Bat Out Of Hell – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
30 August – 10 September 2022
BAT OUT OF HELL – Produced by David Sonenberg, Michael Cohl & Tony Smith
The musical is set somewhere in a distant post-apocalyptic future where the human race has almost come to an end. We meet our hero, Strat (Glenn Adamson) who is a Freezer. No, not the common household appliance but instead a mutant who is stuck or frozen at 18 forever! As strange mutations go, it’s not the worst. Strat has found love in an unexpected place, as he’s fallen for Raven (Martha Kirby), a non-freezer child. She’s just turned 18 and is having a party with her parents. Her mother Sloane (Sharon Sexton) is a little too fond of a tipple and her father Falco (Rob Fowler) is a brute. She manages to escape from her home in order to find Strat and the other Freezers, but as is the way with such things, the course of true love is never a simple one, and their union falls foul of underhanded high jinks and betrayal!
The album Bat Out of Hell (1977) was the debut release from singer Meatloaf and composer Jim Steinman. The album was originally developed by Steinman as a musical, Neverland, which was described as a futuristic version of Peter Pan. In a sense, it has come full circle as it arrives back on the stage. The original album has two sequels, Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell (1993) and Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (2006). The Musical has book, music and lyrics by Jim Steinman, and is directed by Jay Scheib. It was first staged at the Manchester Opera House in 2017. The story has elements of Peter Pan, although the tale of young love across a divide owes a debt to many other texts including Romeo and Juliet.
This is a typical jukebox musical, with the emphasis heavily on the songs. At times, it is not clear how the lyrics relate to the characters, with some of them feeling shoehorned in. There are some interesting plot points and scenes of youthful insurrection but there is very little new or inventive in the storyline. To say the story plays second fiddle to the music is an understatement! The focus is almost entirely on the songs, with the storyline serving as padding.
There are a number of vocalists on stage, with good variations in singing voices and styles. Strangely, none are particularly reminiscent of Meatloaf, the man who made these songs famous, but they all put their own stamp on the songs with strong vocal performances. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and “Dead Ringer for Love” were particular highlights, with the powerful voices of Zahara (Joelle Moses) and Jagwire (James Chisholm). Rob Fowler also does justice to his songs, with his impressive voice and range. In the year when the world lost Meatloaf, I suspect many in the audience saw this as a moment to say their final farewell to that larger-than-life character. This work gives new life to the music of Steinman and Meatloaf and will give fans of their music another chance to relive their lost youth!