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REVIEW: Bat Out of Hell – The Musical at Stockton Globe

Bat Out of Hell – The Musical

Stockton Globe

Until Saturday 5 February 2021


When we were asked to review the new musical based upon the music of Meatloaf at a theatre we have yet to visit we were very happy to say yes. Not only would we get to see inside the Grade II listed venue, that has been shut for many decades, after a multi-million pound refit, but we’d also get to see a musical we have not seen. As fans of Meatloaf we were sad to hear of his passing last week but we knew this would be a great way to pay respect to the legend.

Of course it was only going to be a matter of time before the mammoth rock mini-operas were going to be collated together and slotted into a jukebox musical. The only surprise was the angle used. Rather than going down the 1950s rock and roll love story that we expected, the Stockton crowd were sent in to a future dystopian world in which a character called Tink betrays a group called The Lost, who do not get old, as the leader of the pack has fallen for a young lady who will get old…hang on: that’s the Peter Pan story! (Okay, I admit it - it was act 2 before the penny dropped!)

But first the theatre…

Green is the theme but the canvas is a beautiful example of 1935 Art Deco. Many period features still survive the venues multiple conversions from theatre to cinema and then a bingo hall. Such features include a wonderful light fitting in the circle bar and crazy pots, that look like scenery from Cinderella, protruding from the place you’d expect the boxes in the auditorium to be. Add some wonderfully friendly staff acting as front of house and in the bar and it is a really nice theatre to visit. 

But hang on…some theatres in our region have had magnificent refits but then installed pretty but awfully uncomfortable seating that puts you in pain in under an hour. That is before we start talking about leg room. Comfortable seating is the big issue once the lights go down and you cannot see the fancy features any more. So have does the Globe measure up? Well the modern seating that is bolted to the grey painted floor of the stalls doesn’t initially fit in with the ambience of the art deco design…but initial impressions quickly turn to relief. These are very comfy seats that it was easy to park ones backside in for 3 hours. Plus we have the added bonus of decent leg room. Just like Whitley Bay’s Playhouse, it is possible to move up and down the rows to get to your seat without standing on anyone’s feet. Row L has plenty of legroom and I really appreciated this.

In terms of location, signs from the Stockton turn off on the A19 channel you to the Wellington Square car park which is free for evening theatre guests and it is also well lit. It was a short walk to the theatre from there. At the end of the show the barriers were up and so a quick exit was possible.

The National Lottery's Big Night Of Musicals At Manchester's AO Arena

So you love the theatre…what about the show?

I never got my tape measure but it does seem like a wide stage - hopefully the stage is big enough to pull in the big shows. Bat Out of Hell is the first week long engagement at the venue after a number of one night music, spoken word and comedy events. As one young lady in the bar exclaimed: ‘it is nice to not have to go to London to see this show, I cannot believe it is on my doorstep’.

Bat Out Of Hell delivers a big production to Teesside.  The set designed, by Jon Bausor, fills the stage with a lower level for much of the choreography by The Lost, an upper area above the sewer and the side of an imposing building. The building has screens that most of the audience can see through when action is happening in a bedroom. Having said that the interior action and some of the close up skirmishes are caught on camera by one of the cast and these images are projected on a big screen. It is a set up that gives director Jay Sheib a number of options.

The National Lottery's Big Night Of Musicals At Manchester's AO Arena

The cast are very talented and they deliver an entertaining show. They are effectively in two camps. The ruling group are led by Falco (Rob Fowler) who lives in Falco Towers with his wife Sloane (Sharon Sexton) and their soon-to-be 18 year old daughter Raven (Martha Kirby). Down below are an anarchic group called “The Lost” who are led by Strat (Glenn Adamson) who has caught the eye of Raven. Unfortunately another of the lost, Tink (Killian Thomas Lefevre) is jealous about the developing situation. Plus the Falcos don’t allow their daughter outside and they feed her a cocktail of sleeping pills and dream suppressants.

Raven asks her mother about the Lost and she says that poison used in events in the tunnels years ago has frozen the genes of the group so that they remain 18 forever. This leaves the familiar tale of forbidden love and the quest for happiness. Of course Raven is keen to explore outside as much as her father is keen that she doesn’t. 

Straddling both camps is Zahara (Joelle Moses) who is one of the Lost who has managed to get a job as a nurse for Falco. It is no surprise when she gets involved too.

This is a story by Jim Steinman, who is the man behind the music and lyrics of the three Bat Out of Hell albums from which the show’s music is drawn from. The guy was very creative and he has pulled together a story which matches the hits like Dead Ringer For Love, Paradise By The Dashboard Light and I’ll Do Anything For Love (But I WOn’t Do That). The cast put in some great vocal performances: Glenn Adamson owns Bat Out of Hell; Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton show off their range and give an entertaining performance of Who Needs The Young.

The band, under Conductor Iestyn Griffiths, delivers the sound that you’d want. It is extremely close to the albums. Thus whilst the vocals may be different to Meatloaf, the band are pretty much reproducing the familiar noise for the big hits. This will help the fans of the music. It is a shame that the band were totally out of sight for the duration of the show, with just the conductor putting an appearance in for the curtain call.

Thus we had great performances from the cast and band, on a well designed stage full of great lighting, centered around music we love…so what is not to like…? 

It only happened a few times but I cannot help feeling the action could have moved around the stage more, personally I’d rather see the actors facing the audience rather than tucked away behind screens in a flat with their backs to the audience. A video link is not, for me an alternative, to live staging. Perhaps I am missing the point when the camera operative blocks my view of the couple in the car that have their backs to me? It wouldn't be the first time.

The cult musical Urinetown points out that nothing kills a show like too much exposition, however, this show could do with a little more explanation, early on, of the context of what is happening beyond the simple boy-meets-girl stuff.

The National Lottery's Big Night Of Musicals At Manchester's AO Arena

Those couple of points aside, Bat Out Of Hell The Musical faithfully delivers the Jim Steinman / Meatloaf hits to an appreciative audience without doing a Jersey Boys and simply turning the musical into a concert. As a fan of the music, it makes for a pleasing evening at the theatre. Though, as the notices read out at the start point out, please leave your Meatloaf impressions for the car journey home as the audience have paid to hear the cast.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Photos of the recent performance for the BBC’s “Saturday's Big Night of Musical“: Getty Images




Bat Out Of Hell

Tuesday 1 - Saturday 5 February 2022

Tickets from £13 (subject to a transaction fee of £3.65)

Box Office: 0844 871 7615

Online Tickets from official ticket agency ATG Tickets: 

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