Bringing the anthems of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf to the big stage, it’s a must-see production for anyone – like me – who can’t get enough of the big ballads, soaring choruses and heartfelt lyrics.
More than an hour before the start, a parade of motorcycles – similar to the one featured on the front of the 1977 Bat out of hell album that catapulted Meatloaf to fame – meandered past the Mayflower and into the surrounding streets. It was to set the scene for a memorable evening. Are we ready to switch? Hell, having been deprived of live shows like this for so long since the pandemic wrapped its tentacles around society, we were too right!
The musical debuted in February 2017, but had taken many years to prepare. Steinman’s original idea, in the early 1970s, was to write a rock’n’roll update to JM Barrie’s fairy tale Peter Pan. Anyone even remotely familiar with Meatloaf’s music will know that these are songs worthy of a musical of this magnitude.
There’s more than a hint of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, in Bat out of hellwith main character Strat (Glenn Adamson) leading The Lost, a group of rebellious teenagers who will forever be 18 living underground in a dystopian setting (rock musicals like a bit of dystopia – I give you we will Rock You). I don’t know what Wendy would have thought of the ‘Deep End’, an old subway tunnel. Neverland wasn’t supposed to be like this…
Strat has fallen in love with Raven (Martha Kirby), daughter of a tyrannical ruler Falco (Rob Fowler) who has forbidden her to leave his home. Besides Raven, Falco has other issues with his wife Sloane (Franziska Schuster). Life is tough being the dictator of Obsidian (formerly known as Manhattan).
Hey Duggee, the CBeebies’ favorite, has his first live show – and the tour is coming up…
This is a spoiler-free review in terms of the storyline, but I’ll say this – it’s brilliantly bonkers. But what did you expect from a production based on Meatloaf’s explosive rock slices – many of which are mini-operas in their own right?
All rock fans know the songs – Bat out of hell sold over 40 million copies (although its highest position on the USA Billboard chart was 13th earlier this year following the death of Meatloaf – Michael Lee Aday – at the age of 74) .
Actors are the pride of Steinman and Meatloaf. Rarely have I heard rock songs performed so well in a musical – the range, the power, the delivery, were surprisingly good at times. Not just characters mentioned, but everywhere. One of my highlights was Zahara (Joelle Moses) and Jagwire (James Chisholm) delivering Two out of three is not bad in the first half of the show.
Other particularly memorable moments, during an evening filled with them, were those of Falco and Sloane Paradise by the dashboard light (my favorite Meatloaf song), the title track – which closed the first half – a haunting Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are and a shiver It’s all coming back to me now (with Strat, Raven, Falco and Sloane).
Adamson’s performance as Strad is of the highest quality, just watching him live took me back to the heyday of 80s rock (okay, I’m not cool, but I’m ‘cares). But he was surrounded by equally stunning performers. It was a team effort of the highest possible standard.
New – I’ve never seen it before on a theater set – was a big screen showing live footage (mostly from inside Raven’s room at Falco Towers). It added another layer of visuals to a wonderfully elevated performance. There was so much happening in front of you that it was sometimes hard to know where to look.
As always with shows of this nature, the choreography was exceptional (and tight, the musical has been touring the UK since last September). The singing, to be repeated, was exceptional. The script was crazy. So two ‘outstandings’ out of three. Yeah, you can complete the sentence… (taking the words out of my mouth as I go).
I cannot praise this production enough. If you liked musicals such as rock of ages and we will Rock You, it’s right up your air guitar alley. It’s loud – of course it is! – but also humorous, tender and poignant in equal parts.
“On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses? Strad asks Raven repeatedly. What a chat line!
On a less sultry summer evening, however, I was happy to treat my ears and eyes to a feast of musical entertainment I won’t soon forget. Neither do you, if you want to be as fast as those bikes last night…
Tickets for Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical are on sale at mayflower.org.uk or 023 8071 1811.