Review: “Unadulterated escapism” ★★★★ Bat Out of Hell – The Musical, London Coliseum

Jim Steinman had a musical theatre show in mind when he first wrote the classic album Bat Out Of Hell and the theatrical nature of both the lyrics and the music mean the songs perfectly lend themselves to the stage.

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Although the story that’s been wrapped around them for the new musical is a bit flimsy, with spectacular staging and plenty of tongue in cheek fun, the result is an evening of unadulterated escapism.

It’s a joyful mix of power ballads and cheesy dialogue (also written by Jim Steinman) with some central performances that are so good, the dubious plot is somehow held together. You will, in fact, get so wrapped up in the spectacle of the show that you’ll almost find yourself believing that a dystopia in which adolescents are stuck at the age of 18 is actually a reality. Well, almost.

Andrew Polec’s Strat leads ‘The Lost’, a band of misfits rebelling against the tyrannical rule of Falco (Rob Fowler). Polec’s performance is reminiscent of the rock front men from yesteryear; a blend of Axel Rose and David Bowie, brimming with charisma and sex appeal, while smoothly meandering through the famed melodies.

The youth becomes obsessed with Raven (played with zeal by Christina Bennington), the daughter of the evil dictator in one those zingy love-at-first-sight moments, and decides he must liberate her from her prisoner like existence. The mesmerising chemistry between the couple makes their stage time a joy to watch and with just enough Addams Family like macabre humour provided by Rob Fowler (whose vocals are to die for) and a wine swilling Sharon Sexton, the action never feels too sickly sweet.

John Bausor’s set design is rumoured to be one of the largest in the world and in this instance bigger is definitely better, with huge futuristic video projections further giving a rock concert feel and some lovely little details – including a plunge pool amongst a rocky outcrop– adding to the overall otherworldly look.

As expected, motorbikes also play a big part in the show, but it’s a convertible car that provides the comedy highlight when it’s pushed into the orchestra pit, resulting in some of the musicians making a hammy exit across the stage with their broken instruments.

Mostly the songs bear little relevance to the plot, but they are nevertheless still extremely powerful and in act two the ensemble’s rendition of “Objects in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” feels particularly poignant.

Yes, it’s formulaic and the ending is predictable, but in the current political climate, a show, which takes you away from the real world, is just what is needed.

Bat Out of Hell The Musical is at the London Coliseum until 5 August 

Photos by Specular


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