Bat Out of Hell begins with a bang, grabbing the audience’s attention as Andrew Polec, in the starring role of street kid Strat, belts out the opening lyrics with energy to spare.
The story was a little hard to follow at first, but Strat is one of a group of kids called The Lost, who never age beyond 18, for reasons unknown. They live on the streets and in the sewers and basically, their presence annoys wealthy Falco (Rob Fowler), who lives in Falco Tower, overlooking the streets where the poor struggle to get by.
Falco isn’t well-liked, either by his wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) or his daughter, Raven (Christina Bennington), or for that matter, anyone who knows him. He wants to get rid of The Lost kids and build a new development.
Naturally, Raven and Strat are attracted to each other, and an at-first tentative, but highly entertaining love story is played out between these two unique individuals.
With book, music and lyrics by Jim Steinman, Bat Out of Hell mainly uses songs written by Steinman for Meat Loaf’s hit 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, but also incorporates other Steinman hits such as “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (made famous more recently by Celine Dion). The musical has hints of Peter Pan (the youngest member of The Lost is named Tink, The Lost kids don’t age, etc.) but it’s more than that and definitely not aimed at children.
One of my favorite scenes was when Raven’s parents relive a night from their youth while singing the hit song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” It’s staged in a vintage car and what Raven does at the end of the scene to the car brought a lot of laughs from the opening night audience.
I have to add that the singing in this show is unbelievably amazing. The songs are shared by a number of lead and supporting characters and each one had such a strong, beautiful voice that I was more than blown away by their strength and range. Giovanni Spano as Ledoux and Billy Lewis Jr. as Jagwire had enormous stage presence and I often found myself drawn to what they were doing on stage at any given moment. Their voices, along with Danielle Steers as Zahara, were top notch — the audience just couldn’t get enough of these three, in addition to the performers in the lead roles (Polec, Bennington, Fowler and Sexton). As each one broke into song, the audience either fell into a hushed awe or broke out into cheers.
Something else that was unique was the presence of a camera person, whom we first notice as she films what’s happening behind a scrim in Raven’s room. The feed appeared on a large screen at the back of the stage and gave what we were seeing a YouTube feel at first, although during “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” what we saw on the screen made it seem like we were watching vintage footage, which melded well with actual vintage baseball footage, which if you’re familiar with the song, fits perfectly.
In fact, the entire staging of the show was incredibly unique and jaw-dropping. A stunt with a water pit came as a huge surprise and the sets move in and out so quickly that you almost don’t see it happening.
The dancing was high energy and I was surprised that some of the best singers were also extremely proficient dancers, because you don’t always get that in a musical — often there’s a divide and performers show strength in one area or the other.
By the end, during the final song, the audience was on their feet for a standing ovation and if they were as moved by the performances and music as I was, they were ready to dance and sing along with the cast on stage — the opening night standing ovation was well-deserved by the talented cast.
Bat Out of Hell: The Musical plays until Jan. 7, 2018 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto. Click here for more info or to buy tickets.
Photographs by Specular.