Bat Out Of Hell

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The ‘Bat’ is back in town! Four long years since its world premiere at the Opera House Manchester in 2017, Bat Out of Hell – the award-winning hit musical – has finally come home to Quay Street. Announcing its return with a victorious lap of roaring motorcycles, smoking tyres, gasoline fumes and lashings of leather, this is a production you could see, hear and taste before anyone had even set foot on stage!  

A frenetic fusion of Peter Pan meets Mad Max, Jim Steinman originally conceived Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell as a musical. It took four decades for that vision to be fulfilled – and it was worth the wait.

Enter Strat (Glenn Adamson), the charismatic leader of The Lost – a collective of rock n’ roll-loving misfits who, following a DNA-freezing earthquake, are condemned to be forever 18. Living in a network of tunnels beneath Obsidian (formerly known as Manhattan), The Lost are the scourge of city leader Falco (Rob Fowler), whose disaffected daughter Raven (Martha Kirby) and hilariously disenchanted wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) reside with him in Falco Towers.

When Raven discovers a discarded T-shirt following The Lost’s latest protest in Falco Square, she locks eyes with its owner – Strat – setting the two on a romantic collision course that bristles with high-octane energy. Raven is as determined to become one of The Lost as her parents are to stop her, but with their own relationship in dire need of a fuel injection, can Falco and Sloane get on the same page when it comes to their daughter’s future?

Scored with nearly 20 Meatloaf and Jim Steinman classics, this rambunctious rock opera comes screaming out of the gates with ‘All Revved Up with No Place to Go/Wasted Youth’. Act One continues to pack a punch with a sizzling ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ – memorably staged atop of a convertible car – and an achingly tender rendition of ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ by out-of-step lovebirds Zahara (Joelle Moses) and Jagwire (James Chisholm). 

By contrast, Act Two starts its engine in comparative idle – a flurry of duets slowing the pace right down. Once again, Fowler and Sexton – reprising their original roles – stand out with ‘What Part of My Body Hurts the Most’, whilst Tink (Killian Thomas Lefevre) infuses ‘Not Allowed to Love’ with palpable yearning. When ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ kicks in, the production bursts back into life; then it’s a home run of stone-cold classics right to the final curtain.

This is one sexy, fleshy, no-holds-barred production with flashes of pink thong, straddled laps galore and blood-smeared abs all making an appearance on stage. Not for the faint-hearted, Jay Scheib’s superb direction errs towards comedy rather than grotesque – lending a light-hearted feel to the whole production.

There was so much to love about the cast in Version 1.0 of this musical, but rest assured, those who are returning for Version 2.0 can find joy in the performances of the latest additions to the billing. 

Glenn Adamson’s Strat is fresh and enchanting, embodying the ‘forever young’ aesthetic of The Lost, whilst Martha Kirby’s Raven is his perfect ‘Wendy’ – a wistful romantic on the cusp of love; however, the standout performance is BOOH veteran Sharon Sexton as Sloane, who goes for every laugh and smashes every vocal.  

Jon Bausor understood the assignment – bringing us a set and costume design that hits every dystopian note. Falco Towers, suspended above ‘The Deep End’ and revealed to us via roaming videocam, is a particular triumph. It feels like a truly innovative use of space, as throbbing motorcycles, a vintage car and a sofa take it in turns to appear and disappear stage left and right.

Xena Gusthart’s clever choreography gives every member of the ensemble the opportunity to shine – especially during the riot scenes and the ‘push me-pull me’ love ballads.  

Of course, this production is all about Steinman’s music. Under the supervision of Michael Reed, the band are an absolute knockout – bringing us home with a final surprise number dedicated to the hitmaker who passed in April this year. Having bounced around in their seats and sung their hearts out, the audience is finally unleashed to give a roaring ovation. 

For this reviewer, Bat Out of Hell continues to be the benchmark by which all musicals are measured… For Crying Out Loud, You Know I Love You.  

Bat Out of Hell is on at the Opera House until Saturday, 2 October. Find out more and purchase tickets here.

Bat Out of Hell the Musical- After Party interviews and ticket news!

Andrew Polec (Strat) & Christina Bennington (Raven) at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Tragen

Andrew Polec (Strat) and Christina Bennington (Raven). Photo:Phil Tragen

Opening Night were privileged to have access all areas at the Bat Out of Hell the Musical’s aftershow party at Revolution Bar De Cuba last week.

After one helluva performance the cast and crew of the spectacular show were ready for some serious rockin’ to celebrate the amazing reception they received from the Manchester crowd.

We got to catch up with some of the stars of the show along with one of the producers and director. It was clear all were in great spirits and deservedly so,  producer David Sonenberg explained just how much the show meant to him and the audiences going to see it.

“To go to a musical that has these great songs and get chills, again it is a tribute to Steinman, his lyrics are just epic. I see people who these songs are important to-at our first preview we had people from Seattle, Japan, Australia, Germany Belgium and tonight some of the same people came back again and they have tickets for the London Coliseum in June, so there’s a passion for this stuff.

For me it was very rewarding, like a long childbirth.”

The world’s first look at Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell the Musical has been greeted by 5-star reviews across the board (check out ours on an earlier post) – now, due to overwhelming public demand the producers have extended its season at the Manchester Opera House by three weeks, until 29 April.

One of the cast who will be celebrating their extra time in Manchester is local lad Andrew Patrick-Walker. Originally one of the Swing team Andrew actually got to step into a role he was understudying on Gala Premiere night. When the original performer of  Blake fell ill earlier in the day he had just a few hours to prepare.

Andrew Patrick-Walker told us how it was a special moment to get an opportunity like that in his home town:

“It feels amazing, I had my Mam and Dad here tonight and I can’t really describe it. We all got a bottle of Moet from Meatloaf and Jim Steinman sent us all cards and he’s been watching rehearsals all the time, he’s really happy with it and the producers are making sure his visions going the right way.”

Meatloaf hasn’t just been generous with champagne, he’s given leading man Andrew Polec (Strat) a few wise words of advice along the way.

Andrew revealed to us:

“He (Meatloaf) said these songs take commitment and as long as you work hard on them and fully commit to them then you  can make them your own  and once you make them your own you can give them as a gift to the audience.

What’s wonderful about the Mancunian audience is not only did they get the first concert of Meatloaf way back when but they just give it right back every night.”

Director Jay Sheib & Designer Jon Bausor at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Trage

Director Jay Scheib and Deigner Jon Bausor. Photo: Phil Tragen

Relative newcomer Andrew Polec wows the audiences in his role of Strat – and we thought it was very refreshing to see a production that doesn’t rely on ‘star’ names to carry the show but gives fresh talent a chance to shine. Director Jay Scheib told us:

“You know we decided not pursue ‘stars’ we  decided to audition as many people as possible and come up with an ensemble that were superskilled people no matter where they were and no matter what their experience so for many of them this is their first show. And there are some who are much more seasoned like Rob Fowler (Falco) and Sharon Sexton (Sloane).”

Rob Folwer (Falco) & Sharon Sexton (Sloane) at First Night of Bat Out of Hell Manchester Opera House credit Phil Tragen

Rob Fowler (Falco) and Sharon Sexton (Sloane). Photo: Phil Tragen

All of the cast should be commended for their fantastic performances, they are clearly out there 8 shows a week giving it their all. As Andrew Polec explains:

“It takes a lot of hard work and commitment-we’re sweating up there and it seems like the Mancunians are sweating with us and enjoying the whole party and together we create a whole different creature.

I feel like the first time we did this show for a preview audience we had no idea what we were going to expect- I said the first line ‘I remember everything’ and the audience went uproariously into applause and cheer.

We’ll see what London thinks, it’s gonna be an adventure!”

I think we can safely say it will be a smash in the West End and, if you haven’t got your tickets to see it in Manchester yet, the 3 week extension is a lifesaver. Extra performances are on sale now. Box Office: 0844 871 3018 (subject to booking/transaction fees)

http://www.BatOutOfHellMusical.com

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Opening Night’s Nikki and Michelle rock out at the BOOH after show party!

 

 

 

 

Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical

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Over 50 years in the planning and boy is it worth the wait, Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical explodes into life from the minute you enter the theatre, the looming set is immense, the transformation of Manchester’s Opera House to accommodate this ground breaking world premiere is astonishing. The set designed by Jon Bausor uses every inch of height available; it is vast, intriguing and innovative. If you weren’t sure before you certainly are now, Bat Out Of Hell is without doubt the biggest theatre event of the year.

Set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city we meet Strat (Andrew Polec) the forever young leader of The Lost, a tribe of wasted youth who will never grow old. Classed as mutants by Falco (Rob Fowler) the oppressive ruler of Obsidian, The Lost live for love, freedom and of course rock ‘n’ roll. Falco’s daughter Raven (Christina Bennington) gets a taste for life on the dark side when she meets Strat on the eve of her eighteenth birthday and from that moment on things will never be the same again.

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Telling Strat when he sneaks into her bedroom at Falco Towers, “If you don’t go ‘over the top,’ then how are you going to see what’s on the other side?” Raven and Strat begin their adventure and take the audience on the ride of their lives. The talent on stage is staggering, Andrew Polec embodies absolutely everything you would want from a rebellious, tribe leading, rock God, he is wild, wired, dangerous and utterly mesmerising. His performance is quite simply incredible, strutting and swaggering he draws you in and completely seduces you, the chemistry between him and Christina Bennington (Raven) is pure magic, their relationship a total meetings of minds. They perfectly illustrate the angst and heartache of forbidden love, Bennington’s vocals are heavenly, at first seemingly delicate and pure she soon morphs into the ultimate rock chick, the power in her voice is astonishing, we soon realise the wide-eyed innocent daughter of Falco and Sloane (Sharon Sexton) has been waiting to be corrupted as she discovers a whole new kind of freedom with Strat.

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Of course Strat and Raven’s relationship was never going to be accepted by Falco, who sets about destroying what they have found, trying to end things before they have even had chance to begin. Rob Folwer as Falco is exceptional, brooding and intimidating; he has great stage presence and a superb rock voice. Falco’s seemingly long suffering wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) delivers a fine performance, constant cocktail in hand she is so bored with this life yet so tied to it she is lost in a seriously wretched place. Their scenes together offer some real stand out moments, Paradise By The Dashboard Light is a riot, raunchy, wild and superbly staged, they deliver the narrative exquisitely. Both give a deeply heartfelt performance of new song What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, emotional and moving the quality of the writing is so good even for a new song it feels strangely familiar.

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Danielle Steers and Dom Hartly- Harris as Zahara and Jagwire give knockout performances, powerful and emotionally charged their interpretation of Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad is insanely good, they really feel the music and deliver Steinman’s lyrics with real heart and grit. Their second act performance of Real Dead Ringer For Love is bursting with attitude and sass, backed up by a magnificent ensemble who give absolutely everything to this production.

This is a piece that proudly showcases the talent on stage; Director Jay Scheib really has created something magical here. Cutting edge and dynamic choreography from Emma Portner compliments Steinman’s lyrics and Scheib’s direction perfectly and adds even more attitude to already explosive performances. Special mention also must go to Giovanni Spano (Ledoux) and Andrew Patrick-Walker (covering as Blake) who together with Dom Hartley-Harris deliver a strikingly heartfelt rendition of Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.

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The staging of this production is truly something spectacular, designed by Jon Bausor, it’s a struggle to find words to do it justice, the set continually evolves to deliver more and more intricate layers and surprises you just didn’t see coming, add to this the innovative use of multiple screens and live filming projected over almost every inch of the set, it’s quite literally a multimedia masterpiece, it feels as if the set is alive, I’ve never experience staging like it, it’s such a visual feast. The beauty of this multi-layered, multi-levelled set is that it allows every person sat in any seat within the theatre to feel part of the production, in effect breaking down that third wall, you are scooped up into the action and fully immersed in the experience. Costumes from Meentje Nielsen combined with video design from Finn Ross and lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe further confirm the sheer quality of this production.

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Bat Out Of Hell is astonishingly good theatre, immersive, incredible and utterly mind-blowing, there is no doubt in my mind that Manchester has witnessed history in the making tonight. This is a journey that is only just beginning, the success of this show is unlimited, a stunning production with the most sublime of casts, a monster of a hit, which oozes world wide appeal. Spellbindingly epic, an absolute must-see!

Verdict: Undoubtedly 5 star theatre, bold, dynamic and sexy as hell! *****

Tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/