Bat Out of Hell
David Sonenberg, Michael Cohl, Randy Lennox and Tony Smith
Jim Steinman’s unashamedly ridiculous rock epics were always destined for musical theatre. In fact, many of the songs in this exuberant but thinly plotted jukebox musical were originally intended for a Steinman show based on Peter Pan, an obsession for a man whose soul seems to be made of motorcycles and the desperate fumblings of eternal teenagers.
What happened in the interim was, of course, Meat Loaf, who himself appeared on stage in Hair and the Rocky Horror Picture Show early in his career. This show will attract many who come to pay tribute to the principal interpreter of Steinman’s work.
Meat Loaf’s renditions of songs like "Paradise By the Dashboard Light", a three-act number about a successful teenage seduction prefacing a lacklustre marriage, were always absurdly theatrical and laced with innuendo. So it’s not surprising that this show is heavy on the bombastic music and light on dialogue.
This Bat mirrors other rock musicals in its dystopian backdrop. A Trumpian overlord, Falco (Rob Fowler), attempts to quash an uprising of hyperactive ravers doomed to permanent adolescence following an apocalyptic gene-scrambling catastrophe. This manifests as Falco’s vigorous enforcement of a curfew for his daughter, Raven (Christina Bennington), who has fallen for the manic charms of Strat, played by a relentless Andrew Polec. Strat is a surrogate Steinman—all bikes, guitars and a perpetual jockish adolescence tinged with a code of honour straight out of James Dean era Hollywood.
Somewhat confusingly, Falco veers from overprotective dad, control freak, sexually unsatisfied husband to malevolent dictator, the latter represented by an incongruous scene of hanging bodies and caged youths which opens the second act. But then for no discernible reason he is redeemed in the final act and Steinman achieves union between Strat and Raven through sheer decibels.
Steinman knows it’s daft—he even crashes a car into the orchestra, prompting some “musicians” to storm offstage in mock anger. This is all enjoyable, as far as it goes, for those already steeped in the big Steinman hits, most of whom are present.
The production uses the epic scale of the Dominion to powerful effect, and Strat is winningly sung, as is Zahara—Danielle Steers combining richness in her alto range with power at the top. And Falco and his alcoholic wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) have some of the best moments. But any engagement comes from the generally high quality of the singing, in spite of Steinman's creaking book which abandons all attempts at coherence early on and fails to transcend the jukebox format.
More a series of pop videos reminiscent of some of the choreography of David Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider tour, this is hysterical fun for fans.
Reviewer: Tim Fox