Over 50 years in the planning and boy is it worth the wait, Jim Steinman's Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical explodes into life from the minute you enter the theatre, the looming set is immense, the transformation of Manchester's Opera House to accommodate this ground breaking world premiere is astonishing. The set designed by Jon Bausor uses every inch of height available; it is vast, intriguing and innovative. If you weren't sure before you certainly are now, Bat Out Of Hell is without doubt the biggest theatre event of the year.
Set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city we meet Strat (Andrew Polec) the forever young leader of The Lost, a tribe of wasted youth who will never grow old. Classed as mutants by Falco (Rob Fowler) the oppressive ruler of Obsidian, The Lost live for love, freedom and of course rock 'n' roll. Falco's daughter Raven (Christina Bennington) gets a taste for life on the dark side when she meets Strat on the eve of her eighteenth birthday and from that moment on things will never be the same again.
Telling Strat when he sneaks into her bedroom at Falco Towers, “If you don't go ‘over the top,’ then how are you going to see what's on the other side?” Raven and Strat begin their adventure and take the audience on the ride of their lives. The talent on stage is staggering, Andrew Polec embodies absolutely everything you would want from a rebellious, tribe leading, rock God, he is wild, wired, dangerous and utterly mesmerising. His performance is quite simply incredible, strutting and swaggering he draws you in and completely seduces you, the chemistry between him and Christina Bennington (Raven) is pure magic, their relationship a total meetings of minds. They perfectly illustrate the angst and heartache of forbidden love, Bennington's vocals are heavenly, at first seemingly delicate and pure she soon morphs into the ultimate rock chick, the power in her voice is astonishing, we soon realise the wide-eyed innocent daughter of Falco and Sloane (Sharon Sexton) has been waiting to be corrupted as she discovers a whole new kind of freedom with Strat.
Of course Strat and Raven's relationship was never going to be accepted by Falco, who sets about destroying what they have found, trying to end things before they have even had chance to begin. Rob Fowler as Falco is exceptional, brooding and intimidating; he has great stage presence and a superb rock voice. Falco's seemingly long suffering wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) delivers a fine performance, constant cocktail in hand she is so bored with this life yet so tied to it she is lost in a seriously wretched place. Their scenes together offer some real stand out moments, Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a riot, raunchy, wild and superbly staged, they deliver the narrative exquisitely. Both give a deeply heartfelt performance of new song What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, emotional and moving the quality of the writing is so good even for a new song it feels strangely familiar.
Danielle Steers and Dom Hartley-Harris as Zahara and Jagwire give knockout performances, powerful and emotionally charged their interpretation of Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad is staggeringly good, they really feel the music and deliver Steinman's lyrics with real heart and grit. Their second act performance of Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through is bursting with attitude and sass, backed up by a magnificent ensemble who give absolutely everything to this production.
This is a piece that proudly showcases the talent on stage; Director Jay Scheib really has created something magical here. Cutting edge and dynamic choreography from Emma Portner compliments Steinman's lyrics and Scheib's direction perfectly and adds even more attitude to already explosive performances. Special mention also must go to Giovanni Spano (Ledoux) and Andrew Patrick-Walker (covering as Blake) who together with Dom Hartley-Harris deliver a strikingly heartfelt rendition of Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.
The staging of this production is truly something spectacular, designed by Jon Bausor, it's a struggle to find words to do it justice, the set continually evolves to deliver more and more intricate layers and surprises you just didn't see coming, add to this the innovative use of multiple screens and live filming projected over almost every inch of the set, it's quite literally a multimedia masterpiece, it feels as if the set is alive, I've never experience staging like it, it's such a visual feast. The beauty of this multi-layered, multi-levelled set is that it allows for every person sat in any seat within the theatre to feel part of the production, in effect breaking down that third wall, you are scooped up into the action and fully immersed in the experience. Costumes from Meentje Nielsen combined with video design from Finn Ross and lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe further confirm the sheer quality of this production.
Bat Out Of Hell is astonishingly good theatre, immersive, incredible and utterly mind-blowing, there is no doubt in my mind that Manchester has witnessed history in the making tonight. This is a journey that is only just beginning, the success of this show is unlimited, a stunning production with the most sublime of casts, a monster of a hit, which oozes world wide appeal. Spellbindingly epic, an absolute must-see!
Undoubtedly ***** theatre, bold, dynamic and sexy as hell!