X-Rated Gold Briefs

The Times (London)

★★★★☆ (4 stars)

Scene from Bat Out Of Hell The Musical. Strat (Andrew Polec) and Raven (Christina Bennington) are in the foreground, lying in embrace on the stage by a rock. A classic motorcycle headlight lights up the tunnel entrance behind them.

Oh this could have gone oh so wrong. I mean, at one point, bats actually do fly during this megablast of a musical. It's the love child, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, of Jim Steinman, the man who wrote the lyrics to Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, one of the bestselling records of all time. So this is his sequel, with added bats and, yes, added hell.

It's a sci-fi plot, set in Obsidian, a post-apocalyptic Manhattan. Our hero is Strat, leader of a gang of outcasts who are forced to stay forever 18. Our villain is Falco, the tyrannical leader and wannabe rock god (he's wearing a black leather shirt with leather ruffles, I rest my case). He is holed up in his skyscraper with his sexy, funny wife Sloane and his daughter Raven who has just turned 18. I probably don't need to tell you that Strat falls for Raven.

Andrew Polec plays Strat with such energy that he is like a bat out of hell. He's got leather trousers with sparkly stripes up the side, a torn shirt and eyes lined with kohl. He's also got a Harley-Davidson (gold, as you ask). This is Polec's debut and he is sensational, exuding confidence, making his cartoony character work.

Jay Scheib directs and there were actual sparks, not to say a bit of lust, between Strat and Raven, a gutsy Christina Bennington who seemed to be permanently in Doc Martens and underwear. Indeed, we get to see most people’s underwear including, hilariously, Rob Fowler as Falco in some X-rated gold briefs and Sharon Sexton as Sloane in something turquoise. There are some very funny moments involving cars, pools of water and large items falling into the orchestra pit.

The engine of this is the music which, as all of us who have spent entirely too much time singing along to various bits of it while driving, remains epic. Steinman, who wrote the lyrics, music and script, has included the likes of You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night), Two out of Three Ain't Bad and the still wonderful I Would Do Anything For Love.

The set is a great dark bat-cave of a place created by Jon Bausor. The choreography, by Emma Portner, is sharp but, at times, misfires. There are a few writhing moments that simply don't work and, at two hours and 45 minutes, including interval, it could use a trim. But, otherwise, it's all revved up, with some place to go. Vroom!