strat and reven

Glenn Adamson as Strat and Martha Kirby as Raven with cast members. Pictures: Chris Davis Studios

Bat out of Hell - The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Anyone who has ever heard of Meat Loaf will know what to expect just from the title – it is what it says on the tin, or in this case the poster, this is a vehicle to blast out the songs and ballads from the Bat out of Hell trilogy of albums and beyond.

It’s a jukebox musical with attitude, certainly a lot more attitude than plot, but so what, the music is good, the singing spot on, not a weak character in sight and a sparkling cast burning through enough energy to light half of Birmingham.

As a musical it leaves much to be desired but as for entertainment, well that’s another story altogether. It’s fun, it’s sexy, if sometimes a little lewd, it’s a touch pretentious at times but it is always bursting with enthusiasm and packed with songs that brought the 70s and 80s alive.

It has a chromed Harley which roars into life zooming on stage at the speed of . . . well an arthritic snail if we are honest, and just to fulfil the American dream there is a big, all-American hot convertible which appears from under a table. It added nothing to the plot, but looked good, and all the while there is a camera operator to give us a documentary view on a big rear stage screen and, from time to time on Raven’s bedroom – she’s the heroine by the way – in Falco Towers - Falco being the baddy of the piece.

The musical is set in Manhattan which has been renamed Obsidian, which as geologists in the audience will have known, is also a form of volcanic glass, which has nothing to do with the show, but is my educational contribution to the review.

As far as the plot is concerned, we are in some dystopian future after the chemical wars which left a group of teenagers, known as The Lost, aged 18 for ever more by some form of DNA freezing.


James Chisholm as Jagwire and Joelle Moses as Zahara

Their leader is Strat who falls for Raven and she for him, while Falco is the leader of Obsidian and he hates The Lost and that is pretty much it as far as the storyline goes. It’s a sort of Mad Max does Peter Pan with a bit of Romeo & Juliet thrown in for good measure . . . for measure.

But this show is not about storyline, it is about music from one of the best selling rock legends of all time written by master songwriter Jim Steinman, who died last April, aged 73. Steinman wrote not only the music and lyrics but also the book of the musical.

Glenn Adamson is a suitably strutting, rock god style Strat with a fine rock voice while Martha Kirby shows a rebellious streak, and fine, powerful voice as Raven. The pair gave us Making Love out of Nothing at all and Raven added a lovely Heaven can Wait.

When it comes to the voice stakes though Rob Fowler as Falco and Sharon Sexton as his wife Sloane take some beating. The pair, with West End credits to their name also have a cabaret act Sexton & Fowler, and originated the roles in the world premiere of Bat out of Hell in Manchester in 2017. Their What Part of My Body Hurts the Most is a real heavyweight duet,

There is good support from Joelle Moses as Zahara, who can really give a song some wellie, and James Chisholm has a classic R&B voice as Jagwire, the Lost gang pair being an on-off romantic side story with a lovely rendition of Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.

Tink- remember Tinkerbell in Peter Pan? – played by Killian Thomas Lefevre, apparently missed a dose of the chemical war thing we are never told about which leaves him a bit of an outcast among the outcasts, never quite fitting in, but despite his problems he displays a lovely voice in his bittersweet solo Not Allowed to Love. 

Danny Whelan puts in a solid shift as Strat’s friend Ledoux, adding weight to some of the big numbers such as Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are and is there when Strat needs him.

strat and reven mid

Glenn Adamson as Strat and Martha Kirby as Raven

All the big hits are there with Bat out of Hell, obviously, Dead Ringer for Love, Paradise by the Dashboard Light and a finale of I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) as Strat and Raven, Falco and Sloane, and Zahara and Jagwire make their vows to each other as everyone prepares to live happily ever after.

Blasting out the power chords and sweeping piano led ballads is an excellent eight piece orchestra under musical director Robert Emery.

Apart from a superb cast there are also award winners amid the technical crew with a spectacular set making full use of the Alex stage, including creating a sky heading high into the flies from Jon Bausor. There are costumes of the damned from Meentjr Nielson – I wouldn’t want the bill to replace holed tights after every performance – while Patrick Woodroffe’s dancing and explosive lighting is worth a bow on its own and Gareth Owen has managed to cleverly balance the needs of rock with the needs of theatre quite beautifully. And its all recorded for posterity with Finn Ross’s video design.

This is the Bat out of Hell album trilogy made flesh in rock solid entertainment, yet in one of those strange quirks of fate that theatre can throw up sometimes, the musical predates the Meat Loaf albums by some years.

While still a student Steinman wrote a rock musical The Dream Engine, about a gang of feral young people in California, good enough for the rights to be sold in 1969. By 1974 it had been rewritten as Neverland, a sci-fi rock version of Peter Pan. In 1977 the first Bat out of Hell album was released and 40 years later an idea started in 1969 and reworked intermittently for years finally came to the stage at Manchester Opera House in 2017..

Bat out of Hell – The Musical, directed by Jay Scheib, will delight Meat Loaf fans and is guaranteed to entertain audiences at the Alex to 15-01-22.

Roger Clarke


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