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Another review - mine

Posted by:
ashkent7 04:47 pm MST 03/23/17

So finally went to see the musical this afternoon.

First here is my spoiler free, succinct review for those who still don't want details(where have you been to avoid them???).

Bat Out Of Hell The Musical is the most emotionally charged, stunningly executed phenomenally performed piece of rock and roll fantasy to ever hit the stage. Desmond Child said of Bat 3 "this is the future of the Bat Out Of Hell franchise." No. THIS is the future of Bat Out Of Hell.

Now, the detailed version.

I love a good musical. I love Jim's songs. I love Meat. There was pretty much no way that I wasn't going to like this. But actually sitting there, as the lights suddenly went out with a crash of thunder and a single shaft of light illuminates Andrew Polec as he shouts the iconic words “I remember everything!” I realised very quickly that there was actually no way I was leaving there without having the same feelings I had the first time I saw Meat as an 11 year old.

And so it starts. The first thing that I noticed was that those saying Andrew channels Meat…no. By pretty much the end of the opening monologue and certainly after around ten minutes, what I am actually watching is what would have happening when Bad For Good was released if Jim himself had the stage presence of Meat. Andrew’s Strat is the forever young Peter Pan that Jim has always been in the songs he writes and in the world he has created for them.

The opening number, a brilliantly crafted hybrid of All Revved Up, Break It, the instrumental piece best known as “God has left the building” in the Dance of The Vampires demos and Everything Louder rocks, and also works well as an introduction to many of the characters. The first act has a complete assault of spectacular vocal after vocal, as well as some good little nods to things to come, and the whole show is packed with more easter eggs than even the Easter Bunny can carry. The number of lines that to non fans would probably go unnoticed, but to me instantly stand out (It hurts only when I feel, The sea is whipping the sky). There’s tension, comedy, drama, melodrama.

Life Is a lemon gets a brief run out on Raven’s radio, Frying pan’s now expanded appearance now feels right. Songs like just won’t quit, the stunning duet of Two Out Of Three – which like so much of this show brings a completely new context and deeper meaning to the songs I’ve known so well for thirty years – and the comedic turns of Rob and Sharon on Who Needs The Young and what is possibly the most raucous, sexually charged and destructive Paradise put on stage – even beyond anything Meat put on stage and that’s saying something – all lead to the fitting first half conclusion as Andrew proves his worth with the cataclysmic vision of Bat, complete with a motorbike that splits itself in two, blood, confetti canons and a vocal tour de force that gets the audience reaction it thoroughly deserves.

Onto the second half, and for me there are two distinct parts of this musical. Part one is a rock and roll spectacular extravaganza about lust, rebellion, control and losing control. Part two sticks its hands deep into the chest to try and pull out the heart mangled by the first Act’s culminating crash.

The dark, sadistic opener of Land Of The Pig, with hanging bodies, electrocution and all manner of depravation under the command of Rob’s joyously maniacal turn, sets the tone for what is coming. However, it is the gorgeous, haunting and emotionally destructive version of Heaven Can Wait, the lighting on which chokes out whatever emotion you haven’t given up to that point, followed by a magnificent version of Objects are beyond words and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. For Crying Out Loud is staged brilliantly. The previously teased “On A Hot Summer Night” monologue finally gets its pay off and You Took The Words works so well without the break that was originally in there during previews. The quiet, heart tugging Not Allowed To Love sees the song simplified from what was originally to feature in the Batman musical a decade ago, but it doesn’t lose anything for it. And then comes the song that I have loved for over ten years and have finally found my definitive version. What Part of My Body Hurts The Most is performed by Rob and Sharon with the most emotional performance I think I have witnessed in any context, any production or just anything. It has been mentioned that nothing much happens during the song. It does. What happens is you see and feel the moment in two lives when everything finally falls apart. It needs nothing more than it has, and for me cements my belief that Rob Fowler is for me every bit the show’s star as much as Andrew.

Crowd pleaser Dead Ringer For Love is a welcome break from the emotion, before Tink’s death leads to a divine version of Rock And Roll Dreams that again takes more from Jim’s Bad For Good version than the Bat 2 one, and the choral ending of it just sublime and again gets you right in the heart.

The dual finale of All Coming Back To Me Now and Anything For Love rounds of the show in a story closing epic that showcases the vocal talents of all the main case and then some.

I really cannot truly describe how I felt when the Bat reprise kicked in. I felt drained, elated, rocked, reborn and everything in between. Meat has always stood by the fact that you need to have a good character to truly bring a song to life and not just be another good singer singing Steinman songs. There is not a single member of that cast that doesn’t completely own every song.

A couple of things that didn’t get me quite raving; I couldn’t help thinking that the bats are sadly not as effective as they could be. I knew they were coming and love it, but I did notice that hardly anyone in the stalls seemed to notice them flying out. I don’t know if it is to do with the lighting, or just that actors by that point have everyone completely mesmerised, but it just seems to not get the appreciation it should. Whether having them actually fly around the stage then out would work better (I know the programming of them is set to do what they do and not sure how much that can be changed) but I think it just deserves something more because it is a neat gimmick.

The other thing, is the dancing. My dad, who I went with, said afterwards that he though the show was brilliant and he would definitely see it again (which isn’t something he says very often) but he also said the dancing was a bit naff. My sister has been a professional dancer, including junior tap champion three years running once upon a time, for 20 years and in that time our parents have travelled all over the country for competitions, events and shows, so have seen more dancing than I will probably see In my life, so my dad has seen his fair share. For me, I would put it a bit differently. The dancing in the main is forgettable at the time you are watching it. With the exception of Dead Ringer and a few other scenes when the stage is full of people dancing and it is part of the scene naturally, I actually kept forgetting the dancers were even there. I couldn’t tell you much about what they were doing during paradise (I remember them getting undressed at one point), the same during Objects, It Just Won’t Quit… That is why it doesn’t matter that there aren’t any during What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most. There is enough happening, even with just two people performing to hold the attention without the need for a load of random arm movements (there were a couple of times Raven was doing strange movements with her arms during some of her scenes that really didn’t need to be there.

And then there’s the camera use. I love the idea and the close use of the camera in the bedroom scenes and others. It is perfect for those seats that are slightly out of view. But there are a few that make the actual scene clunky because there is someone dressed in black with a huge camera blocking the actual view of the scene and the characters to get the shot for the screen. It was mainly the first scene that it was obvious, not so much after that.

But none of that detracts from the awesome two and half hours of sheer rock and roll heaven that is Bat Out Of Hell The Musical. Jim is a master of his craft, and I don’t think there is anyone else who could take a 40+ year old piece and recycle it into something magical, new, breath taking and awe inspiring in the way he has. I thought I knew these songs, but I had barely scratched the surface. This is JIM STEINMAN’s Bat Out Of Hell, and his inspiration and legacy is complexly contained within is content. Even some of the dancing can be linked back to his own performances and videos from Bad For Good. If this is his legacy, then I couldn’t think of any way it could have been bettered.

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