Review - Bat Out Of Hell (Dominion Theatre)

It may surprise some Meat Loaf fans to hear that the beloved 1977 hard rock album Bat Out Of Hell was always envisioned as a musical. As a fan of bombastic classical music, composer Jim Steinman dreamed of producing a musical version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with an updated plot and rock and roll inspired score. Some hesitancy from the Barrie estate meant that the songs ended up being released on an album instead. An album which has since become one of the best selling albums of all time. And now, finally, Steinman’s original vision has become a reality, as Bat Out Of Hell the musical bursts into the West End, leaving a trail of flames in its wake.

Christina Bennington and Andrew Polec in Bat Out of Hell
Photo credit - Specular
As per Steinman’s original vision, Bat Out Of Hell loosely retells the story of Peter Pan, relocating Neverland to the gritty abandoned subways underneath what was once Manhattan, ravaged by the Chemical Wars; some sort of apocalypse which resulted in swathes of 18 year olds, known as The Lost, becoming trapped in their youthful bodies forever. Within this urban dystopia the leader of the hell raising eternally teen rebels falls in love with the daughter of the rich head of Falco Industries, who plans to develop the city and who is hell bent on destroying them, and a forbidden love story is thrust into motion. 

The plot is certainly stimulating, and while it’s safe to say that it’s not the musical’s strongest element, it puts a clever spin on a classic story, and sets up an intriguing post apocalyptic world for the characters to live out their love story in. Steinman's dialogue often takes the form of cryptic, obscure, and prophetic declarations, which further emphasise the fairytale inspired plot, but does sometime make the more dialogue led scenes a little bit hard to follow. 

Danielle Steers and the cast of Bat Out Of Hell
Photo credit - Specular
Breathtaking set design by Jon Baussor sees the gritty world of The Lost reaching its jagged tendrils out into the audience, aided by Finn Ross’ eyepopping and inventively utilised video design. Patrick Woodroffe’s rock concert style lighting design only adds to Bat Out Of Hell’s intense nature, with the result often threatening to overload the senses entirely.

The concert vibe on stage does also trickle into the pit, and at times the musical’s incredible band overpowers the vocals. But for the most part, while the world of Bat Out Of Hell may be spectacular to behold on stage, and the story may be enthralling, unsurprisingly, it’s the outstanding music and thrilling vocals from the cast which elevate Bat Out Of Hall to the dizzying heights it manages to reach.

The titular song is, of course, a showstopper. Closing the frankly bizarre and yet tantalising first act, it's a dynamic 10 minute epic, which sends the audience into the interval on a high note, whilst simultaneously acting as one of the musical’s most visually striking sequences.

Andrew Polec in Bat Out Of Hell
Photo credit - Specular
Speaking of high notes, Bat Out of Hell is certainly not short of them. In particular, the role of Strat, leader of The Lost, played at some performances by Simon Gordon, is one which demands vocal stamina by the bucket load, which happily Gordon has no problems providing. He breathes life into often peculiar script, and finds the perfect balance between Strat's wild eyed Peter Pan-like curiosity and his hardened, wrathful core. As the Wendy to Strat's Peter, epic belter Christina Bennington's Raven is an equally intriguing character. The pair share a stunning rendition of It's All Coming Back To Me Now, a number which proves that even without the show's flashiness and fireworks, the characters and emotions still have space to shine through.

Bat Out of Hell is a fantastic showcase for Steinman's ever popular music, and regardless of some of the more muddled moments in the musical’s plot, it’s impossible not to be swept along with the story, with such a watchable cast telling a vibrant tale which refuses to slow down. Unquestionably Bat Out Of Hell is a high octane hit, which will have audiences rocking and rolling long after they leave the theatre.

I was invited to review Bat Out Of Hell thanks to