Bat Out Of Hell – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Steve Crabtree, June 2022
I don’t know the collective term for a group of motorbikes. But a host of them were parked up in Bradford last night on the approach to the theatre, setting the right tone for Bat Out Of Hell, the jukebox musical featuring 19 of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf’s greatest hits that’s rocking out at the Alhambra at the moment.
For me, certain jukebox musicals stick in the mind for various reasons. The naffness of Craig Revel Horwood’s Son Of A Preacher Man is one. And the insane brilliance of Beautiful – the Carole King Story is another. Whether Bat Out Of Hell would be one to remember remained to be seen, but it was a show I was looking forward to seeing as we took our seats in a pretty full house.
As Bat Out Of Hell begins with lead character Raven raving down a microphone, for me it wasn’t clear what direction we were heading with this show. And following that we were handed a chaotic scene aptly accompanied with ‘All Revved Up With No Place To Go’. I was a bit bemused by what was going on for the first few minutes, and I was wondering if we were in for another flop.
But then things settled down, and initial impressions were put on hold. This slightly bonkers introduction to the show was the direction in which we were heading for over the next couple of hours. And with it, came a soundtrack to make anyone’s ears prick up with ultimate excitement.
You get a mix of flavour throughout Bat Out Of Hell. There’s a little bit of Peter Pan, and a dose of Romeo and Juliet. Throw in The Lost Boys, and add a dash of The Rocky Horror Picture Show alongside a Meat Loaf soundtrack, and you’ve got an idea of what Bat Out Of Hell plays out like on the stage.
And in and amongst the highly-charged energy and chaos, comes a love-story. Raven’s less than perfect parents are protective over their just-turned 18 year old daughter who has a mature head on her shoulders. She wants to get out of home and explore life and love, and is attracted to Strat, the leader of The Lost.
The Lost are a rebellious gang who’ll forever be 18 and never grow up. Made up of a number of kids, they’re not scared of anything, but can be vulnerable to everything. They’re outsiders and contrast with the type of people Raven’s parents are. Or at least think they are. This clash from both sides feeds in to the story wonderfully, and ensures that there’s not that much predictability throughout the performance.
“An all-round sensation”
If you like a show that’s awash with explosions, background effects, confetti cannons and loud bangs, you’ll like this. They add a bit of variety to a stage that’s static scenery throughout the show’s entirety.
A clever addition to the production is a live camera that closely homes in on parts of various scenes that are a little hidden away. The bedroom scenes for instance. The coverage is displayed on a large screen in a sort of B-movie format, which I enjoyed at first. I do feel it’s over-used though, and by the end of the show it’d been slightly over-egged.
When it came to the cast, we had struck very lucky. Martha Kirby was an all-round sensation as the sweet, yet strong-willed Raven, who was coming of age and rebelling against a controlling father. And Glenn Adamson’s portrayal of the sexually provocative Strat was consistently great. He had the persona of a young rocker, and the glare of a kid possessed. And the way that these two came together throughout Bat Out Of Hell was impressive. And they can both sing a bit too!
Comedy also rears its head throughout the show too. The car scene between the crazy husband and wife team of Falco and Sloane, expertly played by Rob Fowler and Laura Johnson, was met with hard laughter. And the clever, subtle usage of handgel is also something to look out for.
“Rocking out the music”
The thing you know you’re going to get with this musical is some legendary tunes, from a rock icon. But would the cast of Bat Out Of Hell do the iconic songs justice?
Emphatically, the answer is “yes”. And a big shout out goes to the band, led by Iestyn Griffiths for rocking out the music all night, and also providing a comedy surprise in the first half of the show.
Thanks to my dad, ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ is my favourite Meat Loaf song. And Zahara (Joelle Moses) and Jagwire (James Chisholm) performed the slightly edited down version of this song really well. Strong vocals, and strong choreography shone out of the pair of them. The lighting goes all Nile Rodgers disco for this one though. And although I love a Chic gig, I felt this was a touch out of place for Bat Out Of Hell. Even with all the curveballs that the show brings.
Particular stand-out songs were ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’ and, naturally, the title track. ‘Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are’ was moving during a poignant part of the show. And power ballad ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’ was nicely performed by Kirby. Although a Celine Dion song, it was written by Jim Steinman and was far from out of place here.
“Powerfully hits you”
I’ve said before, a good jukebox musical doesn’t forget a decent plotline. And Bat Out Of Hell gave us that, and much more. I’d really enjoyed the show despite those very early reservations.
It’s far from your standard musical, and not even your standard jukebox musical. But it’s a show with a difference that powerfully hits you. And that by the end of the performance, that power has cranked up to full volume.
Bat Out Of Hell is showing until Saturday 11th June.