The London Coliseum
On a hot summer night, we wound our way down Charing Cross Road to theatreland for Bat Out of Hell – the Musical! The album is a massive, over the top confection, so it’s only fair that now it has finally hit the stage, more than 40 years after its genesis as an abandoned musical, it has found a home in the baroque wedding cake of the London Coliseum. As if the venue wasn’t ornate enough the huge set covers the proscenium arch and beyond with metal beams and the boxes closest to the stage are filled with speakers, promising that whatever happens next will be loud enough to shake the gilded plaster from the venerable hall.
What does happen next is a flash of light, a drum crack, and then a bellowed, ‘I remember everything!’ leads our hero Strat into the opening monologue of Love and Death and an American Guitar. Strat is the leader of the Lost, a tribe who are all eternally 18 and live in the disused train tunnels underneath what used to be called Manhattan, but by 2100 is the land of Obsidian. Obsidian is ruled over by the autocratic property developer Falco, and he and the Lost could have rubbed along in mutual antipathy and hostility were it not that Strat has fallen for his daughter Raven, who is on the eve of her 18th birthday.
Andrew Polec’s Strat is charismatic and tousle haired, while Christina Bennington’s slight frame is so perfect for Raven, the rich girl straining at the bars of her gilded cage, that it’s always astonishing how much power her voice has. All the cast are terrific singers, but if I have to single out two for special praise it would be Daniele Steers as Zahara, the nurse who moves between the worlds of Falco and the Lost, and Rob Fowler as Falco himself. Fowler, along with Sharon Sexton as Raven’s mother Sloane, comes close to stealing the show. An early highlight is their duet on Paradise by the Dashboard Light, where an appalled Raven watches her underwear-clad parents, horny and hell-bent on recreating the exact circumstances of her conception, before the scene culminates in a spectacular piece of stage business with a Cadillac.
It surprising how often the songs perfectly fit the drama, and there is a plot at work here, with elements of Peter Pan, shades of Romeo and Juliet, and a suggestion of Donald Trump, though it’s on the slight side. But of course it’s those enormous songs which carry the day – Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Deadringer, Objects in the Rearview Mirror and oh so many more. It’s no coincidence that the only slight longueur in a three hour show comes early on, when whole minutes pass without a song and Sloane attempts to tell Raven why The Lost remain 18 forever. She might as well try to explain why Falco’s riot police throw shapes with the gang their trying to oppress, or why some of the Lost keep singing on stage when they have just been sprung from a prison cell – just go with it, it’s best not to think about it too hard. If you want to know more of the back-story then be sure to read the copy of The Obsidian newspaper which you’ll find on your seat.
Huge songs and huge voices in a huge venue demand the most dramatic of staging, and that’s just what has been created at The Coliseum. A fantastic split level, three area stage allows the drama to be played out in the tunnels and Falco’s tower at the same time while video projections of the live action are played onto other areas, adding to the already overwhelming effect of the set. If you’ve read this far then you’re probably planning to go, or at least hope you could. If you get the chance do! Fantastic scenery! Great singers! Exploding motorbikes! It’s the best night out you’ll have all year.
Bat Out of Hell – The Musical runs at the Coliseum till August. For more information look here https://www.batoutofhellmusical.com/
A general, mixed theatre-going crowd, all ages and tending towards the well-heeled, but transformed into a single cheering, stamping, air-clapping mass by the time the reprisal of Bat Out of Hell which serves as the curtain call comes around. Down in the tunnel where the deadly are rising, I swear I saw a young boy down in the gutter, he was starting to foam in the heat. Well, it was ºC30+ in London yesterday. It was murder on the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road.
It made me think..
You’re never too old to be 18 forever.