Bat Out Of Hell – London Coliseum

It must surely be a very long time since the roof of the dear old Coli has been blown off in quite such spectacular fashion as is achieved by this bonkers night of camp, ear splitting rock! In it’s continued effort to diversify and, presumably, to make more money in its rather public hour of need ENO has ratcheted up the commercialism to bring another musical into the program. There is nothing remotely classical or even classic about this monster and is a far cry from the recent Lloyd-Webber, R&H and Sondheim efforts of the last couple of years.

The minute you enter the ornate and normally very sedate Coliseum the epic scale of Jim Steinman’s rock opera is undeniable. Jon Bausor’s immense set impressively thunders its way into the auditorium immediately challenging and directly squaring up to the audience to give the very clear message that this will not be the normal offering. The monolithic like steel work of broken buildings of a dystopian future jaggedly threaten and draw you into Steinman’s world.

Its a world that much like most of the story is given very little explanation. It’s 2100 and Manhatten is now known as Obsidian. This post-apocalyptic world is ruled by a very corporate looking Falco who would appear to have suppressed his rocker roots of the past. An underground group of rebels that never age beyond 18 known only as The Lost are led by Strat who happens to have fallen in love with Falco’s daughter Raven. Its Romeo and Juliet meets Peter Pan with a heavy dose of We Will Rock You thrown in for good measure.

Steinman’s book makes no attempt to give any real backstory to any of this or give reasoning to any of it. In the early seventies Steinman penned an ill fated rock opera of Pater Pan that featured songs that would later make their way onto the original Bat Out of Hell album performed by Meatloaf. The Pan theme remains in the name of The Lost and with the never aging beyond 18 elements. One of the lost is even given the name Tink who comes to a sticky end much like his Fairy namesake of the JM Barrie classic.

However to dwell on story seems rather churlish when Steinman himself clearly puts very little credence on it. Where the show really hits a home run and knocks every bat from the bell free is in its sheer exuberance and unashamed revelry. The band belt out the Steinman classics that were made so familiar by Meatloaf with such clout that you just stop caring that none of it really makes much sense. The cast are universally awesome as they rock their socks off and sing for their lives. Even Emma Portner’s disastrous and massively misplaced choreography can’t put the brakes on this beast.

Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and his wife Sloane power each other along with more guts than a Harley as they belt out some great duets. Christina Bennington suitably transitions from timidity to rock chick as Raven with a notable performance from a stonkingly voiced Danielle Steers as Zahara. But it is a rousing and fine voiced performance from Andrew Polec making his UK debut that really blows away the cobwebs. For such a slight young man he is able to belt out Steinman’s songs with just as much power and edge as the mighty Meatloaf himself.

 

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