By Paul Genty
★★★★★ (5 stars)
Ovation earned for new stunner
It has been kicking round in composer Jim Steinman's mind since the Seventies, apparently - and now Bat Out Of Hell, The Musical arrives in Manchester with one of the newest leading men in the business.
Andrew Polec went to an open audition not long out of college, and weeks later found himself invited to perform in it in the UK.
Which brings us to the Manchester Opera House and the world premiere of a show that since the middle of February has been seen by around 30,000 fans.
That's a lot to take in, and not just for the youthful star.
Over two hours and 40 minutes the evening overwhelms in almost every department, with the sort of sound you normally get at big-name rock concerts, walls of light, an epic set that reaches out to the circle balcony, projection, live video on multiple screens, TV monitors everywhere, sheets of flame, glitter cannons... even a car being pushed into the orchestra pit!
This is an immense project with a hugely impressive pedigree (and budget), that happily rests its reputation on no-name performers - all of whom are good enough to remain when it arrives in London.
The story is a Dystopian-future riff on Peter Pan, actually not bad. There's a Peter - Strat (Polec); leader of genetically perennial 18 year olds outcasts in the abandoned subways of New York.
Above ground is everyone else, ageing normally, including industrialist Falco (Rob Fowler), his wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) - the Darlings - and their 18th-birthday-girl Raven (Christina Bennington), our Wendy.
There's even a Tinkerbell - well, Tink (Aran Macrae), a mutant, stuck at 17, and a nurse, Zahara (Danielle Steers).
Raven falls for Strat, her father sets on a path of vengeance and hatred - of course - and there's an eventual resolution wrapped in a lot of singing and some surprisingly soft-centred choreography for such a hard-driven show.
The cast members, leading and supporting, are uniformly excellent.
The band is brilliant, the evening super-slick and the performances worthy of their standing ovation.
If you can get a ticket, don't hesitate.