Bat out of Hell

Then I’m down in the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun,
Torn and twisted at the foot of a burning bike,
And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell
And the last thing I see is my heart, still beating,
Breaking out of my body and flying away
Like a bat out of hell

Lyric from Bat out of Hell sung by Strat
 
Glenn Adamson as Strat (Photo: Chris Davis)

Roaring along George Street Oxford on Monday night at 6.30 were a posse of more than 20 Harley Davidson bikers revving up the excitement for the Press Night of Jim Steinman’s musical, Bat Out of Hell.   Silhouetted at dusk, their headlights ablaze as they waited at the traffic lights, were these other worldly creatures, their leather clad legs akimbo astride their Harleys.

For those of us who remember Meat Loaf when he was starting out as a singer, will recall he is large, sweaty and above all LOUD.  He came to fame as a result of the partnership with the late Jim Steinman (November 1, 1947 – April 19 2021) who wrote the music and lyrics to all the “in your face songs”.

Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf had a love hate relationship and each could not prosper without the other.  Meat Loaf, some years after the release of Bat out of Hell, was evicted with his wife and family, from their home by the local sheriffs for debt. However, the two coming together again resulted in more great music and solvency.

Bat out of Hell is in some ways a homage to Jim Steinman who had the original idea to write a musical loosely based around the story of Peter Pan.  It concerns The Lost Boys – including girls who don’t age past 18.  Against them is the establishment in the form of Falco (Rob Fowler) the leader of Falco Town backed up by police waving batons and beating up anybody who does not conform: There is an uneasy truce between the two factions.

Glenn Adamson as Strat and Martha Kirby as Raven (Photo: Chris Davis)

Falco has a daughter Raven, excitingly played on the night I saw by an understudy Kellie Gnauck.  Raven is about to celebrate her 18th birthday. Falco has spent his life trying to protect Raven from The Lost Boys who live under the city.

Falco now has a stale relationship with his wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) and part of the opening Act tells the story of how he fell for her.  

Those who know the music well will remember two spoken passages, the first starting, spoken in London by Strat, but here by Raven, “I remember everything ….” which sets the scene with the audience that they are in for an thrilling ride. The other, a running joke, “On a hot summers night would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red rose…” is asked by the lead character Strat (Glenn Adamson).

In order to tell the story, Steinman has taken his songs and placed them into a book of the musical with passages in between that slow down the action.  I found myself just waiting to hear the first chords of the original music knowing that it would be loud and spectacular; it does not disappoint.

The set and costume designer (Jon Bausor) has a stage laid out on a number of different levels, one to the right being Raven’s bedroom and to the left a large video screen. Interestingly a camera woman is on hand providing close-up of the actors displayed on the screen.

As you would expect a large amount of the action revolves round motorbikes and they play an important part of the narrative. Steinman’s songs are well suited to duets between the characters and are often supported by the skilful, energetic dancers who all come together to give a great visual and sound experience.

Glenn Adamson as Strat and Cast (Photo: Chris Davis)

Having seen the show a few times in London, first at the home of the English National Opera, the Coliseum and later at the Dominion I was impressed by the tightening and distillation of the touring Bat Out of Hell.   My criticism then was that the slow numbers intruded into the ongoing rock experience which thankfully now have been largely excised, and the show comes in a quarter of an hour shorter.  The vibrant and energetic choreography too is now strengthened by Xena Gusthart and for the better.

I really enjoyed the loud rock anthems and yes they are very loud. “Bat Out of Hell” of course stands out as does the beautiful “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.   All the principals sing really well, Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton reprise their roles from Manchester and London, and Glenn Adamson is a great find as Strat.  

I thought Joelle Moses as Zahara’s voice was very well balanced with James Chisholm’s Jagwire in their powerful duets, one of which is “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.” 

Bat out of Hell  is a thrilling night in the theatre for those who love rock and is sure to convert many more with its spectacular staging.   See it on a Monday and you’ll want to rebook for the weekend.

Joelle Moses as Zahara and James Chisholm as Jagwire (Photo: Chris Davis)

Musical Numbers

All Revved Up with No Place to Go

Bat Out of Hell 

Dead Ringer for Love 

For Crying Out Loud 

Heaven Can Wait 

I’d Do Anything for Love

(But I Won’t Do That) 

It’s All Coming Back to Me Now 

Love and Death

and the American Guitar 

Making Love Out of Nothing At All 

Not Allowed to Love 

Objects in the Rear View Mirror

May Appear Closer

Than They Are 

Out of the Frying Pan 

Paradise by the Dashboard Light 

Rock and Roll Dreams 

Come Through 

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad 

Wasted Youth 

What Part of My Body 

Hurts the Most

Who Needs the Young 

You Took the Words Right Out

of my Mouth 

(Hot Summer Night) 

Production Notes

Bat out of Hell 

Book, Music and Lyrics Jim Steinman

Directed by Jay Scheib

Cast

Starring:

Glenn Adamson

Martha Kirby

Rob Fowler

Sharon Sexton

Kellie Gnauck

Killan Thomas Lefevre

Joelle Moses

James Chisholm

Danny Whelan

Laura Johnson

Jamie Jukes

Rebecca Lafferty

James Lowrie

 

Rory Maguire

Amy Matthews

Stacey Monahan

Samuel Pope

Luke Street

Leonardo Vieira

Ben Woodcock

Jamie-Lee Zanoncelli

 

With:

Jon Chew

Alistair So

Clive Hayward

Graham MacDuff

Mark Akinfolarin

Simon Anthony

Frances Dee

Charlene Ford

Selina Hamilton

Alexandra Wright

 

Ensemble: 

Georgie Ashford

Vivien Carter

Natalie Chua

Eamonn Cox

Jordan Crouch

Maddie Harper

Michael Lin

Robin McMillan

Tom Partridge

 

Swing:

George Beet

Gabrielle Cocca

Emily Ormiston

Liam Wrate

Jack Wilcox

Creatives

Director: Jay Scheib

Set and Costume Designer: Jon Bausor

Musical Supervisor and Additional Arrangements: 

Michael Reed

Musical Director: Robert Emery

Video: Finn Ross

Lighting Designer:  Patrick Woodroffe

Sound Designer: Gareth Owen

Orchestrator: Steve Sidwell

Original Costume Designer: Meentje Nielsen

Fight Director: Stuart Boother

Information

Running Time: Two hours 40 minutes with an interval

Extended and Booking on tour until 29th October 2022 

New Theatre Oxford to 16th October 2021

Tour Dates

5 – 16 October 2021   

New Theatre Oxford

BOOK TICKETS

19 – 30 October 2021

King’s Theatre Glasgow   

BOOK TICKETS

4 – 15  January 2022

The Alexandra Birmingham

BOOK TICKETS

18 – 29 January 2022

The New Wimbledon Theatre

BOOK TICKETS

31 January – 5 February 2022

The Globe Stockton  

BOOK TICKETS

7 – 12 February 2022

The Playhouse Edinburgh

BOOK TICKETS

12 – 16 April 2022

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

BOOK TICKETS

25 – 30 April 2022

The Regent Theatre Stoke On Trent  

BOOK TICKETS

3 – 7 May 2022

Lyceum Theatre Sheffield

BOOK TICKETS

24 – 28 May 2022

Congress  Theatre Eastbourne

BOOK TICKETS

14 – 25 June 2022

Milton Keynes Theatre

BOOK TICKETS

28 June – 2 July 2022

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

BOOK TICKETS

12 – 23 July 2022

Theatre Royal Plymouth

BOOK TICKETS

26 July – 6 August 2022

Theatre Royal Newcastle

BOOK TICKETS

9 – 20 August 2022

Bristol Hippodrome

BOOK TICKETS

23 – 27 August 2022

Grand Opera House Belfast

BOOK TICKETS

30 August – 10 September 2022

Bord Gais Theatre Dublin

BOOK TICKETS

13 – 24 September 2022

New Theatre Hull

BOOK TICKETS

27 September – 1 October 2022

New Theatre Cardiff

BOOK TICKETS

3 – 8 October 2022

Liverpool Empire

BOOK TICKETS

24 – 29 October 2022

New Victoria Theatre Woking

BOOK TICKETS

Theatre:

New Theatre

George Street

Oxford OX1 2AG

Box Office: 0333 00 966 90

Train: Oxford

Reviewed by Malcolm Beckett

at the New Theatre, Oxford  on 11th October 2021