What: Bat Out of Hell
Where: London Coliseum
Who: A Rock Opera based on Meatloaf’s 1977 hit album
When: Running until 22 August 2017
Why: Great acting and singing make up for the weak storyline
Me and a friend went to hell the other night – Bat Out of Hell. And by the end of the night, we didn’t want to leave.
On the hottest night of the year (well actually the hottest night in 40 years), we went to see Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell, The Musical at the London Coliseum. And not only was it too hot to be in a poorly air-conditioned auditorium, it was probably the worst night to watch a show that included loud music, actors singing at the top of their lungs, and plumes of flames being shot from the stage – but it turned out to be one helluva ride.
Bat Out of Hell was born, literally, 40 years ago, when musician Meatloaf (along with composer Steinman) released the seminal and massive selling record that went on to sell millions and millions of albums around the world. It included massive hits such as “You Took the Words Right Out of my Mouth,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and the most famous one – “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – songs that are still popular even today, more so as karaoke and wedding songs. These songs, along with the other songs from the album, and newer songs written only for this production, are cleverly used as the story for this massive show. Yes, there is a story, it is, however, a weak one, you can practically see right through it, but for this show it’s all about the way the story is told, the production, that makes Bat Out of Hell not just different but memorable, and ah so much better than the horrible jukebox musicals that have played in the West End in the past including the dreadful We Will Rock You and the easily missed Let it Be.
Bat Out of Hell is a goth lovers dream. We’ve got Raven (Christina Bennington) who is in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks – Strat (Andrew Polec – who’s going to be the next Killian Donnelly – and if you don’t know who that is look him up). Strat hangs out with a very rough crowd, a group of outcasts called The Lost. Raven’s parents Falco (Rob Fowler) – who rules the post apocalyptic Manhattan – and her mother Sloane (Sharon Sexton), are so overprotective of Raven that they, especially Falco, forbid her from seeing Strat. Of course Raven will do anything to see him, so she sneaks out at night (in her cleverly designed bedroom in a high skyscraper where unbelievably most of the show takes place – but it works!) to be with Strat, but there is a snitch in Strat’s gang who ends up telling Falco where Raven and Strat are. You can pretty much tell what’s going to happen next – Falco goes in search of his daughter, and then there’s a poorly choreographed incident where someone gets shot – a scene we could tell was going to happen a mile away. This is when Bat Out of Hell loses all credibility in it’s storyline, but it more than makes up for it overall with the visuals and musical aspects of the show.
Director Jay Scheib had a big task ahead of him in telling this dark story with dark music, and he greatly succeeds. Using Raven’s bedroom as the focal point of hers, and the shows, anguish, heartbreak and young love, Scheib also employs video shot live from her bedroom projected onto at times different screens on the stage so the audience can see, up close, the actor’s reactions to the dramatic dialogue and story unfolding right before our very eyes. And props are cleverly used, especially a car that’s initially being used as a sexual romp between Falco and Sloane (reminiscing about their youth while singing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”) and the car eventually winds up in the orchestra pit.
Not enough good things can be said about the cast – they are all superb. Polec looks, acts and sings like a rock star – he’s got the vocal chops to prove he can sing just as well as Meatloaf. Bennington is perfectly cast as the lovely flower love interest Raven, she belts out quite a few numbers and can hold her own. Fowler keeps his head above water in such a talented cast as Raven’s stern and controlling father, but it is the beautiful Sexton as Raven’s mother Sloane who seems to be a natural – you can’t not stare at her when she’s on stage – she’s commanding and wonderful. Also need to be mentioned are two members of Strat’s gang who end up having a bit of a romance, Jagwire (the wonderful Dam Hartley-Harris) and the amazing Danielle Steers as Zahara who does double duty as an employee of Falco – and she can sing – wow!
It’s sensory overload in a good way. It’s an assault on your senses – the music, the lights, and the actors – wow – the actors can sing – very very good – like rockstars. They’re all over the place.
By the end of the show I was dripping wet from the heat, and I’d almost lost my hearing from the loud music, and my eyes were sensitive because of the strobe lighting used in the show, however, would I go back to see it again? Hell yes!
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Photos from Amanda Malpass PR