Jay Scheib interview with CurtainCallOnline

Curtain Call

photo of Jay Scheib (director) and Emma Portner (choreographer) on the red carpet for the London premiere of Bat Out Of Hell The Musical
Jay Scheib (director) and Emma Portner (choreographer)

Was the music of Meatloaf and Jim Steinman the main reason you wanted to get involved in Bat Out of Hell?

That was a huge appeal, primarily because the songs are so massive and rich and epic. They're stories in and of themselves, so putting them on stage seemed like a really natural extension of the music.

Would you describe it as a jukebox musical?

I would not, because Bat Out of Hell was originally written as a musical. It was a futuristic interpretation of Peter Pan, so we've spun it into a Peter Pan-meets-Romeo and Juliet adventure story. It's more like a cast album than a jukebox musical. It's not like we've shoe-horned greatest hits into a narrative.

So the story is rooted in the music, as opposed to the other way around?

The story kind of comes out of the music. I've spent the last two years working with Jim Steinman, developing the concept and the story. The songs play like scenes, so we basically turned what had been a solo into a duets and quartets. We're really just staging the songs.

If you had to take one Meatloaf song to a desert island, which one would it be?

That's a tough one, but I'd have to go with 'I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)'.

What does it mean to be playing the Coliseum?

Well Jim Steinman always referred to Bat Out of Hell as a rock 'n' roll equivalent of a Wagner opera, so to be at the London Coliseum, the home of English National Opera, is the most perfect fit imaginable. It's a beautiful place, full of tradition and history. The show just sounds and looks so great in there.

How long did it take to cast Bat Out of Hell?

Casting took the better part of a year to find everyone. We were looking for really young, raw talents, who had both great athleticism and also incredible voices. The choreography is challenging, and a lot of the songs require a massive operatic range. So finding these people took a long time. We found our lead actor, Andrew Polec (pictured), in New York, but he's the only cast member who's come with us from the States. Everyone else we found here, and many have come straight out of drama school.

Who's the joker in the pack?

I'd have to say Sharon [Sexton, who plays Sloane] - she has a supreme sense of humour. Plus Rob Fowler who plays Falco is also pretty hilarious and always has a joke up his sleeve. But they're just such a fun cast in general. I've never had so much fun with a company.

Are you hoping to bring some escapism to the West End?

People have come to me and said that people really need this right now, because it's fun and it's also about deep, heartfelt emotions. In times of trouble, community is the most important thing. What I notice is that people are in a room together, sharing this experience which is loud and moving, and it's a chance to release for a moment. To slip into another world. That is a very valuable thing.

As an American in London, what's your favourite place to visit?

I really love Exmouth Market. That whole area is just great. But to be honest every time I visit a new neighbourhood I fall in love with it. I'm so impressed with London - if I never work anywhere else that would be fine.

- Jay Scheib was speaking to Theo Bosanquet. Bat Out of Hell is booking at the London Coliseum until 5 August.