Gergana Georgieva reviews Bat Out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre.
Bat out of Hell transports you to another time and you can’t stop your heart from beating in time with the rhythm of rebellion. The musical, based on Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman’s classic albums, infuses the Dominion Theatre with its daring rock ‘n roll lyrics and shows an underappreciated side of the West End. Steinman’s telling of this story, directed by Jay Scheib and choreographed by Emma Portner, has been leaving audiences in awe since its Manchester premiere in early 2017.
The plot revolves around star-crossed lovers Strat (Jordan Luke Gage) and Raven (Christina Bennington) as they face their friends and family’s resistance to be together. While Andrew Polec – highly praised for his rendition of Strat – stepped down in September to join the Bat out of Hell North American Tour, Jordan Gage does more than justice to the character. The electric chemistry between him and Bennington makes it impossible to believe that someone could bring more to the performance. As Gage takes to the stage with the cryptic line ‘I remember everything’, a building soars majestically behind him spelling the name Falco – a tyrant, CEO of Falco Industries, and the father of Strat’s future beloved. Everything points to the fact that we are set for a jaw-dropping performance.
Before we’ve managed to collect ourselves from the initial anxiety, Strat’s friends – a group of teenagers frozen at the age of 18 called The Lost – are already fiercely contending with Falco’s men for their right to be accepted as equals. The physical struggle between the two groups is in sync with the one happening inside Raven’s room. Indeed, a camera following Raven is projected onto the left half of the stage so we can see the two storylines in parallel. While at first this feels distracting, the way the two simultaneous narratives complement each other eases you from feeling that you could be missing important details from one of the two.
Another interesting feature of the musical is that the fire we expect to see in the teenage cast is also an integral part of Raven’s parents. Her mother Sloane (Sharon Sexton) desperately needs to break out of the mundane routine and reconnect with her true self. This frustration erupts on multiple occasions, in particular when, together with Raven’s father Falco (Rob Fowler), she gives an absolutely inflammatory delivery of What Part of My Body Hurts The Most.
The tenderness of Raven’s character is juxtaposed with the rock ‘n roll spirit of the musical, as throughout the spectacle she defies her parents, runs away multiple times, and joins Strat in all of his mischief, while still managing to keep her ambivalent innocence. Moreover, while Bennington always hits the right notes, during the For Crying Out Loud duet she sings with so much power and confidence it’s hard to believe the voice is coming from such a tiny figure.
Another theme that sneaks by is that of brotherhood, seen through the relationship between Strat and the misunderstood Tink (Alex Thomas-Smith). Tink’s untimely death and the vengeance that follows shows just how powerful brotherly love can be. The emotion shadows everything for Strat, even the love he has for his other half.
Finally, the musical wouldn’t have been the same without the mesmerising performance of Danielle Steers (playing Zahara). Her powerful voice poured over the entire audience on several occasions, particularly during the dramatic Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.
As we witness two on-stage vehicle crashes during the performance, it seems like nothing could add to the excitement that accompanies this 20th century Romeo and Juliet story that explores the fear of mortal love and immortal life. The tension that has been building during the show has made me a convert, and by the end I felt the urge to join The Lost in their final dance.
Make sure you don’t miss out on this spectacular show – it is having its final performance on 5th January 2019.