Rev that engine, kick back and prepare for an epic ‘edge-of-your-seat’ spectacular!
Bat Out Of Hell has swooped in to Manchester for 6 weeks of gripping high octane adventure! And I got to partake on opening night! Now half way through the run, there’s still several weeks for you to catch this epic show (as due to demand it’s been extended till 29th April) before it heads to the bright lights of the West End! As part of the ‘Manchester Gets it First’ programme, it’s been fabulous to be able to see this brand new musical in my local city without having to trail to the capital.
As the title suggests, the show is jam packed with Meatloaf songs, or more accurately, the musical talent of Jim Steinman. And like many before, the producers have elbowed together as many of the favourite melodies as possible to tell a story; think Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and ABBA’s “Mamma Mia”, two of the more successful and longer running shows. As with many that have paved the way, when the songs exist first you tend to find contrived stories, wacky tales and sometimes the downright weird, however all are pure fun and total escapism! BOOH (as it is affectionately known) is no different – it’s a tried and tested formula that works well! And to be fair, the original album ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ developed from a musical, so perhaps it’s hardly surprising that it’s come full circle and now a musical has been developed from the three ‘Bat Out of Hell’ albums.
So, what to expect…?
Taking your seats (and I had excellent ones, bang centre in the stalls, 5 rows from the stage) there’s 2 cast members on stage already interacting with a motorbike… and they remain till ‘curtain up’
The stage has been built out way in front of the line of the auditorium boxes and the set built to cover up the grandiose interior of the theatre to reflect the post-apocalyptic setting of the show.
I could only imagine at this point what the stage would look like behind the gauze. It must be huge and impressive to be built so far forward into the stalls.
I wasn’t wrong!
The guy on stage who turns out to be the main character literally jumps into action in time to the first chords, and we’re off…!
From the opening lines of the infamous spoken lyrics of ‘Wasted Youth’: “I remember everything… I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday…” it’s loud, it’s energetic and it’s mesmerising, everything a rock musical should be… And as the gauze disappears, the stage matches: loud proud and buzzing, the wow factor high!
A tunnel is built into the stage which bikes and cars come and go from throughout the show and the huge cast of about 30 fills the space easily. There are 3 levels to the stage built up at jaunty angles, so action can take place in 3 different spaces. Usually only 1 of the 2 upper spaces is used at any one time with film of the action projected onto the front of the other space. This is used to great effect throughout the show. It does mean that anything going on in the upper ‘rooms’ often has a cameraman following the actors but it doesn’t detract from the action as you’d think and it means that you can really see up close what’s going on in the projected film, particularly if you’re seated towards the rear of the auditorium.
So, what’s the storyline…?
It’s not hard to follow even if you’re not familiar with Meatloaf songs. From time to time, a screen on stage rolls short updates to explain what’s about to happen on stage and sets the background.
BOOH is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a place called Obsidian, a city ruled by the evil and tyrannical Falco. A wild underground gang of ageless youths called The Lost roam the city striving to remain undetected, just wanting to live the rock and roll lifestyle. When Strat, the gang leader falls in love with Falco’s daughter Raven who has been kept locked away, he sets out to rescue her and the ensuing action is nothing short of full throttle as the tale of passionate all-encompassing teenage love and youthful rebellion works itself out on stage!
I won’t elaborate on the storyline any further so as not to spoil the action should you go yourself, but be prepared for lots of raunchy action, stripped bodies and sexual antics. The two leads are all over each other from the start and in places I actually thought it was a bit too overpowering, but hey, I bought into it as a statement of how intense and fiery teenage love and angst is. There’s also an impressive strip act by Raven’s parents on top of a car, which later gets propelled into the audience. Yep you read that correctly: watch out if you’re in the front rows of the stalls – it’s heading for you!
The show has a massive feel good factor. Believe me, you’ll be trying so hard not to belt out the lyrics and annoy your neighbours and instead will be singing them all the way home and struggling to get to sleep as your favourites go round and round in your head!
The last two power ballads that rock the theatre and bring the show to a close ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ and ‘I’d Do Anything for Love’ are so powerful and well acted emotionally that don’t be surprised if tears of joy start to flow as the sound is just so tremendous. The producers really did pick their cast well and none of them let the side down. The standing ovation was certainly justified.
I am compelled to write that this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while and that’s saying something as I go to theatre a lot! I’m just gutted there is no CD original cast recording (yet) as the musical arrangements and voices are superb, but I’m keeping an eye out online should one be released at some point.
So get over to the Opera House, Manchester and experience BOOH for yourself. The bats are clinging on for a further 5 wks till the 29th April before heading to the London Coliseum from 5th June for more fuel injected fun! So if you can’t catch it in Manchester, check out the London dates! If there’s one musical you go and see this year, it should be this, coz “God damn it Daddy…you’ve got a hell of a lot to learn about Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
I confess I’d never done an official walking tour, having shunned them in favour…