Review: Bat out of hell

The songs are great but the plot's not in this new juke box musical. And as for the dancing....


The rock songs composed by Jim Steinman for Meat Loaf’s 1977 album hit the charts like a Harley Davidson at full throttle. And in this new juke box musical they are performed with a power that could tear up tarmac.

But the post-apocalyptic (what else?) story Steinman has written for his long-gestating project is naff down to its rock ’n’ roll core, and accompanying each supercharged hit is some of the worst choreography (by Emma Portner) ever to hit a West End stage, let alone that of the Coliseum, hitherto best known as the home of English opera.

Linking these towering highs and fathom-deep lows, is designer Jon Bausor’s shadowy vision of urban dystopia. It consists of subterranean tunnels that are a home to a group of misunderstood youngsters “frozen” in their teens after being exposed to some kind of chemical contamination. Think of The Lost Boys vampires, without blood-sucking and with lost girls. They are led by Andrew Polec’s strung-out Strat, and persecuted by the city’s brutal ruler Falco (Rob Fowler) who lives with his wife and errant daughter Raven (Christina Bennington) in a sumptuous high-rise pad. In a nice tilt at gangster taste, it’s furnished with Louis IV kitsch.

Polec raises the roof with Bat Out of Hell as his Strat and now lover Raven escape her dad on his Harley. But Jay Scheib’s production and the illusion of speed grinds to a halt when up pop the ill-drilled chorus line with the kind of moves that David Brent practises in the mirror.

Granted, the music is superb. The version of Two Out Of Three Aint Bad led by the fantastically Tina Turner-esque Danielle Steers is stunning. But Steinman’s plot has holes that could swallow a juggernaut. The scene in which the sadistic tyrant Falco sings while electrocuting nipples feels more than a tad misjudged at the moment we’re invited to applaud both the song and presumably his torture skills too. And, later, when he accidentally kills one of the teens, he and his tooled-up police thugs scarper the scene in some sort of fit of new-found shame.

A musical should be more than the sum of its score. This one is only half-way there, even though there are moments where Bat Out Of Hell fans will be launched into ecstasy.

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