PREVIEW | Bat Out of Hell the Musical

Sincerely, Amy (UK theatre and lifestyle blog)

Bat Out of Hell the Musical brings to life the story that is already so cleverly narrated throughout Jim Steinman’s iconic songs on the Bat Out Of Hell album.

The musical is set in a fantasy world, but is heavily centred around contemporary themes, and the struggles young people battle with when growing up. Described as an ‘epic rock and roll fantasy’, it follows the story of eternally young Strat who falls deeply in love with Raven, who has been locked away in the palace towers. With parents that smother her and attempt to protect her from the big wide world, she is desperate for freedom.

the cast of Bat Out Of Hell the Musical in rehearsal; Dom Hartley-Harris and Danielle Steers in foreground
Danielle Steers and Dom Hartley-Harris as Zahara and Jagwire

It’s a show that explores the themes of teenage rebellion, youthful love and living the rock and roll dream.

Bat Out Of Hell isn’t another stereotypical jukebox musical, it is heavily carried by the narrative both in the book, but more importantly the music. Jim Steinman had been writing the songs from the album before he met Meatloaf, and he always intended on creating a musical out of them. However, Meatloaf suggested he sang them to make them famous and then a couple of weeks after the success of the album, they could create the show.

However, obviously it took a lot longer than a couple of weeks, as over 40 years later, they are now putting the music on stage. The producers of the show said: “Now that it became such a huge record, it was hard to do it as a theatre production because people thought it was too rock and roll for the theatre. So the challenge now is to make it a rock and roll show that works in the theatre.”

Director Jay Scheib talked about how it isn’t a ‘jukebox musical’: “The songs end up functioning like scenes, so in many ways the lyrics take you on this massive journey that have a beginning, a middle, a couple of huge conflicts and then a resolution. The actual songs, sometimes it feels like we are staging an opera sometimes because the lyrics continue the story forward.”

Although the songs are classics and obviously appeal to an older generation, the musical is completely contemporary, mainly due to its timeless and relatable themes.

More or less, it is like real rock and roll. It is about growing up without ever getting old, it is about refusing to grow up because it is just too painful sometimes, it is about falling in love and not being able to stop yourself, even falling in love knowing your heart is going to be broken again. So somehow I’d like to think that the fountain of youth founded the soundtrack of bat out of hell. – Jay Scheib (Director)

Producer David Sonenberg explained: “Musically it is also still current, these songs are iconic songs and my concept is to present them the way the bat out of hell fans would like to hear them, but also bringing a certain theatricality to them and make them work for the stage.” Alongside the classics such as Paradise By The Dashboard Light and Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Jim Steinman has created new songs for the show.

We were lucky enough to watch Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton perform their number What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most as Raven’s parent’s Falco and Sloane. It’s a heartbreaking duet that catches the moment in which their marriage ends. With a Steinman style and tone, it blends into the show as if it were written for the album. Rob Fowler said: “It goes straight in as a Meatloaf or Jim Steinman song, it feels so familiar,” and Sharon Sexton added: “That’s what those songs do though, they just rip the centre out of you. Everything is so relatable, the lyrics just tell the story for you.”

The way Steinman writes, he speaks to you and he gets to the heart very quickly.

The characters in the production are expressive and passionate, we saw Andrew Polec perform numerous numbers and his energy was out of this world. He has a natural flair for the role, the producers of the production said: “Andrew was born to play the part, we knew straight away. Shockingly he was like from another planet, really good actor and an amazing instrument. These songs are scaled to kill you and you have to have an incredible voice and he has both of those. He can sell it, he is amazing.”

Andrew’s high energy and electric vocals make him perfectly casted for the role of eternally young Strat. Andrew told me: “A lot of the music was written back in the 70s when revolutionary was really real and making changes in this world, we hope to do the same thing.” His character isn’t a mimic of Meatloaf in the slightest, he has taken the power of music and crafted a completely compelling character.

the cast of Bat Out Of Hell the Musical in rehearsal; Strat (Andrew Polec) and Raven (Christina Bennington) in foreground
Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington as Strat and Raven

“I think you can draw a lot on the past because history repeats itself, whether you are in the 60s or 70s or 80s there is a deep-seated revolutionary feel to how rock and roll came around in the first place and if you can touch that pulse and get back into the freedom of expression, and equal rights, and everything that embodies and gives voice to this music then you can always find where these characters are coming from,” Andrew told me.

Playing his love interest, Christina Bennington has created an intriguing character appears both sweet yet sultry, as her desperation for freedom is evident through her characterisation. “I think everyone can relate to Raven in a way that she battles with craving the love of her parents but also being suffocated from it and wanting to be free from it,” Christina said. “She is scared of her feelings for Strat but at the same time she feels them so intensely. There is a darkness within her that she doesn’t want to deal with, and she feels weird, until she meets Strat. It is like when you meet someone who is the same kind of weird as you, you aren’t weird anymore.”

Bat Out Of Hell opens at the Manchester Opera House on the 17th of February until the 8th of April, and then moves on to the London Coliseum on the 5th of April.