The Alexandra, Birmingham – until 15 January 2022
Reviewed by Ely King
Whether aware or not, everyone has heard a song by the incomparable Meat Loaf or Jim Steinman. With legacies as vast as theirs, it’s no surprise that the musical packed of their greatest hits has a cult following.
Bat Out of Hell, titled after the legendary album by Meat Loaf and Steinman, is a gritty story of a star-crossed Rock ‘n’ Roll romance.
The musical follows the lives of The Lost and their rivalry with tycoon Falco and how it comes to a head when Falco’s own daughter, Raven, falls for the head of The Lost, Strat.
Raven and Strat are portrayed perfectly by Martha Kirby and Glenn Adamson respectively, showing the struggles of their wild tumultuous relationship. Kirby gives Raven the perfect doe-eyed naivete expected for a sheltered teen but is quick to ensure Raven is still shown as a strong woman who can stand up for herself. Opposing her, Adamson has the swagger and charisma you need to pull off a character like Strat as well as he does.
Jukebox musicals always have a heavy burden to uphold the expectations of their source material, but Bat Out of Hell has to battle with living up to some of the biggest songs of a generation and, miraculously, they pull it off.
The undeniable stars of this show, have to be Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and Sloane, their chemistry is off the charts, they’re a true dynamic duo. It’s obvious why these two were chosen to not only originate the rolls but then also to reprise them further down the line. They are a joy to watch with their limitless talent and development of an unexpected sex appeal to their characters.
James Chisholm, Joelle Moses and Killian Thomas Lefevre as Jagwire, Zahara and Tink all deserve a special mention too. Each actor brings something special to their character, with Chisholm’s and Moses’ push-and-pull style relationship taking centre stage at different points throughout the show. Lefevre as Tink is an excellent casting choice by casting director Anne Vosser as he has that boyish charm down to a T, playing the dejected best friend and misunderstood child that has the audience falling in love from the first scene he’s in.
Aside from the actors themselves, the set and costuming are immense. Set and costume Designer Jon Bausor transformed The Alexandra stage into a grimy underground lair that became the home of The Lost. With the addition of a semi-transparent screen, the audience could peak inside the Falco household to see scenes unfold without the need for doing a full set change. It’s clever ideas and techniques like that which make this musical come to life. The costuming has the perfect punk, rock ‘n’ roll edge to it, whilst still being practical for performers and easy to transition between as the story develops. The costume choices give the poised and perfect appearance of the Falco family and then perfect juxtaposition to the rebels in ripped mismatched outfits and black-heavy colour scheme. It would not be surprising if the inspiration behind this was outfits seen at Meat Loaf’s own concerts.
The only issue with the set is the surprisingly minimal use of the bike, especially with it being on every main advertisement. When it is used, it moves at a snail pace, losing the ‘danger’ aspect that the actors are trying to infer. Understandably, there are issues with health and safety, but the bike scenes just fell flat.
Throughout the show, the audience were doused in glitter, streamers and multiple different kinds of confetti – a dream for anyone who scrapbooks their theatre events – though it did seem like a bit of overkill. Especially with most of it being plastic…
The more superior effects were done by the lighting team, who’s use of spotlights, strobe lighting and even disco lighting brought the story to life in a way that couldn’t be done otherwise.
Though the storyline covers important topics like unwarranted police brutality, unrequited love and being vastly underestimated, it was incredibly hard to follow at times. The addition of a LED screen onstage just confused the situation further, making the audience struggle with what to watch or where to look, there was too much going on.
Even with the plot confusion, anyone who loves Meat Loaf will enjoy this show.
The storyline may fall short, but the cast and creative teams make up for it, after all, two out of three aint bad.