Music and Lyrics: Jim Steinman
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
After topping the charts in 1977, and with over 43 million sales worldwide, the iconic Meat Loaf album Bat Out of Hellmade Jim Steinman’s songs household names. Two further Bat albums went on to be produced by the pair, not to mention the dozen or so other albums they put out, together and apart. But not many people know that Steinman always intended his songs to form a musical soundtrack. Finally, decades after they were first released, the songs on Bat Out of Hell, and many other Meat Loaf / Steinman collaborations, can be heard as intended.
Premiering at the Manchester Opera House in 2017, Bat Out of Hell the Musical was an instant hit, and it is easy to see why even from the soundtrack alone. A very loose retelling of Peter Pan, the plot tells the story of the immediate infatuation of Strat (Andrew Polec), the leader of The Lost, a group who stopped ageing at 18, and Raven (Christina Bennington), daughter of puritanical tyrant Falco (Rob Fowler). Raven is about to turn 18 and wants nothing more than to rebel against her strict upbringing.
The soundtrack starts strong with Love and Death and an American Guitar, screamed into a microphone and seguing beautifully into Polec masterfully heading a mash-up of All Revved Up and Wasted Youth, setting the stage excellently for the conflicts to come. It also makes it instantly clear that this is not just a Meat Loaf tribute show.
While the operatic style remains, songs have been tweaked and remastered into completely standalone versions. Often this is exactly on point, with Who Needs the Young, a duet between Fowler and Sharon Sexton (as wife Sloane), being a stand out example. Some rearrangements are less effective – In the Land of the Pig The Butcher is King for example, becomes slightly garbled, although it is by no means a bad version. And the soundtrack offers up some other absolute masterpieces.
Bennington’s heartfelt rendition of Heaven Can Wait is a spine-tingler, making a largely forgettable track on the original album into probably the best song on the musical soundtrack. Danielle Steers and Dom Hartley-Harris, as will-they-won’t-they side characters Zahara and Jagwire, perform Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad as a gorgeously heartbreaking duet, giving a much needed alternative perspective missing from the original, while barely changing any lyrics.
Tink’s (Aran MacRae) Not Allowed to Love (originally written for Steinman’s aborted Batman musical) will cause tears in the eyes of anyone who has ever had an unrequited crush on a friend, especially those in the LGBTQ community. Finally, Steinman’s arguably most famous tracks – I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and, of course, Bat Out of Hell itself, are expertly handled by the cast as explosive finales to each half.
So, does the musical soundtrack live up to the 1977 album? Even the biggest Meat Loaf aficionado has to agree that it does. The fresh, modern feel of the music, and the new voices performing guarantee a musical soundtrack that even someone who has never heard Steinman before will love. Stick it on the car stereo, find somewhere to park and get some Paradise by the Dashboard Light of the musical variety, obviously…