Music and lyrics: Jim Steinman
Director: Jay Scheib
Any production based on the music of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf was meant to be big, bold and fierce. And Bat out of Hell, the jukebox musical based on the trilogy of albums of the same name, is just that. Packed with grit, all the pyrotechnics you can imagine and killer vocals, it has all the spectacle you would want from a touring show featuring the work of two legends. But what it does have in style, it does unfortunately lack in substance.
While the performances of the music in this show are nothing short of outstanding, the surrounding plot is far from gripping. It’s loosely speaking a retelling of Peter Pan, set in dystopian Obsidian, which follows a young leader of a gang called The Lost as he falls in love with the daughter of a tyrant.
Characters are introduced so quickly, you don’t have time to invest in them, the dialogue can often be abstract and random, and often you are flitting between intensely serious to highly comedic within a mili-second, leaving you confused as to how the show, directed by Jay Scheib, is actually meant to make you feel. Sure, it’s rock and roll and it’s rebellious (plenty of rock faces, sweaty bodies, grungy stage designs and microphones wrapped round necks), but at every moment priority is given to how the show looks and flooding the (often) back-to-back numbers with every trick under the sun. Fire, flashing lights, huge live recordings (which in itself can be distracting, as it has become a stylistic feature to have the videographer on the stage with the characters) – it’s all there and it’s impressive. But with all the electric in the world going off around you, it’s hard to feel electric without actually believing the relationships on the stage. While We Will Rock You has a similar look and feel, it’s easier to follow, it doesn’t try to be too clever and it’s more obvious what the show is trying to be – yes, it’s still random (aren’t most jukebox musicals?!), but somehow that one just works.
It’s important to stress that this is by no means the fault of the cast and actually the standing ovation at the end of opening night speaks for itself. This is frustratingly one of the most impressive casts out there. The talent on that stage truly shows the versatility of musical theatre performers and how they can, quite frankly, turn their hand to anything. Martha Kirby has previously played the sweet and innocent Sandy from Grease and now she’s the head-banging love interest Raven, trying to escape from her controlling parents and predictable life. She really is a name to watch – she owns that stage, she owns the music she is singing and she has an infectious passion that could work in so many West End/Broadway roles. Glenn Adamson as Strat, too, is a real star – he trained at LIPA, which is always lovely to see, and again he delivers flawless vocals that really do raise the roof. With other lead roles Rob Fowler as Falco, Sharon Sexton as Sloane and a large accompanying cast, all the favourite numbers including Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, are there and performed with vigour and high energy. The choreography is very samey throughout, with similar formations and movements, but again they deliver the cards they have been dealt well.
For diehard Steinman and Meat Loaf fans, this is definitely worth a watch – it’ll take you on a tyre-screeching, electrifying, and powerful trip down memory lane. But for anybody else and certainly for those wanting a little more substance, then it’s not going to take you to hell and back, but it certainly ain’t taking you to theatre heaven either.
Runs until 15 October 2022.