M.A musical with a complex blend of story and music, not to mention movement, design and other technical needs, can take years to develop. Hamilton was written over seven years. Music Man took nearly ten years. But composer and record producer Jim Steinman’s passion project, Bat Out of Hell, has been in the works since 1968.
It was spun out of a musical called The Dream Engine – a show he created in college about an outcast youth who clashes with authority figures. The show included early snippets of songs that would later dominate the rock charts, but never quite came together. Steinman was pulled into another musical project at Public, where he met performer Meat Loaf.
Their creative partnership changed Steinman’s life and projects, and soon these early songs were used to produce the Bat Out of Hell rock album trilogy. The end of the world. According to Meat Loaf, the pair belonged “to each other at heart and soul,” and their musical ideals and ambitions grew around, towards, and sometimes in spite of each other. They died just over a year apart. Their songs were often said to be associated with love and death.
In the background, once Bat Out of Hell was released, Dream Engine became Neverland, a post-apocalyptic Peter Pan story. In the 1990s it became the Bat out of Hell 2100. In 2008 the project was announced as Bat out of Hell. Premiered in London in 2017.
Love between Strat (Glenn Adamson), a Peter Pan figure frozen at age 18 after 49 years of toil, and Raven (Kelly Gnauk), the daughter of a tyrannical landlord who seems to rule apocalyptic New York The story is finally complete. I went up on stage.
As one would expect from such an effort, revision, and rebranding, it is completely overworked. He gets too close to the material because it’s about the love that transforms your body and soul. He is a musical composer, lyricist, and book author, and currently presents mostly musicals for the Bat Out of Hell Trilogy, along with several other notable hits (Steinman including It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, written by and covered by Celine Dion). ), and it’s clear that Steinman, whose talent has always been in music, couldn’t masterly write the scenes that connect the stories he believed in all his life.
After mixed reviews in the UK, US and internationally, there is now a one-night-only arena tour around Australia, led by Jay Shibe, who has been with us since 2017. Set pieces, props. It makes little sense as a story now. Without investigating, we don’t know who Strutt’s gang of lost youths are or how they were “frozen” (which turns out to be a chemical spill). Confusing, unsatisfying, and a little depressing. All that’s left in the story are clichés, stereotypes, and shortcuts that undermine every character and narrative beat.
But in the arena, with fire effects and confetti cannons and a tight, skilled, loud rock band (with Michael Reid as musical director), story no longer matters. Everyone is there for music.
And the music is still great. Adamson, a theatrical performer from England, delivers breathtaking rock. I get down to the punishing task of singing over and over again. Their duet is appropriately strong. They make it look a lot easier than it actually is to deliver.
The full cast of voices are great, but Irish performer Sharon Sexton, who plays Raven’s mother Sloane, cannot be ignored. On stage, she barely succeeds in translating her scripts into lines full of character and wit, and her tone of voice is astonishing. Reconcile with him about her unexplained motives (I would do anything for love (but I don’t)) – you believe her, you defend her. Her voice, trained for her, soars in the arena.
The less said about the musical-making aspects of Bat Out of Hell, the better. felt Painfully outdated, with a troubling example of abuse used as a shortcut in character development, and recast as a young boy who fell in love with a Strat, Tink’s character misses its mark (this arena tour will see him in action). And the choreography feels like a pastiche of Rock Eistedfod’s earnestness and Bedroom Mirror Rock’s posture.
But that music. It still gets under your skin. It can still move you, thrill you, and make you feel a little more alive. A small victory in not being able to blunt its effect.