Book, Music & Lyrics by Jim Steinman
Directed by Jay Scheib
Roaring into Edinburgh, the streets may never be the same again. It’ll certainly take a while to remove the tire tracks. Enveloping the Playhouse with its leather-clad embrace – Bat Out of Hell lands to thunderous applause and revelry.
A dystopian fairy-tale, a manipulated and twisted Neverland where the thrill of youth counterbalances the tyranny of capitalistic authority – communicated through the legacy of juggernaut Jim Steinman & MeatLoaf (Michael Lee Aday), we descend into the depths of Obsidian, where The Lost find themselves forever eighteen – under the crimson glare of the neon Falco buildings. Raven, a glimmer of hope in the dark, shimmering against the ripples of her father’s clutches over the land, falls for the ‘leader’ of The Lost – Strat.
The parables drawn from J.M. Barrie literature classic Peter Pan are evident (as are the smatterings of Joel Schumacher’s Lost Boys), hammered more so in the production’s latter half. The monstrous maw of the Tick Tock reptilian may be absent, but an ever more pressing behemoth takes its place in the form of the dreaded biological clock.
Time is at a standstill for the Freezers, the mutants of the Deep End – a persistent reminder of Falco and wife Sloane to the inevitable. But despite concerns of bad backs, faded youth and weakened voices – Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton lift the roles of ‘antagonistic’ parents into something exceptional; humorous and profound, the turn from comedic roles to sinister, sympathetic, and dimensional is matched only by the powerful vocals – belting out above the roar of flames and destruction surrounding them.
Distraught, caged and kept aside from the ‘corruption’ and dangers of the outside world – Raven desperately seeks to escape after her 18th Birthday. Martha Kirby naturally ensnares the eye of Glenn Adamson’s Strat, the pair’s chemistry and interactions fending off issues with the original story adaptations and plot holes. Adamson’s wrought but commanding adaptive voice not only ripples with an integrity Meatloaf would be proud of but cements enough of his presence in numbers to avoid direct comparison – his Bat Out of Hell and I’d Do Anything For Love somehow rising higher than the audience’s already stratospheric expectations.
And for a moment, it seems Kirby has reached a peak. An already lofty aspiration of an ethereal performance – but then it hits; It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. A number that brands the production’s integrity and elevates it from the realms of a potential jukebox dungeon and into a powerful development merging storytelling with established music. Such influence present in her voice, that an audience ready to rock outfalls silent – with not but the drip of a tear or two heard across the theatre.
Bouncing, twisting and grinding their way around The Deep, or the high-rises of the Falco building, the ensemble make use of Jon Bausor’s set design – a fallen paradise of gnarled rock and lighting strips. And though at first disorientating, the inclusion of live video feed, Finn Ross’ video design emanates the sketchy vibe of late-eighties music video static. Invasive, a perverse insight into the ins & outs of the Falco household, it enables a frozen capture of time – the truth behind motivation and a reminder of consequences, enabling Sexton & Kirby the opportunity to push beyond their musical talents and demonstrate their performance chops.
Dripping in pathos, melancholic and strapping emotion to their sleeves – Bat Out of Hell is anything but subtle. And if you expected anything else, you’re a fool. From Killian Thomas Lefevre’s Tink to Joelle Moses’s Zahara, the wealth in ensemble cast members is diverse and rich. Moses, an incredible addition to the cast, controlled, peppering the story with additional elements. Xena Gusthart’s adapted choreography offers both, along with Kellie Gnauck, the opportunity to channel the apocalyptic vibe into one hell of a party at the end of the world.
Spreading its wings and flapping its way to glory – Bat Out of Hell scorches the frozen streets of Edinburgh, an intense blaze of stupendous passion, refining the legendary works of two cultural giants into an everlasting smash-hit. And a distinctly bittersweet reminder to the indisputable talent of those lost. A legacy strides forth into musical theatre history, an incandescent example of the spirit of rock, the perversion of authority and the limitless possibilities of love.
Bat Out of Hell runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday, February 19th. Tickets for which can be obtained here.