Meatloaf’s songs are famous for being big theatrical numbers so it should be no surprise that a musical based around his songs is a high octane, explosively emotional affair.
Bat Out of Hell is about as rock and roll as a musical theatre productions gets – the music is LOUD, there is a motorbike on stage and the characters dress like they are heading to a metal festival.
On the opening night the street outside The Regent Theatre was packed with a display of gleaming Harley Davidsons to mark the show’s opening night and the 10th anniversary of the Stoke-on-Trent Harley chapter. It all added to the sense of occasion and set the tone for this edgy tale of star crossed lovers wanting to live life to the full – “if you don’t go over the top you won’t know what’s there”.
Written by Jim Steinman, who was behind Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album, the musical is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a group called The Lost live underground, their age frozen by a chemical attack. Above ground Falco plans to run them out and make the city great again, while refusing to let his own daughter outdoors, although when she does break free she falls for the leader of The Lost, Strat.
From the very start the energy level is on the roof, the sound of the live band ripping through the theatre to soundtrack choregraphed fight scenes and dancing.
The stage is a hive of activity with the dark hiding place of The Lost sitting underneath the Falco mansion that has become like a prison to 18-year-old Raven and her mother Sloane. The action from their home is broadcast onto a screen through a live video link, reminiscent of a rock concert or video.
While explosions light up the stage, it is the songs that bring the real atmosphere and it’s only when you listen to them and watch them be performed in this environment that you see the depth of storytelling in them. Time stands still as song after song tells an immersive story that links into the plot. The music and performances are unbelievably good. This tour especially benefits from the return of Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton to the roles of Falco and Sloane, with the duo having played, and developed, them in the original show.
That depth and confidence is clear to see, they bring humour and passion to the parts – their all too familiar story of love that erodes over the years is a reality that contrasts well with the otherworldly plot of the young lovers. Their performances are, as expected, exceptional, brimming with emotion – no doubt helped by the fact they are a real life couple.
The level of talent pervades in the members of The Lost too. With the reopening of theatres the standard of performances has been striking, and nowhere more so than in Bat Out of Hell. To sound at their best, Meatloaf’s songs demand power and versatility and this cast does just that, every time.
Glenn Adamson delivers an endlessly energetic performance as Strat, powerfully covering Meatloaf’s finest songs with ease. He is matched by Martha Kirby as Raven, who brings an effortless likeability to the character, while switching it up with ease to belt out the show’s power ballads.
As Zahara, Joelle Moses, gives a memorable performance, displaying a vocal range that is staggering – and many of the show’s highlights are duets between her and the talented James Chisholm, as Jagwire.
If you want to hear Meatloaf’s hits, they’re all here: Bat Out of Hell, Dead Ringer for Love, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), Objects in the Rear View Mirror… and many more besides. Even the ones you might not know you’ll still enjoy.
Bat Out of Hell will blast you out of your complacency and make you think you should go to the theatre more often. The reception on the opening night was something else, the audience was on its feet and the atmosphere had a real electricity to it, which was no more than this outstanding cast deserved.
Catch Bat Out of Hell while you still can at The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, where it plays until Saturday, 30th April. Find tickets at www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/regent-theatre.