Confidential sees the show – and gets blown away
MUCH like the final lines of the nine-minute epic song 'Bat Out of Hell', the creation of this musical has been a long time coming. Jim Steinman, the co-composer of the multi-platinum-selling Meat Loaf album, came up with the concept for the show in the 1970s. Seeing it brought-to-life, 40 years later, is the realisation of a long-standing dream for him, and for Meat Loaf fans all over the world.
We wouldn't describe ourselves as 'Meat Loaf fans' (not in public, anyway), but like a lot of kids of the 1980s, we've got more than a passing affection for this album. It kept us transfixed on long car journeys, and filled our youthful imaginations with its epic tales of teenage romance and doomed motorbike escapes. So it was with some excitement that we waited for curtain-up at Manchester Opera House to see those stories brought to the stage.
Would it live up to our expectations? Would it look like it did in our heads? And, most doubtfully given our age, would we be able to get interested in a story about teenagers?
Let's answer that last question first. The storyline centres around an eternally-young rebel called Strat who falls in love with Raven, the mortal daughter of rich, powerful Falco and his wife Sloane, who live hidden away in a skyscraper in a post-apocalyptic city.
With its echoes of vampire fiction and themes of sexuality, self-harm and teenage rebellion, there's plenty to appeal to young adults. But most of the audience was a tad older than that – a fact the musical's creators obviously anticipated with the characters of Falco and Sloane, who are played with humour and panache by Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton.
These two are the ultimate embarrassing parents who haven't let go of the rock-n-roll spirit of their youth, and are struggling to find meaning in their middle-aged married life. At Raven's 18th birthday party, she is mortified when they start reliving their first-date sex through a hugely entertaining performance of 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light'. It's one of the best songs of the show (and Sloane later gets one of the best lines, when she sings “Would you hose me down with holy water, if I get too hot?” in 'I'd Do Anything for Love').
With his mad eyes and lean physique, his stage presence is more Iggy Pop than Meat Loaf. Voice-wise, he owns these songs, enunciating every word of the fast, furious lyrics.
Having said that, there's a lot of stand-out lines and songs in this show. It's almost non-stop with them. We loved the ensemble numbers 'Dead Ringer for Love' and 'You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth', performed by Strat's gang, The Lost. They are styled in the classic looks of '80s pop and rock videos: red leather, oversized shoulder pads, hot pants and fish nets. The dancing style channels the 1980s too. It's muscular and modern, part Leroy in Fame, part the zombies in 'Thriller'.
Other favourites included two stirring songs that work really well with female singers: 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad' by a baritone-voiced Danielle Steers as Zahara, and 'Heaven Can Wait', beautifully performed by Christina Bennington as Raven.
But the highest praise has to go to the star of the show, Andrew Polec who plays Strat with an outstanding level of talent and energy. With his mad eyes and lean physique, his stage presence is more Iggy Pop than Meat Loaf. Voice-wise, he owns these songs, enunciating every word of the fast, furious lyrics. His rendition of the title song is as dramatic as you'd hope for, considering it must be the most dramatic rock song of all time.
The whole show revels in its audacious, melodramatic nature, with the characters repeatedly quoting Jim Steinman's retort to critics who say his work is over-the-top: “If you don't go over the top, you can't see what's on the other side.”
We saw what was on the other side: an audience on their feet, singing, completely swept up in the spectacle, music and joy of this show. Go and see it while it's still in Manchester. Chances are, it'll take you there too.
Bat Out of Hell: The Musical is showing at The Opera House, Manchester until 8 April 2017, before it moves to London Coliseum. Buy tickets here.