Predictably extravagant, BAT OUT OF HELL thunders through Jim Steinman’s iconic hits in an over-the-top theatrical spectacle unlike any other
Direct from electrifying audiences in London, Toronto, Germany and New York, Jim Steinman’s spectacular musical BAT OUT OF HELL makes a welcome return home to Manchester’s Opera House this week, the same venue it opened at back in 2017.
Set in a dystopian city wrecked ruled by a dictator, BAT OUT OF HELL follows Strat, the leader of rebellious gang ‘The Lost’, a group of kids whose DNA was permanently frozen at 18-years-old following the “chemical wars”. Strat is in love with Raven, the beautiful daughter of the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian. But with Raven’s father Falco determined to keep them apart, can two kids from different sides of the track make it?
Those familiar with Meat Loaf’s back catalogue will have an inkling of what to expect here. Inspired by the legendary anthems of Steinman – whose lyrics have always been somewhat theatrical in their storytelling, staging and delivery – this award-winning musical is predictably extravagant, thundering through iconic hits like I’D DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE (BUT I WON’T DO THAT), PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHT, TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD, DEAD RINGER FOR LOVE and BAT OUT OF HELL, in an over-the-top theatrical spectacle unlike any other.
Director Jay Scheib throws every theatrical trick into the mix, aided by Jon Bausor’s 80’s inspired set and costume design and Xena Gusthart’s exhaustingly aerobic choreography. Finn Ross’ video design is a constant and thrilling assault on the senses, with scenes filmed live by a camera-wielding performer on stage, playing simultaneously on a large screen alongside live-action sequences.
Big songs demand big voices, and this show boasts some stunning vocal performances from the talented ensemble cast. Glenn Adamson commands the stage as the wild-eyed Strat, who, together with Martha Kirby as Raven, display power and emotion during the Steinman classic FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
There are also impressive turns from Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as his wife Sloane, who, in a subplot of their own, deliver some of the show’s best most comical moments with their performance of PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHT.
Joelle Moses as Strat’s sidekick Zahara and James Chisholm as Jagwire also come close to stealing the show with their stunning vocal performance of TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD.
Of course, like jukebox musicals of a similar genre (WE WILL ROCK YOU and ROCK OF AGES in particular spring to mind), the plot is thin and predictable, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue is toe-curlingly cheesy at times.
Most of the fun comes from guessing how and where the greatest hits will find their way into the plot and the spectacular way they are staged. All the songs from the BAT OUT OF HELL album are here, plus a few additions and all are presented with compelling, overblown glory. By the time we reach I’D DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE (BUT I WON’T DO THAT) in the second act, the audience is raring to join in.
BAT OUT OF HELL is a corny, horny, portent and camp show that makes no bones about what it wants to be: a rock ‘n’ roll two hours of escapism – and it pulls it off triumphantly. It’s safe to say the bat is back.
BAT OUT OF HELL runs at Manchester’s Opera House until 2 October 2021
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.