Friday, 13 July 2018

Bat Out Of Hell The Musical | Review

In the nearly 7 years that I've been writing this blog I seem to have done quite a good job of unintentionally hiding my love for musicals, my love for theatre. In fact, one of the first things I did when I got my new powerchair in February was go and see Les Mis for the second time, it was my first theatre trip in over 18 months and it was a long time coming. That trip played it's part in reigniting my love for musicals again, but it was West End Live last month that really kicked things off for me.

I was also reminded of how inaccessible theatre still is though, hoping to see Chicago but learning that I could miss up to half of the stage and finding that I couldn't even see Wicked due to the weight limit on their lift. Another problem that I have though is finding photos of what the restricted view from the wheelchair space in theatres will be, because nine times out of ten it is a restricted view and a photo can make the difference between me booking or not. So, combined with my passion for talking about musicals whenever I can, it seemed like the natural step to start reviewing both the actual shows I see and the access at the theatres, including photos of the view. I'm starting things off today with my review of Jim Steinman's Bat Out Of Hell The Musical which I was fortunate enough to see at the Dominion Theatre on Wednesday afternoon.


"Winner of Best Musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2017, Jim Steinman's Bat Out Of Hell has audiences 'taking to their feet for full-blown standing ovations' (The Mirror) night after night at London's Dominion Theatre. 

The romance of rock 'n' roll comes alive on stage as Strat, the forever young leader of rebellious gang 'The Lost', falls in love with Raven, the beautiful daughter of the tyrannical ruler of post-apocalyptic Obsidian. 

Bringing to live the legendary hits of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf this 'outrageous, nostalgic wild child of a rock 'n' roll musical' (The Times) is a fun, vibrant, boundary-pushing take on the traditional love story that can be enjoyed by all." 

BOOH (Bat Out Of Hell) was the first show that I booked after West End Live, whilst many of the shows that performed blew me away (and I have gone on to book several more) it was this one in particular that I found myself watching again and again on YouTube, I just couldn't get it out of my head. Considering the fact that Les Mis is my favourite musical, I was surprised to be so hooked by something so different. Their performance was loud and big with huge songs and eye-catching choreography. A small taste of just a few songs was more than enough to convince me that I had to go and see it in full. So, I was pretty over the moon to find out I could see it in just 3 weeks time (from the day I booked) and it would only cost me £15, and let me tell you, I got a lot for my money.

It's difficult to know where to start, just as it was difficult to know where to look at times during this jam-packed show. I was just half an hour in when I realised that this was a show that I'd need to see twice, to really absorb it all.


I want to get my negative point out the way first, it was something that I've read and heard about a lot so fully expected it. I don't know whether this prejudiced my view from the beginning but so many people have shared the same thought that I think a lot of it was just true. The book (theatre speak for the story/narrative) was thin and lacking in a lot of places. Had I not read and listened to reviews beforehand and done my research I fear that I would have felt even more lost during the performance, as I tried to piece together the storyline. The basics of it being a love story is easy to grasp, but the who, why and what of it all escaped me a little at times. I feel like some of the characters, in particular Zahara and Jagwire, didn't get anywhere near enough time to tell their story too, which seemed to be of importance but not enough to give them a little more stage time.

I can understand why some have said that they found it difficult to connect with and care about the characters, personally I found myself getting quite invested in their story, but as I say, it's understandable that others struggled. I do feel they could have done better with the story but my overwhelming thought is this; if I wanted an exceptional story, I'd watch a play.


When it comes to sets I've been blown away by both shows I'd seen previously for different reasons, the barricade in Les Mis is breathtaking and I remember looking up in awe at the Matilda set when I first entered the auditorium. But, BOOH is by far the most impressive set I have ever seen. I arrived at the earliest time I could, meaning I had a good 30 minutes to sit and take it all in before the performance began. Arriving early also meant I was treated to seeing some of the cast on the stage, cleaning the motorbike, before the performance had officially begun.

I really applaud the set designer, Jon Bausor, because technically it's complicated and is made up of so many elements but it just works. The songs are big so you need an equally big stage and set to really do them justice, this is not a small or shy show. It's loud, it's big, it's confident. There are some incredible elements of the set that I won't spoil but it includes a water element, a hilarious moment which involves some of the band and of course, a lot of fire! I really could talk about the set all day but it's so impressive that my words could never do it justice, it's something you have to experience in person.


Going into a musical like this people are likely going to have their favourite songs already and whilst I was very much aware of and had heard some of the album, I hadn't listened to the majority of the songs. Other than the big ones, Bat Out Of Hell and I'd Do Anything For Love, my favourites had to be Dead Ringer For Love and Out Of The Frying Pan which I think really showcased the talents of the emsemble and smaller leads. For me during those 2 songs the mixture of the vocals and dancing was perfect, and other than wanting Dead Ringer For Love to go on for longer, I can't fault them. What I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did was the duets between Falco and Sloane, parents to Raven who falls in love with Strat. I had a cover on as Sloane, the incredible Hannah Ducharme and as so often happens with covers, I never would have known she wasn't the main actor. The chemistry between Falco and Sloane was electric and passionate, and also offered up some comedic moments too that I hadn't expected to get from a show like this. Rob Fowler played the part of Falco perfectly in my opinion, he was sensational and it's obvious to me why he's been in the role since the show originally opened.

As said before, I was longing to see more of the partnership between Zahara (played by Danielle Steers) and Jagwire (played by Wayne Robinson), their duet Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad really stole the show for me and whilst it's clear that Strat and Raven are the main focus, I wanted more of Zahara and Jagwire. The power in Danielle's and Wayne's voices was astounding, they had so much stage presence.


Out Of The Frying Pan was also one of my favourites because it really gave the audience chance to be introduced to Tink (played by Alex Thomas-Smith), Ledoux (played by Giovanni Spanรณ) and Blake (played by Patrick Sullivan), all of whom gave outstanding performances that I think they don't get enough credit for. Giovanni looks like he was born to be in this show, he looks so at home in the role and his passion for it really shows. Patrick caught my eye from the West End Live performance and I was eager to see him again, I can't pinpoint what it is but there's something about him that just makes his performance so memorable. And then there's Alex who plays Tink, the odd one out in The Lost, and his emotional performance of Not Allowed To Love really had the audience invested in his character. 



And then there's Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington who play the leads, star crossed lovers Strat and Raven. Andrew Polec has this look in his eyes that draws you in, he plays the character so convincingly and with so much passion, you can tell he really believes in what he is performing. That kind of energy is infectious and found myself wanting to be up there on stage with him and the rest of the cast. They are big songs to live up to and he does it with ease. As I think people do every night, I found myself ending up with a little crush on him too!

Christina's character Raven really stands out in the show as her costume and makeup isn't quite as rock 'n' roll, and I like that as she transformed throughout the show they still kept her costume and makeup true to what the core of her character was. Her voice was enchanting and complimented Andrew's perfectly, again you could tell that she was having a lot of fun up on stage and there is nothing better than watching someone who loves what they do. There was just so much talent on stage it was unreal, it felt like a real treat to witness what I think will be a very big and long career for all of them.


One element of the show that has really stayed with me, as someone who identifies as bisexual, is that there are same sex dance partnerships. Never before had I seen 2 women or 2 men dancing together in a musical and it affected me more than I thought it would. It wasn't tokenism either, the environment and the story really fitted the decision to break away from the 'norm'. Those moments will stay in my mind forever I think.

For me the sign of whether I enjoyed a show often just comes down to whether I would see it again and I can confidently say that I will be seeing this again. Sure, the story lacks a little and is confusing at times but the music, choreography, vocals, cast, costumes and set make up for that, for me this is a musical that you really do see for the music.


When it comes to the access at the theatre wheelchair users have a few different options depending on whether you can transfer and if you use a manual or electric wheelchair. If you use a manual wheelchair and can transfer then you can sit in any aisle seat in the stalls, offering an impressive view of the stage. For electric wheelchair users and manual wheelchair users who can't transfer there is the Nederlander Box which is accessed via a side door, near where the stage door is. The box is large, the largest I've come across and can seat 3 wheelchair users and 3 carers. I had the box to myself during the performance I saw and so got pick of where to sit, I chose to sit in the furthest space back, so I could see as much of stage left as possible. A few metres can make all the difference in a theatre!

There are large speakers in front of the box that restrict the view of stage left, as well as the actual box itself restricting some of the view. The way the set is designed in an almost triangular way means that the set on stage left is completely restricted. During act 1 it wasn't much of a problem, I didn't feel like I was missing much. Something unique about this show is that some of it is filmed live and projected on to the set, this is on 2 screens during act 1 that cover both stage left and stage right, so wherever you're sitting you'd see one screen. It's mostly Raven's bedroom that is filmed and I assumed that since it was filmed, it wasn't visible to audience members but I've since found out that in fact her bedroom is visible on stage and I have to admit I'm a little gutted to have missed that due to my restricted view.


During act 2 was when my restricted view became more of a problem as the filming projected on to the set that I could see was removed, when more of the set was revealed thus losing a backdrop to project the footage on to. So, from that point on anything filmed, I missed. I had to piece it together through the sound, but it wasn't easy at times. There were perhaps at least 3 moments that come to mind where I felt I missed some important parts. BOOH and The Dominion Theatre have clearly recognised the restricted view and adjusted the price accordingly though, I think I would have been more annoyed had my ticket cost me more than what it did (£15). It was only upon talking to fans on Twitter did I realise that I had perhaps missed more than I thought.

The front of house staff couldn't have been more helpful during my time at the Dominion Theatre, I went to see BOOH alone which I had no problem in doing, I enjoy my own company, but it was lovely that during the interval one of the team was happy to chat to me and hear my mid show chat. Interval and post show chat is about the only thing I felt I missed out on by going alone and the fab staff were brilliant at helping me fill that gap. Should I have wanted them they were also able to go to the bar to get me drinks, or buy me a programme. There was an accessible toilet available just metres from the Nederlander Box, which is only used by those in the box, I've been in some theatres before where they've let everyone use the disabled toilet so it was a relief to see that wouldn't happen here. There isn't much turning space due to the shape of the room but even with my large powerchair I managed it.

If you're looking to have some fun and see a show without spending a lot then I think Bat Out Of Hell will be the one for you. The current cast have also been doing the show for a while now and whilst no cast changes have been announced I really recommend you book soon so you don't end up missing their incredible performance!

Find out more about the show and buy tickets on the Bat Out Of Hell website.
SHARE:

2 comments

  1. This is a great review! I'm a bit of a Meat Loaf fan, so I've been considering going to see this show when I'm next down in London.

    The last show I saw was the closing night of An American in Paris back in January.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think if you're a Meat Loaf fan then it's a must watch! I'm sure American in Paris was at the Dominion before BOOH? It's such a beautiful theatre, especially the foyer!

      Delete


Blogger templates by pipdig