The award-winning musical featuring Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf’s greatest hits has rock n rolled back into Manchester where it opened back in 2017 and my goodness has it made itself heard!
Of course, when you hear the title ‘Bat Out of Hell’ you can’t help but sing it. Packed to the brim with rock anthems, the production is exactly as you would expect it to be paired with the dramatic, rock songs produced through the years by the well-known pair.
The story follows Strat, the leader of the rebellious gang ‘The Lost’, as he falls in love with Raven, the beautiful daughter of the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian, Falco. There’s a real sense of a Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers plot, mixed with a hint of the story of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, as the rebellious crew are forever young, they don’t age past 18 years old – an element of the plot not explained in much depth, and which I’m still quite confused about. We don’t get much chance to learn about the characters, or discover their world, and I’m left with many questions about the plot even once the curtain is down. However, a show like this you don’t enjoy for the thrilling (or lack of) plot…
What I have to begin with is the staging… what a sight to behold! Each element of the staging has been considered to within an inch of its life. Each section of the set and each individual prop creates deeper meaning and connotations to the dystopian word we are thrust into. A building stretches up on stage right, which subtly symbolises the neck of a guitar. Next to this a crane, and below it a sewer pipe leading to the world of ‘The Lost’. Above this is a screen acting as a sort of billboard, which projects a live feed from a camera via an onstage cameraman, which portrays elements of the action on stage: a brilliant and interesting element of the production, which really added to the grungy 70’s rock music video feel.
My favourite characters have to be Falco (played by Rob Fowler) and Sloane (played by Sharon Sexton), the parents of our protagonist, Raven. Their humour and chemistry alone make for a brilliant pairing but combined with their vocal talents? Every song performed by them was a showstopper!
To be honest, the whole cast is phenomenal, there’s not one weak link. Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby were brilliant castings for the roles of Strat and Raven. Adamson’s look is perfect for the role, and his thick curly hair is enough to make anyone jealous. His larger-than-life performance of some of rock’s greatest anthems cannot be faulted.
Kirby’s performance of ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ was absolutely stunning. I thought it couldn’t get any better until she was joined by Sexton and Fowler to create a beautifully powerful ballad: with an amalgamate of such mighty voices, it absolutely blew the roof off the place and the audience roared in applause at its conclusion.
The supporting roles got to share a lot of the great songs too, with each one stepping up to show off their own vocal talents and adding to the growing list of wow moments. Some stand outs included Kellie Gnauck as Valkyrie, Joelle Moses as Zahara and Danny Whelan as Ledoux, in the song ‘Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’.
As someone with not much prior knowledge of Meatloaf or Steinman songs, I was at first confused by some of the choices, in particular the occasional use of wired microphones, and the sporadic and cryptic, poetic lines. However, I took my dad along with me to watch the show, a huge rock fan, and more importantly a huge Jim Steinman & Meat Loaf fan. He explained to me that these were all elements in homage to the pair and their performing quirks and the poems within their albums.
The ONLY disappointment in this production, for me, is the lack of a more defined and stronger story line, something which I believe all stage productions should have. This is the only thing stopping me from giving the show the 5 stars the cast deserves. However, what it lacks in plot it more than makes up for in energy and sheer talented performers.
Just like the rock music it is plagued with, Bat Out Of Hell is chaotic, manic brilliance. The energy exudes from start to finish, it’s a massive spectacle filled with remarkable staging and pyrotechnics that provides many a jaw dropping moment. It’s a must-see production for the music, the spectacle and the sheer talent of the cast – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Bat Out Of Hell will be rocking at The Opera House, Manchester until Saturday 2nd October. Tickets available from here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/
Reviewer: Alison Ruck
Reviewed: 14th September 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★