“Based on the most influential album of Jim Steinman’s storied collaboration with singer Meat Loaf, BAT OUT OF HELL is a romantic adventure about rebellious youth and passionate love against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city.
Following Strat, who has fallen in love with the daughter of the despotic Falco, this new musical is a high-octane rock ‘n’ roll adventure that tears through over 15 of Steinman’s songs including ‘I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, ‘Dead Ringer for Love’, ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth’, ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ and the iconic title anthem ‘Bat Out of Hell’.”
A musical over fifty years in the making, Jim Steinman’s dream project, Bat out of Hell, has finally come to fruition and is currently having a preview run at the Manchester Opera House, where it’ll be showing until April, before then moving to the London Colisuem for a two month, June-July, West End run.
An ambitious musical blend of Peter Pan, West Side Story and A Clockwork Orange, perhaps it’s not surprising that it has taken a long time for Steinman to get this project into production, a project he’s been talking about since the 70s and the ultimate realization of his ‘Neverland’ concept, a concept which ‘serves as the genesis for most of his art’.
“Peter Pan seems to me a very rock ‘n roll idea because it’s a gang of lost boys who never grow up – that’s ‘Clockwork Orange’ too, by the way,” said Steinman in an interview from 1981, when he was working on realizing ‘Neverland’ as a musical film.
“And this guy Peter is like sixteen for thirty or forty years, and it’s like Caligula – every day he’s gotta seek out some new sensation, some new rush, something just to keep that feverish high going. I think it’s a great concept staying that young forever, and implies a great effort on his part.
“In the film genetic mutation is the cause, and the other lost boys are constantly looking to Peter to provide the excitement, and the film starts off with him trying to seduce Wendy – they’ve never really had a girl as part of the lost boys, or seen a girl like that. She’s Captain Hook’s daughter, he’s the military commander controlling this huge fortress built on the ruins of Los Angeles after the city is destroyed after earthquake and chemical war. It has a lot in common with the fifties horror movies, radioactive monsters etc., there’s all sorts of incredibly mutated creatures running around outside this city which is encased in your usual great dome. And it’s Captain Hook who created the genetic mutation, trying to create the perfect army, just to make matters worse, so he wants to recapture the lost boys and dissect them to see what went wrong with this process.
“And it’s full of scenes like – the other night I was working on this one where Peter and the boys hole up in the automobile graveyard, like in ‘Night Of The Living Dead’, when at night all the cars start up by themselves and prowl the streets without drivers.
“The one song from ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ that I am going to use is ‘All Revved Up With No Place To Go’ – that still has the feeling of it perfectly.”
At some point in time the automobile graveyard was excised from proceedings but almost everything else mentioned by Steinman in the above quote has, thirty years on, made it to the Manchester Opera House. Too bad Steinman wasn’t there to see it in person. The ailing composer, who in recent years has suffered a heart attack and two strokes, hasn’t been able to make the trip from his New York home to Manchester, but has been keeping an eye on the production through Skype.
In a recent interview Meat Loaf, the singer Steinman’s music turned into a star, straight out said, in all seriousness, that if Bat out of Hell: The Musical doesn’t succeed it could kill the composer.
From what I’ve seen, however, failure shouldn’t be a concern. Although, in my opinion, it doesn’t better Steinman’s masterpiece Tanz Der Vampire (NO musical does), and I was hoping that, like Tanz, it would be sung-through, the show is a triumph.
It’s over the top. It’s Wagnerian! It’s poetic! It’s decadent. It’s rock n’ roll!
Of course, I had to catch Bat out of Hell again when it came to my backyard, London, and this time, from a technical point of view, I thought it was even better. Some of the dialogue had been polished up, some more incidental music had been added to the score and, whereas in Manchester I saw the understudy, Benjamin Purkiss, playing the lead role of Strat, for this performance I got to see main man Andrew Polec, and he was superb. He has something very Tim Curry-esque about him, which, as big Tim Curry fan, I liked a lot. Also, the Coliseum had a much nicer program.