Immersive Theatre At Its Best
By Michelle Eagleton
Half way through its seven week run at Manchester’s Opera House, Bat Out of Hell the Musical definitely won’t be ‘gone when the morning comes’, nor will it be forgotten by the packed out audience at last night’s Gala Premiere.
Featuring a whopping 17 of Steinman’s greatest hits including You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and It’s All Coming Back To Me Now this brand new musical provides a jaw dropping experience that leaves you revved up and wanting more.
Set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic city we meet Strat, the forever young leader of The Lost, a gang battling against the oppressive ruler Falco. Strat falls for Raven, Falco’s daughter, and is determined to set her free from the palace towers she has been locked up in since she was a child. Packed full of rebellion, romance and air grabbing power ballads, it entertains to the max even if the storyline is far from rocket science.
Relative newcomer Andrew Polec is just incredible in the lead role of Strat, gaining your attention from the moment he jumps onstage delivering a high-energy and mesmerising opening monologue. Polec is the definitive rock god, belting out stunning vocals, oozing with sensuality and a dark intensity. He’s more than a match for Meat Loaf when it comes to doing Steinman’s songs justice and he commands the stage like a seasoned pro.
Christina Bennington has been perfectly cast as love interest Raven as simmers with sex appeal and yet portrays a sense of broken fragility as she battles the will of her family against that of her lover. Every vocal from Bennington is stunning and the relationship on stage between her and Strat is just electric.
It has taken over 40 years to turn Steinman’s classic album Bat Out of Hell into a thrilling musical, something the lyricist originally intended it to be when he penned it but it has been well worth the wait.
Bat Out of Hell is full of so many new devices and tricks that at first it’s hard to take it all in, and, for the traditional theatre goer it might prove a bit of a shock to the system. After the first ten minutes though you find yourself quickly adapting and becoming completely enthralled by the action on stage.
It’s immersive theatre at its best with huge projections, confetti cannons exploding onto the audience and a cameraperson onstage filming in a reality show style beaming the performers onto the TV screens at either side of the proscenium arches.
Show-stopper Danielle Steers as Zahara is definitely one to watch out for in the future. Her rich, powerful vocals are reminiscent of Cher and she struts across the stage with an incredible confidence and attitude. Steers Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad with Dom Hartley-Harris as Jagwire is a stand-out moment in the production with both performances faultless.
Director Jay Scheib has done a fantastic job throughout Bat Out of Hell the Musical and none more so in staging the 8 minutes and 28 seconds track Paradise By The Dashboard Light. The scene, led by Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as his wife Sloane, is a mixture of humour and raunchiness that makes you laugh one moment then leaves you hot under the collar the next.
The real star of the show though is designer Jon Bausor’s dynamic and multi-layered set. Bausor has completely transformed the Opera House stage and, on viewing the impressive spectacle, it’s easy to understand why it took over six weeks to build. There’s interchangeable screens, wire mesh adorning the walls to the ceiling, tunnels, caves and even a water pool. The whole production pushes the boundaries of theatre, breaking down the third wall on a number of occasions and looks set to pave the way for the digital age musical.
From start to finish it felt like you were watching an epic music video with many voyeuristic elements and jaw-dropping set pieces. This is definitely a ‘must see’ show as it really takes theatre production to another level and brings a 40 year old musical masterpiece right up to date.
It’s a privilege that Manchester audiences get to see Bat Out of Hell the Musical first and it runs here until 8th April. The show then transfers to London in June where it will no doubt be wowing the West End crowds at its new home the Coliseum.