Bat Out Of Hell's Raven and Strat (Martha Kirby and Glenn Adamson) arrive on the set.

Review: Bat Out Of Hell really rocks the Milton Keynes Theatre audience

Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman's anthemic musical legacy is a huge theatrical hit, writes Alan Wooding

Wednesday 15 June 2022

"It was really all about the music," said my grandson as we walked out of Milton Keynes Theatre last night having witnessed a colourful full-throttle show which has its roots in a 1977 rock 'n' roll album.

At the ripe old age of 45, Meat Loaf's original Bat Out Of Hell album remains a superb soundtrack but I'm not so sure about this musical shows strange and weird storyline whose plot could have been scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet. Thankfully the bonus is that it incorporates so many of the late Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman's anthemic songs which are sung with gusto by a truly talented cast.

It goes something like this... following an earthquake, a group of teenagers become trapped in a series of underground tunnels having been subjected to poisonous gas during a chemical war. They somehow managed to survive but they forever remain as Peter Pan-like 18-year-olds. Winding the clock forward 25 years, they're collectively known as 'The Lost' who live a feral lifestyle in an underworld city which is ruled by the tyrannical Falco… I did warn you it's bonkers!

That aside, it's the usual boy meets girl story who fall in love much to her parents' displeasure. Strat is the forever young leader of a rebellious gang and he falls for Raven, daughter of Falco and his usually inebriated loveless wife Sloane.

Glenn Adamson and Martha Kirby are superb as the young lovers – For Crying Out Loud and I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – while I particularly enjoyed Falco (Jamie Jukes) and Sloane (Laura Johnson) and their rendition of Paradise By The Dashboard Light while standing atop a convertible car as they relive their teenage years.

The car also offers one of the show's funiest moment as Raven rips out its engine and tosses it into the orchestra pit – and that's followed by three musicians climbing onto the stage brandishing a bent trombone, a damaged cello and a bent condutor's baton!

All four actors gave absolutely outstanding performances while the teenage couple also managed to somehow sing so brilliantly while leaping energetically around the stage.

Besides the four main leads, there were also great individual vocal performances from Killian Thomas Leferve as Tink, James Chisholm (Jagwire), Joelle Moses (Zahara), Kellie Gnauck (Valkyrie) and Danny Whelan as Ledoux.

The Second Act could almost be played as a concert as it crams so many of Meat Loaf's song into it – Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, Dead Ringer For Love, What Part Of My Body Hurts The Most, Rock and Rolls Dreams Come Through, I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) reprise, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Nights) and, of course, Bat Out Of Hell – while naturally it's all very loud and raucous.

With a fabulous futuristic Jon Bausor designed set complete with a resident videographer, two enormous video screens, incredible lighting and plenty of lightning-type flares and flashes, the whole show is delivered with breathtaking energy and enthusiasm by a youthful cast which includes several tremendous dancers. 

On top of that, I must mention the superb eight-piece band under the leadership of Iestyn Griffiths – they really made the whole theatre rock with the seating literally vibrating from the wonderful deep base sound.

Having recently lost both Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday, 1947-2022) and Jim Steinman (1947-2021), this touring production is testament to their tremendous songwriting talent and it deserves to continue entertaining audiences for years to come.

And finally just before Tuesday night's performance, a large numbers of local Harley Davidson-mounted 'Chapter' members arrived on their motorbikes to a cacophony of sound – and that certainly left the prop bike on stage looking somewhat under-powered!

Bat Out Of Hell - The Musical plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 25 July with tickets from £13 from the Box Office or at ATGTICKETS.COM/MiltonKeynes

 

Pictured below are around 40 members of various local motorcycle 'Chapters' who put on a high revving sound show ahead of Tuesday night's performance of Bat Out Of Hell.