Monday, 20 March 2017

REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell at the Manchester Opera House

In the late sixties the first rock musical Hair defined a genre in an innovative and compelling form that has seldom been surpassed. Perhaps only the staging of the Who’s rock opera Tommy has really combined successfully rock music with a strong story line and its influence is hinted at in the criss-cross pattern around the proscenium arch which echoes the Tommy album cover. 

But here in Bat out of hell we have a potentially game changing rock musical that combines strong rock anthems, innovative staging and a large talented cast to produce a genuine modern rock musical for today. Jim Steinman has created a wonderful dynamic show around the music made famous by Meatloaf. There are strong allusions to Peter Pan in the story created to link his songs. We have Peter, here called Strat, leading the lost with his special confidant , Tink and falling in love with Raven (Wendy ) while being pursed and at war with Falco (Hook) .But at its heart are the love stories between Strat and Raven and between Falco and Sloane (his wife and Raven’s mother).

From the moment Strat, played by Andrew Polec, climbs on stage to polish his beloved Harley Davidson and delivers his menacing opening monologue the tone is set. He is a leader, a rock star and his lost tribe will follow him against the police state lead by Falco. Raven played with youthful innocence by Christina Bennington is locked away from him in her 1st floor bedroom but she breaks free to meet him. She is embarrassed by her own parents’ passionate love making played with amazing stage presence and powerful voices by Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton. 

The relationship between these two couples is supported by a wonderful cast of 26 (perhaps at times too many) with standout performances from Danielle Steers as Zahara and Dom Hartley Harris as Jagwire. Their duet of “Two out of three ain't bad” is exciting and, but they surpass this with a thrilling “Dead ringer to love”. Throughout the songs are backed with high energy modern tribal choreography which features an excellent Michael Naylor and Phoebe Hart.

The staging is grandiose and multi layered with amazing automated scene changes, multiple projections and some stand out special effects to create the post-apocalyptic city of Obsidian. While this amazing staging keeps the show
moving slickly forward it also creates a number of sight line problems for those in the front stalls which detract from the overall visual impact of the production.

Of course at the heart of the show is the music with classic rock anthems such as “Objects in the Rear View Mirror”, “Dead ringer for love”, “Bat out of hell”, “I'd do anything for love”, and “All revved up with no place to go”, sung with great musicality and energy the show builds to an exciting finale which is certain to produce standing ovations night after night.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★★★★

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