Theater Review: ‘Bat Out of Hell’ at New York City Center

By Jonathan Spira on 20 August 2019
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“Bat Out of Hell,” the dystopia-meets-avant-garde musical that was a smash hit in the West End and is based on the bestselling 1977 Meatloaf album of the same name, arrived in New York’s City Center theater..

Originally conceived by composer Jim Steinman as a Wagnerian rock opera based loosely on J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” it took four decades to reach the stage, making it to New York via Manchester, London, and Toronto. However, the tour planned to precede the New York run, which was to include Dallas, St. Paul, and Washington, D.C., was cancelled. (A German-language production is currently underway in Oberhausen, and will run through September 19.)

“Bat Out of Hell” is set in the mythical, post-Apocalyptic town of Obsidian, as dark a place as the volcanic glass it is named after, and the town ruled by the despotic tycoon Falco (Bradley Dean), presumablyunrelatedto the brilliant late Austrian singer and rapper who was the subject of another musical, “Falco Meets Amadeus”, and his wife, Sloane.

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Despite the show’s close fidelity to the album, don’t expect to see Meatloaf on stage. Instead, Strat (passionately played by Andrew Polec, who originated the role), a member of The Lost, a gang condemned to remain 18 forever. Tinkerbelle is here in the form of Tink (an endearing Avionce Holyes), a younger boy who is in love with Strat and jealous of his relationship with anyone else, especially Raven (Christine Bennington), Falco and Sloane’s daughter.

To complicate matters, Falco and Sloane don’t exactly approve of Raven’s choice of boyfriends and the couple doesn’t always see eye to eye, although they feature prominently in one of the best comic relief moments in the show, where they attempt a tryst in an on-stage convertible as they sing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” complete with a baseball announcer (Phil Rizzuto, who died in 2007, originated the role on the album) providing a full play-by-play of the action.

As I noted in my review of the London production, The music recalls Steinman’s ability to utilize everyday phrases as the basis of what became hit songs – e.g. Bat Out of Hell, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth, and, for the automotively inclined, “Objects in the Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” – but also includes many lesser-known works that were in subsequent albums.

“Bat Out of Hell” succeeds in part thanks to the title of Steinman’s songs. While truly great musicals have a compelling plot, memorable music, and a commanding stage presence, this one, lacking anything but a thin plot, succeeds rather nicely on the other counts. After all, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.

THE DETAILS

Bat Out of Hell
Limited engagement through September 8, 2019
New York City Center
131 West 55th Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes
www.batoutofhellmusical.com

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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