A review round-up for Bat Out of Hell – The Musical at the Dominion Theatre, London
Jim Steinman’s romantic post-apocolyptic adventure returns to the West End following its sell-out run at the London Coliseum.
Having won the Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical ‘Bat Out of Hell’ looks set to take the place of previous long running rock musical We Will Rock You at London’s historic Dominion Theatre.
Bat Out of Hell is a loose retelling of Peter Pan and Wendy, and follows Strat, the forever young leader of The Lost who has fallen in love with Raven, daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian.
The production features Jim Steinman’s iconic songs from the Bat Out Of Hell albums, including You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Bat Out Of Hell, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.
Directed by Jay Scheib (Persona), the show stars Andrew Polec – winner of the Joe Allen Best West End Debut in the Stage Debut Awards 2017 – as Strat and Christina Bennington (Sweeney Todd) as Raven.
Choreography by Emma Portner, with musical supervision and additional arrangements by Michael Reed, set design by Jon Bausor, costume design by Jon Bausor.
Read a round-up of reviews below.
The Guardian, ★★★★
“Jim Steinman’s perky lyrics are often overpowered in this musical juggernaut, but his roaring choruses and fairytale plot are built for the ENO’s stage.”
“Several of the songs on Meat Loaf’s 43m-selling album Bat Out of Hell were left over from composer Jim Steinman’s abandoned attempt to write a futuristic rock musical version of Peter Pan. With their elaborate narratives and roaring choruses, the numbers always sounded as if they hoped to come home to the stage. Now, to mark the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, they have.”
“Loudness is sometimes overdone in Jay Scheib’s production, resulting in some of the perky wordplay of Steinman’s lyrics being lost; perhaps ENO’s surtitle machine should be commandeered. With the jokes in the songs often overpowered, the biggest laugh comes when a Buick seems to crash into the orchestra pit. The choreography rarely gets beyond synchronised limb-swinging.”
Bat Out of Hell the Musical often feels like being in the fast lane of the M1 with juggernauts thundering over your soul. The best musicals have a compelling storyline, thrilling stage pictures and astonishing sounds. This show completely lacks the first, but what swagger and songs it has.”
Mark Lawson, The Guardian
The Times [paywall], ★★
“I don’t want to rain on anyone’s pomp-rockin’ parade, but am I missing something with this Meat Loaf musical?
Based on the 1977 album that has sold 50 million copies, it has clearly found an audience. After opening to full houses and great reviews in Manchester and London last year, it reopened at this 2,000-seat theatre in the West End.
The crowd rises to its feet at the end. And yet it’s pretty awful, isn’t it? Right from the first moment, when our skinny hero Strat starts babbling something weird in some futuristic nightmare zone where street punks still wear bandanas and ride Harleys, this comes over as a kind of cheese-dreamy, post-apocalyptic, post-dramatic reimagining of Peter Pan.”
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
The Stage, ★★★★
“Ridiculous, overblown, baffling – and a joy.
This post-apocalyptic, ballad-stuffed quasi-opera feels like it’s come home.
The choreography still makes it look like a 1990s aerobics video, all arm-led, as if they’re trying to swat flies.
The secondary characters are still underdeveloped and should either have been expanded or else erased.
That’s no slight on the performers. Danielle Steers as Zahara is as amazing as ever, and newcomer Wayne Robinson playing her man Jagwire is a very welcome addition. And it’s easy to see why they’re there: the auxiliary couples provide opportunities for some of the best songs, including a gorgeous rendition of Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
Tim Bano, The Stage
Evening Standard, ★★★★
“Forty years on from its release, Meat Loaf’s most famous album gets the blazing operatic treatment it undoubtedly deserves. Resembling a feverish hybrid of We Will Rock You and Peter Pan, this unapologetically thunderous musical is a mighty showcase for the songwriting talents of Jim Steinman.
The script may be thin, but the songs are never less than bombastic. Director Jay Scheib favours two styles of performance — loud, and louder. His cast are equal to this, and besides the superb Polec there’s glorious work from Danielle Steers and Sharon Sexton.
Equally impressive is Jon Bausor’s design, which is like an expensive tasting menu — a mix of swanky grandiosity, deranged fantasy and whimsical surprises — though the less said about the ungainly choreography the better.”
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
Time Out, ★★★
“A preposterous, lumbering behemoth of a show.”
“Steinman’s quasi-operatic ballads have their moments, and at best they’re a histrionic joy. At worst they kind of sound like your local Dungeons & Dragons club trying to write a Bruce Springsteen song: certainly if you only know the big singles there’ll be bits you find trying and there are moments that teeter perilously close to objectifying women, though it mostly holds back.
Bat Out of Hell’ isn’t going to bother ‘Hamilton’ at the Oliviers next year, but it’s pleasingly daft, and in Polec boasts a proper, honest-to-God great lead performance. As I believe some guy or other once said, two out of three ain’t bad.”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
Bat Out of Hell is booking until 31 July 2018 at the Dominion Theatre, London
Average rating score for this production:
Date: 20 April 2018
Written by: Simon Raven
Tags: Andrew Polec, Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, Christina Bennington, Dominion Theatre, review round-up