Walking into the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to see. I love theatre and I love Meatloaf ballads and figured that a love story on stage based around this music could not be bad. I however did not expect what I did witness last night, I can tell you that much!
With a gleaming motorbike visible to the audience, I got extremely excited for the show to start and before I begin describing with the actual storyline and acting, I have to give a huge shout out to stage and costume designer Jon Bauser, original costume designer Meentje Nielsen and lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe. Without these elements, the show would not have been what it was. Your talent and skills are immense and I absolutely loved how each component added all the detail and atmosphere to make the even more spectacular. The costumes were spectacularly sexy with some very sexy actors in them!
Jim Steinman’s and director Jay Scheib’s Bat out of Hell hosts a tribe of young people perpetually frozen at the age of 18. A crucial character called Tink (Killian Thomas Lefevre), who at one-point hovers between life and death, is slightly bitter that he will never be like Strat. But, when Strat (Glenn Adamson), the leader of The Lost, falls in love with Raven (Martha Kirby), a rich girl whose over-protective (to the point of drugging her at night) parents hide her in a high tower, Steinman’s scenario borrows elements of Shakespearean star-crossed lovers with a musical twist. The dystopian city ruled by dictator, Falco (Rob Fowler) boasts the remnants of a serious chemical war – broken TV sets fizz under a graffitied lattice of charred concrete – those eternally frozen at 18 living in what remained of the sewers under the city and those high up in the tower, viewing the frozen as monsters…
Steinman has formed two new songs to get around problems of plot exposition in a score that uses tracks from the three Bat Out of Hell albums (sequels were released in 1993 and 2006), plus the standalone sensation Dead Ringer for Love. Motorbikes driving on and off during scenes represents the link to Meatloaf with the cover art of the first Bat album and its sonic signature, in which a guitar replicates ignition. Steinman’s forte as a songwriter is to select expressions from everyday language – Bat Out of Hell, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth – or, Objects in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are – the most unusual cases of imaginative expression: automobile safety warnings! These selected words are then adorned with the most exhilarating and exciting melodies, lasting for numerous minutes all about content or disenchanted love. Pure genius in my opinion. I have always thought that these ballads belonged on stage with some of the videos that accompanied them.
Like Mamma Mia, it was very exciting in guessing how and where the plotline will find a place for Steinman’s greatest hits, often accompanied with lots of head bogging and hand tapping from the audience. The title track, rather unsurprisingly, completely conveys Strat’s effort to free Raven from her protected bedroom and ultimate jail cell. But the lesser-known It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, sung by Meat Loaf as a duet with Marion Raven on Bat Out of Hell III, becomes dramatically a heartfelt quartet for more than just one couple: firstly the war-crossed lovers and then also, her parents. I had absolutely no idea that there was a link between Steinman and this song (I did keep hearing Celine’s version at the back of my mind but it didn’t bother me at all as I LOVE this song) as well as Making Love Out of Nothing At All – another one of my absolute favourites.
Glenn Adamson, absolutely commands the stage as a crazy-haired, wild-eyed Strat, with Martha Kirby’s Raven giving more life than the writer has to the stereotype of a pampered daughter. Stalking each other round the stage, they memorably fight for vocal and physical dominance while duetting a song that is classic Steinman in both its title and bloated emotions: For Crying Out Loud. I also thoroughly enjoyed Joelle Moses’s (Zahara) vocal performance and especially with James Chisholm (Jagwire) when they sing Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. The cast were superbly talented and suited their roles with perfection due to Anne Vosser’s meticulous casting for the UK tour. Choreography was phenomenal considering the available space for dancing on such an incredibly busy set.
I do feel that loudness is sometimes overdone in Jay Scheib’s production, resulting in some of the perky wordplay of Steinman’s lyrics being lost which is a shame as most of the audience knew every single word to every song off by heart (even though we were requested to keep our own Meatloaf acts silent for the duration – covid regs and all). Every single song included in this show just reminded me once again of the pure talent of Steinman – and Meatloaf – for without his interpretation and performance would not have been what these iconic songs are today.
With some explicit hip swinging scenes and some characters desperately trying to revive their past youth, I wouldn’t recommend this for children.
At the end of the show, the audience were invited to record good “Good girls go to heaven” specifically to post to social media to let the rest of the world know that theatre is back and is desperately needing the support from everyone to stay alive!
This show is most definitely a 5/5 for me – it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I have absolutely fallen in love with this show and the characters and the story. I will most definitely watch this again. Tickets start from £13 and can be purchased from https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/calendar/2022-01-05