Touring production seen at the Bristol Hippodrome.
Bristol welcomed the roar of more than 50 Harley Davidsons last night, backed up perfectly by the incredible rock music of Jim Steinman. Bat Out of Hell has arrived at the Bristol Hippodrome, and if you’re after an uplifting night out with stunning vocal performances, this is it.
Juke box musicals are often given a hard rap owing to the weak plot. Honestly, it’s hard to explain in detail the plot of Bat Out of Hell because vague doesn’t even begin to cover it, but also… it doesn’t matter. In short, sheltered daddy’s girl Raven is more than a little smitten with a mutant called Strat, who’s going to stay eighteen forever. She runs away to be with him, Mummy and Daddy (who have major issues and definitely need couple’s therapy) try to track her down, whilst working out whether to stay together or not. There’s lots of songs, tenuously linked to the storyline, and very little dialogue.
The thing is, Bat Out of Hell is phenomenal in spite of the storyline, not because of it. Jim Steinman’s work is iconic; the cast know this and wow, every single person on that stage is electric. I can’t praise the singing, dancing, drive and energy of everyone highly enough. This is the most committed cast I’ve seen for a long while, and it’s joyful. They gave 100% and more last night, and it’s the musical numbers that give the show its heart. Glenn Adamson is a true rock star in the making as Strat. He plays perfectly opposite local girl Martha Kirby, who also delivered flawless vocals as Raven. I’m pretty sure both were born ready to rock. However, it’s Rob Fowler and Franziska Schuster who really elevate the show to such a high standard of performance. As Raven’s troubled parents, they perform perfectly together; always complementing, never overshadowing or trying to outdo one another. They were truly exceptional in both Paradise by the Dashboard Light and What Part of My Body Hurts the Most, when the pain and anguish of a couple who are in the depths of despair really came across. I could listen to them sing that a hundred times over and never get bored. Although the plot is weaker than the sum of its songs, I did find myself really rooting for these two to sort their differences.
The lighting and sound were on point last night, and the clever use of a live camera feed adds a brilliant extra dimension to the show. Congratulations to the band, who were stunning and gave last night’s audience the time of their lives. It’s the most energetic, enthused audience I’ve heard at the Hippodrome for a while, and the love for the cast and their performance was richly deserved. I went into this really not knowing what to expect. As a lifetime fan of Steinman’s work, I was pleasantly surprised, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. This cast is electrifyingly talented, making Bat out of Hell a must-see musical.