Bat Out of Hell, the Musical
I have always loved the music of Jim Steinman, brilliantly performed by Meat Loaf. The songs are completely theatrical with fervent and rich storytelling, bathed in intensely passionate lyrics. And so, it makes perfect sense that a musical featuring Steinman’s songs would be created and produced. It took a long time, but it finally happened when “Bat Out of Hell, the Musical” opened in London and then moved on to Toronto. A couple of years ago when on a trip to Calgary, I watched a 1/2 hour television special on this musical, and almost planned to travel to Ontario to see it. I saved myself a trip when I learned that BOOH would be coming to New York.
Now, If you’re a big Steinman fan like I am, you will feel happily satisfied by the integration of what seems like all of his songs ever written into the show, as this nearly 3 hour musical makes sure to include a boat load of them.
However, and there is a big however, the story line elicits eye rolling and in its over the top intensity can even become tedious. The opening number was the worst part of the show, and put me in a cross mood for most of the first act since I hated the messy opening so much.
But the show redeems itself, and actually by the 2nd act, I was kind of won over. This turn is likely thanks to the incredible singing of the entire cast, most notably, that of Christina Bennington. This talented performer plays the beautiful Raven, teenage daughter of a dysfunctional couple (the father is the hard ass authoritarian who presides over a dark and brooding city with teens perpetually frozen at 18 and prowl the streets in gangs) who falls in love with Strat (Andrew Polec), the leader of the teens who will never grow up.
That’s about all I am going to mention about the story line, which is merely a way to weave the incredibly dense stories inherent in each Jim Steinman song, into a (somewhat) cohesive musical. Since in this case, that is a rather impossible task, “Bat Out of Hell” makes up for a strong narrative with very loud sound, very in your face attitude, and over the top, well everything. Still, it lacks the finesse of a really well crafted farce or spoof, as the piece appears to almost take itself too seriously.
A convention that was used and then overused was having a videographer follow Raven’s actions in her room with a camera, with video projected on screens. Whether Raven was with her mom, in conflict with her dad, or just participating in endless mooning over Strat, (the odd frozen in time bad boy leading the gang of youth who has captured her heart), we creepily watched Raven’s every movement on camera. It became tiresome and annoying.
On a positive note, the fabulous Lena Hall and Bradley Dean play the parents of Raven, and bring their seasoned professionalism to the production.
Look, if you love the music of Steinman, and want to see it in a theatrical setting, this will fit the bill. Be prepared for big, be prepared for loud, and in many cases, be prepared for silly.
Although “Bat Out of Hell” has a short run, you can catch it until Sept. 8 at City Center.
For more theatre news, conversation and interviews, join Valerie Smaldone Saturday mornings, 9:05-10 for “Bagels and Broadway” on WNYM-AM radio, online at www.am970theanswer.com, Alexa and podcast.