Sunday, 25 June 2017

Review Bat Out Of Hell

Bat Out Of Hell
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Steinman
Headbanging Hell Of A Show

Once upon a time there was a boy from New York who dreamed of writing a rock opera. 

He found a spiritual soulmate in a well-nourished singer with a seasoned-ground-beef-dish moniker. Yet these bright-eyed youths had their concept album continually rejected by the wicked executives from monolith record companies.  

But it was yah-boo-sucks to them when the album of those lost contractless boys became one of the bestselling albums in commercial music history. 

OK, Bat Out Of Hell was in reality released by a major label Cleveland International in 1977 which, almost 30 years later, went on to sue Sony Records for manufacturing copies without its logo. But why let the unromantic facts get in the way of a romantic story?

And hey, we now have Bat Out Of Hell  - a full-blown production at one of English opera's leading venues, the London Coliseum with those songs blasting out - and we mean, blasting out - echoing around its hallowed cupola! 

While Meat Loaf is deservedly celebrated as the vocal name on the Bat Out Of Hell album and its follow ups, the composer and lyricist was New Yorker Jim Steinman, who like Meatloaf, had his start in musical theatre before turning to rock. 

The evil (and of course middle-aged) Falco (Rob Fowler) and his vampish spouse Sloane (Sharon Sexton) rule over the Manhattan of the future aka the land of Obsidia. 

They over-protect sole offspring, daughter Raven  - shades of another concept album in that name - (Christina Bennington) locking her up in a luxurious skyscraper which, unfortunately for them, any old (or rather eternally young) Romeo can scale. 

Down below in the netherland (no, that isn't a spelling mistake!) is Strat (Andrew Polec) and his gang of illegals including Zahara (Danielle Steers), Strat's undercover spy in Falco Towers. 

Due to some enchantment or other, they are all frozen for ever at age 18 and duck and dive, evading Obsidian's security guards and traffic cops - TLT's automotive sidekick certainly perked up at their fate.

Directed by Jay Scheid, the fantastically talented cast on the fantastically conceived set, complete with stunning videos by Finn Ross, sweep the audience along with a raft of Steinman songs, some well-known, some lesser-known and a couple of new creations under the direction of Musical Supervisor Michael Reed.

With design by Jon Bausor reminiscent of many an album cover from when we spotty teens played those round vinyl discs found therein, it certainly lives up to the adjective spectacular and it's loud - headbanging loud and then some. 

Teamed up with this is the retro-parody or just plain clunky choreography, depending on your point of view, by Emma Portner plus Patrick Woodroffe's rather more fluent lighting and Gareth Owen's sound design.   

So whaddya we think of it? Bat Out Of Hell feels like An Experience - one which would work exceptionally well touring as a stadium show in the United States.

The old favourites are all there including the eponymous Bat Out Of Hell, loosely integrated into a bonkers' plot. So there's every opportunity to print out the lyrics and sing along - unless you're of operatic volume, you won't be heard in any case. If loud isn't your bag and you're still curious, you might want to sit up in The Gods.    

Projecting ourselves into a utopian musical theatre future, a cut-down version at a fringe venue might be interesting (but we doubt that would happen before - the movie ...??)!  

We enjoyed it as one-off but we wouldn't want to go again and again. However that's a matter of taste rather than the musical production values. It's an amber/green light from TLT and her (heavy metal) petrolhead sidekick.  

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