pursuit to get the closet angel. I felt the effect wasn’t worth this obstruction: if I had wanted to watch a screen I would have simply watched a film. The image projection created a barrier from the action that wasn’t necessary.
Bat Out of Hell certainly delivers a visual feast for the eyes from the set design to the dance routines and it never held back on the vocal performances either.
This musical definitely pushes the boundaries of musical theatre and mostly delivers. This new musical will undoubtedly go on to be performed for years, maybe even going on to revive fellow rock musical, We Will Rock You.
Bat Out of Hell The Musical is being performed at the Palace Theatre till the 29th April. You can grab your tickets here.
The show is opening at the London Coliseum this summer for a limited run from the 5th of June to the 31st July, tickets can be bought here.