REVIEW: BAT OUT OF HELL (Dominion Theatre) ★★★★★
Jim Steinman doesn’t do anything by halves. He’s worked with legends Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion, Air Supply, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Def Leppard so when he penned Bat Out Of Hell the musical it should be no surprise he created a larger than life sceptical. Using many of the songs he wrote for from Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, the musical began life in Manchester in February 2017 and transferred to the London Coliseum in June of the same year before making it’s North American premiere in Toronto of October and ran to January of this year. Making it’s triumphant return to London, Bat Out Of Hell now plays the Dominion Theatre.
Bat Out Of Hell’s plot is a post-apocalyptic loosely based Peter and Wendy story set in New York which has been renamed Obsidian. We meet Strat, the fearless leader of The Lost, who has fallen in love with Raven the daughter of the fearsome tyrannical corporate ruler of Obsidian, Falco. As his attempts to shield 18 year old Raven from The Lost become increasingly violent they push Raven and his wife Sloane further away. This then hits boiling point when they both leave him and he realises that love is a more powerful force and literally washes away his sins and is reborn. While the plot lacks substance, Bat Out Of Hell smacks an extremely powerful vocal and musical punch with it’s 17 Meat Loaf songs and boasts an astounding array of vocal talent in the form of it’s brilliant leads. Andrew Polec stars as Strat with Christina Bennington as Raven, as Raven’s parents are Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as Sloane with Alex Thomas-Smith as Tink, Danielle Steers as Zahara and Giovanni Spanó playing Ledoux.
As our young hero Strat, Andrew Polec is perfection. His vocal performance and overall presence onstage are very impressive and I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he enchanted the stage. Strat leads the entire musical and it’s obvious why Polac was cast and has played the role since the shows inception, his performance was fresh, energetically alive and bewitching to watch throughout. Christina Bennington was equally as hypnotic, playing angst ridden 18 year old Raven. Her powerhouse vocal blew the roof off the Dominion numerous times and her performance was a superb mix of confused energy that embodied the character perfectly. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton as Falco and Sloane are brilliant, individually they’re both amazing performers capable of delivering dizzying vocal and when paired together complement each other in a way no other leads on the West End currently do. Portraying the most complex and well developed characters in the show, Fowler and Sexton offer the audience a sophisticated, sexy and astounding performance throughout. This performance is displayed effortlessly as they join Polac and Bennington for a four part harmony version of It’s All Coming Back To Me Now that brings the house down. Supporting the leads is hopelessly in love with Strat, Alex Thomas-Smith playing Tink. True to the Peter and Wendy story Tink mistakenly betrays Strat to rid The Lost of Raven and suffers an untimely consequence. Thomas-Smith does a great job with love-sick young Tink and delivers a heart breaking Not Allowed To Love in the second act. Both Danielle Steers and Giovanni Spanó shine in their roles as Zahara and Ledoux. Both deserved the applause they received when they first took the stage and Spanó vocal was particularly impressive during Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are.
Jon Bausor’s set design has such grandeur that the audience is treated to multiple “wow” moments. Incorporating a raked stage, pyrotechnics, moving set pieces, vehicles, flying objects and an onstage pool of water Bausor’s set draws the audience into the world of the show effortlessly. Patrick Woodroffe’s lighting design and Finn Ross’s Video Design also deserve a mention and the combination of all three aspects make Bat Out Of Hell the most aesthetically pleasing show on the West End in a long time.
Not since We Will Rock You has London seen such an original, fun, will-melt-your-face, rock musical spectacle. From a bike spewing fire to those bats, Bat Out Of hell is utterly captivating from start to finish and if last night’s opening night standing ovation is anything to go by, Bat Out Of Hell deserves a long sold-out run in the new home of rock, The Dominion Theatre.
Reviewed by Stuart James