Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical Review

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Meatloaf fan.

Spending the last twenty years of my life (which is getting worryingly closer to 21) being raised on the likes of Meatloaf, has led to his music, along with Jim Steinman’s lyrics, to symbolise more than words can put into perspective – which could explain why my levels of both excitement and gut-wrenching panic made it to new heights when I was informed I would be seeing Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical.

With pre-show nerves, induced by the fear of what was about to happen to the songs that have shaped me into who I am, I entered the Coliseum Theatre, London, and headed straight to the bar. This is when the immersive nature of the show began.

With a bottle of Pride of Obsidian in my hand, I took my seat and began reading The Obsidian Times. A small group of actors took to the stage, background acting around a motorbike whilst remaining audience members took to their seat.


Then it began – and I was utterly blown away.
So much so, I have now had the pleasure of seeing the show three times.  


Set in a dystopian future, Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical is the full depiction of love and rebellion, centred on the unruly character of Strat (Andrew Polec) and his gang called ‘The Lost’, a group of eighteen-year-olds whose biological makeup has caused them to freeze at this age (which sounds pretty awesome to me).
Tension begins to rise, as Strat falls in love with Raven (Christina Bennington), the stunning daughter of the self-appointed commander-in-chief, Falco (Rob Fowler) and his wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton).
A feud appears to have been pre-existing between Falco and The Lost since the start of time; however, Strat and Raven’s passion is something neither of the pair is willing to give up on, thus creating a legendary musical that I’m sure will live on for many years to come.

Although the scripting and plot itself have come under a large amount of scrutiny by many popular reviewers, I can’t work out whether I fully agree that either of these elements were poor. After watching the show for the first time, I did note down that both elements could be improved, but after the second and third time, both appeared to have been worked on.

I've loved the show every times that I’ve seen it, and sat there in complete shock and awe throughout; however, minor plot holes and poorer scripting appeared to have been completely cleared up the second and third time, but I can’t work out if that is just because I could see more (having moved from the Balcony to the Dress Circle) or not.

This leads me on to my key top tip, and the most vital part of this review…
If you are going to go and see this show, I would strongly recommend getting seats within the Dress Circle, to ensure that you can see the full visual spectacle of the stage and costumes.

As expected, the costumes consisted of black leather, ripped denim and a west-end sequin or two, all accompanied with heavily lined eyes and some occasional killer prosthetic cuts and scars. Jon Bausor and Meentje Nielsen encapsulated a glamorous rock and roll, fit for the west end stage. When costumes alone can scream eternal youth, sex and rebellion, you know that a skillful collection of creatives and production teams have truly sunk their teeth deep into the visual elements we see most, and I feel that these elements, although commonly overlooked, are a key factor in the show’s success.

Photography by Specular
 
Jon Bausor’s set design is hands down the greatest set I have ever seen. Modern, yet smeared with a dirt ridden brush from a post-apocalyptic future, the staging featured smooth, and highly intelligent transitions, and was a perfect fit to the Coliseum stage. From motorbikes to cars, a pool and even multiple stories, the set in no way holds back, and is honestly something I have never seen before. I never thought I would gasp at a set on stage, but am glad the Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical was able to take that virginity away from me.

This was further complimented by Patrick Woodroffe’s lighting design which added a whole new dimension to all visual elements. There are many stunning uses of lighting within the show, all of which added heightened the effect of the set; however, one thing I will certainly mention is the use of tile-styled lighting on the stage to resemble a floor, which added a perspective to mirror that of a room. This is something that, again, I don’t think I have seen before, and was so simple yet intelligent, it transformed the show to a whole new level. The lighting complimented visuals beautifully, and was a strong factor in the overall visual effect without becoming overpoweringly obvious.

Screens and video were another key element to the set, which often showed what was happening live on stage. Evidently this instantly allows you to see the main focus on the stage at certain times and also worked well with the multiple levels on stage; however, on top of this, Finn Ross’ video design added depth through some incredible editing effects. I feel as though most people would have just kept the video plain; however, Finn Ross implemented visual effects that added to the scenes and fit in beautifully with the songs and speech.
Also, and this is probably a mention to the one person in the show who impressed me the most, (as I am a filmmaker so can understand the struggle with this), a huge big up to the camera operator throughout the shows! To hold that camera live on stage, capture consistent shots and keep a steady hand is incredibly impressive.

With all this said, there is a minor downside to the scale of these creative elements - the fact that the show will never be able to tour to this quality. The Coliseum Theatre, which is usually used to house operas, offered perfect acoustics for the performers’ incredible voices and bands impeccable skills, as well as the space for all of these creative elements to be on display. 
This is why I urge anyone who reads this to go and buy tickets as soon as they can, as the show is certainly worth a trip to London - and if not for these creative elements, then certainly for the accompanying band, directed by Robert Emery, who did a fantastic job of reinventing the music we know and love. 

The band were, of course, unbelievably talented, with exquisite skill and timing. Not a single note was misplaced, even within songs that last over twelve minutes! Their focus and ability is admirable, even for someone with the musical ability of a wooden spoon like myself. Even from within the pit, their talents shone through, and the acoustic of the theatre ensured that every note they played could be heard throughout the show. 


Now, the moment you have all probably been waiting for (although having read over 1,000 words already, I’m assuming that a select few have survived to this point), the cast.

As mentioned above, Jim Steinman’s songs are the ones that shaped my childhood, with ‘Bat Out of Hell’ and ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ probably being the most overplayed songs on my iPod. The pre-show jitters were in full force as cast members opened their mouths to sing…only to completely leave me speechless due to the sheer talent and extraordinary volume that each of them conceal within themselves.

The ‘ensemble’ were beyond incredible, belting out an array of harmonies with seeming ease. Their energy and choreography was mind-blowing, and how they can maintain that whilst singing and not getting hit by a motorbike is beyond anything that my tiny mind can fathom.

Aran Macrae took on the role of Tink, showing an insane level of versatility within his acting ability. From a fun-loving child to someone who is deeply emotional and even harmed, he portrayed all elements of the role beautifully. Not to mention the powerful innocence captured within his singing voice – I was truly amazed.
(And he can ride a bike – which is something I have never been able to master).

Photography by Specular
 

Before I continue with the cast, it is worth pointing out that the second time I saw the show, the cast had changed. Jagwire wasn’t played by Dom Hartley-Harris (whose overall performance the first and third time was incredible), and was instead taken over by, I believe, Patrick Sullivan, which lead to Blake being played by Jonathan Cordin (I think).  I think one of the elements that makes this show so fantastic is that the understudies don’t live up to the usual expectations, and instead of just filling in role as such, they completely make it their own. Scenes changed and adapted to display a new set of skills and talents, and lead to an incredible performance which offered something completely new. 


The trio of Ledoux (Giovanni Spanó), Blake (Patrick Sullivan) and Jagwire (Dom Hartley-Harris) were undeniably incredible. Their contrast between the laddish performances within ‘Out of the Frying Pan’ to the tear inducing rendition of ‘Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’ was stunning, and their voices complimented each other perfectly. ‘Objects in the Rear View Mirror’ is one of the most stand out songs of the show to me, lacing my skin with goose bumps, sending tears to my eyes and a chill down my spine. The captured emotion is something I can never put into words, and their performances haunt me even now. From body language, dancing and facial expressions, each of these actors offered such a presence on stage that, even within group numbers, my eyes naturally gravitated towards them.


Danielle Steers, who played Zahara, has one of the greatest voices I believe I have ever heard. Passionately powerful and full of punch, I sat in absolute awe every time she belted out a note, not to mention her overall characterization being beyond believable. Even when the actor of Jagwire changed, the harmonies and chemistry still remained to the same high standard, to the point that the change was almost unrecognisable. An incredible, inspirational performance.

Photography by Specular
 
Falco, Rob Fowler, and Sloane, Sharon Sexton, are definitely not to be missed. The pair complement each other perfectly, and have impeccable vocal range. For two such powerful singers, I’m amazed that their voices could complement one another so well. The on stage chemistry, both of love and hate, was displayed at full force, to the point you feel like you are watching a genuine married couple. ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ is something that I will never forget (as it is deeply scared within my memory, but was fantastic), and ‘What Part of my Body Hurts the Most’ was so stunningly raw, I get a lump in my throat even thinking about it – I don’t know how they can both perform that song without bursting into tears at each other’s performances.
I find that often the characters who offer comic relief fail at more serious parts of a role; however both Fowler and Sexton were excellent at all elements of the role, and their performances as a whole, even simple moments of speech, were mesmerising.  

Photography by Specular
 
Christina Bennington’s character of Raven was one that certainly surprised me the most. Hidden within her petite, feminine manner is a voice of sheer power, taking on rock classics like they are no big deal. To capture Raven’s innocence and beauty whilst still portraying her skill and character is why Bennington is so deserving of this monumental role. On top of this, to share the spotlight with Andrew Polec, playing the leader of The Lost and all round rebel Strat, and not let his character’s dominance belittle Raven’s role is an art that not many could ensure. The relationship between Raven and her parents is realistic, as is Bennington’s portrayal of Raven’s age – an all-round faultless performance.

Photography by Specular
 
Last, but by no means least – Strat.

Making his UK debut, Andrew Polec took to the stage and (I believe I speak for the entire audience when I say this) absolutely smashed it.

Acting as the human embodiment of angst and anarchy, with vocals mirroring that of the rock gods, Polec’s performance screamed with energy, and I honestly can’t picture anyone else taking on the role of Strat as well as he has (although, with that said, I have heard that both Benjamin Purkiss and Ruben Van Keer both offer exceptional interpretations, however, I am yet to witness these). Intense, passionate and mesmerising, Polec achieves something on the stage that not many could, especially when challenged with songs like ‘Bat Out of Hell’ and ‘For Crying Out Loud’. Rock music seems to course through his veins, and there is just something about Polec’s interpretation of Strat that just leaves you captivated by all he does.

Polec’s performance as Strat is hands down, one of the greatest performance I have ever seen, by actors both on stage and screen, and I am highly grateful that I got to witness it.

Photography by Specular

Linking on to the overall concept of characterization, Emma Portner’s choreography, and the sheer pace of it, was a whole new extreme, and something I could watch for days on end. Each move that a character performed seemed to have its own personal touch to fit in with the character’s traits, for example, Raven dances with a delicate air of innocence, which is quick to evolve to strength, whilst Strat and The Lost dance with a sense of danger and thrill. Different styles of youth are captured in the seemingly simplest of ways, and although I usually never comment on a shows choreography, I felt as though these touches were just too intelligent to brush past. 

Photography by Specular

Overall, Jay Scheib directed an absolutely kick-ass musical, setting whole new limits in the west-end world. With sadness in my heart that I cannot afford to see the show again, all I can do now is pray for a cast album. As much as I loved the original versions of all of the featured songs, I feel like the cast captured a whole new level of raw emotion, and even just thinking about it gives me chills.

Whether you see it one time, or one hundred times, there are always more details to notice, including tiny elements such as the number plates or 'caution kids at play' sign, and the level of excitement and amazement never decreases. 

To me, this was a five-star performance, and one of the greatest musical I have ever had the pleasure of seeing – thank you to all those involved for making it so memorable.

For more information, and to buy tickets (which you really friggin’ should) click HERE.


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