Bat Out of Hell

Reviewer's rating

The house was full, the audience were delighted, the cast sparkled with energy, and the band were superb.  What was not to like? You would have to be a po-faced puritan not to like something so pompous, bombastic, overblown and over the top as the oeuvre of the late Jim Steinman, as unleashed upon the world by the larger-than-life biker hero, Meatloaf.  A  musical showcasing a choice selection from albums such as Midnight at the Lost and Found, Dead Ringer and the eponymous infernal winged creature itself, ranging from driving rock to tear-jerking emotion, couldn’t go wrong.

Of course, the songs had to be strung along some kind of plot line, and the plot here is frankly ridiculous.  There is a motley crew of youngsters who are apparently stuck, like latter-day Lost Boys, at the age of 18 in perpetuity. But it doesn’t matter.  The main thing is how the songs themselves are presented, and full marks must go to the band, who reproduce the sound of the album tracks with astonishing accuracy.  The singers sing their hearts out, fizzing with the raw emotion that the songs require.  My favourite was not actually one of the adrenaline-pumping rock numbers, but the tender duet between Joelle Moses and James Chisholm in Two out of three ain’t bad.  Heterosexual love, lust, loss and remorse are also rampant among the four main characters : a rebellious rich girl, her domineering father, her tipsy mother and the lanky leader of the bike gang, who takes the Meatloaf role. It must be said, he looks nothing like Meatloaf.  Anyway, the cupidity is balanced out when the all-singing, all-dancing chorus pair off into same-sex couples at the end.

The chorus are really essential to creating the full effect of the music.  A ‘wall of sound’ sets the spine tingling.  The choreography is great too, as indeed are the set and the lighting.  These featured when the eponymous Bat out of Hell track came to be performed.  How would they do it?  A mad acceleration ends with the rider “torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike”.  Well, they pulled it off – although I did miss the accompanying sound when the dying rider observes, “And I think somebody, somewhere must have tolled a bell.”  I was expecting this number to end the show, but in fact it ends the first half.  The show actually ends on a high note, with everybody happy.  Well, it is a musical, after all.