Review – Bat Out of Hell the musical

Bat Out of Hell the album distinguished itself by being over the top, over-reaching and ridiculously over-emotional. Fortunately, despite taking on the vast London Coliseum, the musical version retains all that, feeling out-sized and just bursting at the seams with energy and power, barely contained by the room.

The plot sees us in the familiar territory of a dystopian future where a group of teenage boys emerge from underground where their DNA has been affected so they remain permanently aged 18. For reasons that escaped my notice in all the noise their leader, Start (Andrew Polec) is obsessed by the 18 year old daughter of the leader of the above ground city of Obsidian, Raven (Chritina Bennington singing beautifully). She, of course, falls for him and the plot progresses as they attempt to fulfil their desires across the divide between the haves and have nots, the ageless and the ageing.

As well as Romeo and Juliet, there are elements of Peter Pan in the story (I read that the original album arose from a rock version of Peter Pan called Neverland). Start, perpetually 18, is of course Peter. His best friend is called Tink (Aran Macrae), who becomes jealous of Start’s blossoming romance with Raven. In a fight he ends up being killed. I thought for one moment we might be asked if we believed in fairies in an attempt to revive him (I’m sure the enthusiastic crowd would have willingly obliged), but alas, no.

This all serves, of course, as the framework into which are placed the required hits – Dead Ringer for Love, Two out of Three ain’t bad, Bat out of Hell and others you’d thought you’d forgotten but haven’t.

The songs are shared out amongst a number of talented featured performers (notably Rob Folwer’s strong presence as Falco, Sharon Sexton as Sloane, Danielle Steers as Zahara and Dom Hartley-Harris as Jagwire). They, and Andrew Polec in the lead, give performances which are high octane and committed. They don’t attempt an impersonation of Meatloaf’s original performance, but at the same time retain the sound and power of the songs. So far from feeling short-changed you feel as though you’ve watched new definitive versions of these iconic numbers.

The cast take it all very seriously, which is key to playing something like this which could so easily become self parody. But the production is not without humour, such as the musicians stomping off across the stage carrying battered instruments after a full-sized car is pushed into the pit! And I particularly enjoyed the work of the chorus in Paradise by the Dashboard Light, who threw some outrageous shapes in outlandish costumes, working their socks off in the background throughout this whole extended sequence. There are also a couple of great theatrical moments – a slow motion motorbike explosion and a quick change like you’ve never seen before.

It’s not around for long (booking to 5 August) so, unless you need the excuse of a trip to Toronto where it plays in the autumn, spend a hot summer night at The London Coliseum (P.S. low marks for customer care from the Coliseum who, on the hottest ever summer solstice, confiscated all bottles of water from audience members as they entered the theatre).

Bat Out of Hell the musical