Bat Out of Hell

February 9, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆   The Bat is Back

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 8 – Sat 19 Febr 2022
Review by Tom Ralphs

Three weeks after the death of Meat Loaf Bat Out Of Hell, the musical based on the album and songs that made him a household name, roars onto the Playhouse stage for a fortnight’s residency.

Taking the over-the-top extravagance of Jim Steinman’s songs and extending it to every aspect of the production, the musical is a fitting tribute to both Meat Loaf and Steinman, who died in April last year.

Glenn Adamson (Strat), Martha Kirby (Raven) and the cast of Bat Out Of Hell. Pic: Chris Davis Studio.

When the original Bat Out of Hell album came out in 1977 it was completely at odds with everything else. It was not three chord, three minute punk, nor was it Saturday Night Fever-style disco.

A collection of overblown epics – every track clocked in at over five minutes and it avoided subtlety at all costs – it owed its existence as much to musicals as it did to prog rock. The only surprise in the current era of jukebox musicals is that it took so long before it became a stage show.

Taking all the songs from that first album and adding in others from its 1993 sequel as well other tracks from Steinman’s back catalogue, it’s both a greatest hits show and an attempt to visually present and perform the songs in a way that matches the ambition of their original production.

larger-than-life production

Director Jay Scheib clearly recognises that the show needs larger-than-life production if it is to do justice to the songs. Xena Gusthart’s choreography is excellent, working with the songs but never overpowering them. Jon Bausor’s set design switches between underground tunnels, large mansions, old cars and a teenager’s bedroom, recalling Rocky Horror Picture Show, West Side Story and other classic musicals while also visually representing the world of Steinman’s lyrics.

Joelle Moses (Zahara), James Chisholm (Jagwire) and the cast of Bat Out Of Hell. Pic: Chris Davis Studio.

The real masterstroke of the production, however, comes in Finn Ross’s video design. Scenes are filmed and projected on a screen as they happen, allowing for close-ups and camera angles that turn songs into cinema and add an extra dimension to the show.

There is less to say about the plot. Strat (Glenn Adamson), the leader of ‘The Lost’ a rebellious gang who will forever be 18, falls in love with Raven (Martha Kirby) who is approaching her own 18th birthday.

not all is well

She’s the daughter of Falco (Rob Fowler) and Sloane (Sharon Sexton), the rulers of Obsidian, a dysfunctional kingdom that views The Lost – and youth itself – as something to be feared and trampled down. Needless to say, they do not approve of Raven’s interest in Strat, while it is also clear that not all is well in their own marriage.

Martha Kirby (Raven and Glenn Adamson (Strat). Pic: Chris Davis Studio.

As Raven and Strat try to find a way to be together, and as Sloane tries to break free from respectability with or without Falco, the musical becomes a paean to the wildness and creativity of youth; its message summarised in the show’s second number, Wasted Youth: ‘a wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age’.

No prizes for guessing that youth and freedom will triumph in the end, or that every song from the original Bat Out Of Hell album will find its way in before the final curtain, but that’s hardly the point. As with most jukebox musicals, the storyline is secondary to the songs, developed to allow as many classics as possible to be shoe-horned in.

By-and-large it succeeds in doing so, although the omissions of Total Eclipse of the Heart and Holding Out for a Hero is notable, given that other songs Steinman wrote for Air Supply and Celine Dion make it into the show.

crammed in

Dead Ringer For Love, Rock’n’Roll Dreams Come Through and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now feel crammed in towards the end of second act because they couldn’t find a place to put them in earlier, not because they belong there. The decision to place Bat out of Hell at the end of the first act rather than at the end of the show robs it of the dramatic finish it could have provided.

Rob Fowler (Falco) and Sharon Sexton (Sloane). Pic: Chris Davis Studio.

But none of this distracts too much from the overall feel and quality of the show. There is no attempt to do Meaty Loaf impersonations from the four leads, Adamson, Kirby, Fowler and Sexton, or by the members of The Lost – Joelle Moses (Zahara), James Chisholm (Jagwire) and Killian Thomas Lefevre (Tink) – who also get solo numbers. Instead they bring their characters into their delivery, particularly when they move away from traditional musical style singing and get into the substance of the lyrics.

In many ways, Bat Out of Hell was always a musical soundtrack forced to masquerade as an album. This production finally brings it home. It is a testament to the genius of Jim Steinman as much as, if not more than, a timely reminder of Meat Loaf, the man who turned his songs into classics.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 19 February 2022
Mon – Sat (not Fri 11): 7.30pm, Mats Weds, Sat: 2.30pm. Fri 11: 5pm & 8.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glenn Adamson (Strat) and the cast of Bat Out Of Hell. Pic: Chris Davis Studio.

Bat Out of Hell on tour 2022:
Tue 8 – Sat 19 Feb Edinburgh
Playhouse
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Tue 22 – Sat 26 Feb Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
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Tue 12 – Sat 16 Apr Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
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Tue 26 – Sat 30 Apr Stoke
Regent Theatre
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Tue 3 – Sat 7 May Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
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Tue 24 – Sat 28 May Eastbourne
Congress Theatre
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Tue 7 – Sat 11 June Bradford Alhambra
Theatre
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Tue 14 – Sat 25 Jun Milton Keynes
Theatre
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Tue 28 Jun – Sat 2 Jul Southampton
Mayflower Theatre
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Tue 5 – Sat 9 Jul Blackpool
Winter Garden
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Tue 12 – Sat 23 Jul Plymouth
Theatre Royal
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Tue 26 Jul – Sat 6 Aug Newcastle
Theatre Royal
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Tue 9 – Sat 20 Aug Bristol
Hippodrome
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Tue 23 – Sat 27 Aug Belfast
Grand Opera House
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Tue 30 Aug – Sat 10 Sep Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
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Tue 13 – Sat 24 Sep Hull
New Theatre
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Tue 27 Sep – Sat 1 Oct Cardiff
New Theatre
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Tue 4 – Sat 15 Oct Liverpool
Empire
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Tue 25 Oct – Sat 5 Nov Woking
New Victoria Theatre
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ENDS

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