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Bat Out of Hell

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - August 8, 2019


Christina Bennington and Andrew Polec
Photo by Little Fang Photo

Bat Out of Hell, opening tonight at City Center, goes back and forth between the sublime and the ridiculous so often it will make your head spin. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of Jim Steinman's songs that are associated with performer Meat Loaf and the forty-year-old album of the same title as the show, get ye hence. The production is about as tuneful and well-sung as any jukebox musical you are likely to see. Just please don't ask me to explain what it's about.

As Steinman, who is responsible for book, music, and lyrics, puts it, "If you don't go over the top, you can't see what's on the other side." Ostensibly based on Peter Pan, the show has more in common with another takeoff of the J. M. Barrie tale. That would be the 1987 film "The Lost Boys," in which Kiefer Sutherland played the leader of a motorcycle gang of teenage vampires. In Bat Out of Hell, it is Strat, played by Andrew Polec, who is the leader of the pack, and he and his followers are not vampires but mutants, permanently locked into the age of 18. The kickoff number, "All Revved Up with No Place to Go" tells you all you need to know about their churning hormones and kinetic energy.

Long and convoluted story made short: Strat falls in love with Raven (Christina Bennington), the non-mutant daughter of Sloane (Lena Hall) and Falco (Bradley Dean). Dad is the unsympathetic big kahuna who runs the town where they live and where "The Lost," as they call themselves, hide out in the subway tunnels. The shred of what there is of a plot goes as you might anticipate. Think Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story, the latter being only one of many different musicals you may be reminded of at various points during the evening. I'll let you count them.

Anyway, the plot sort of falls apart pretty soon and never really recovers, so let's get to the good stuff. Whatever else is wrong with the production (among these are the stadium-concert level of ear splitting amplification, the lighting design that uses every single lighting trick you can imagine, and the relentless limb-thrusting choreography danced by an ensemble for whom dancing is not their strong suit), there is the singing, all of it is either excellent or extraordinary.

In the category of extraordinary are Lena Hall and Bradley Dean, who eat the stage alive whenever they are front and center. Both of them not only sing the blazes out of their numbers, they are theater pros who know how to act while they are singing. Their performance of "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" is utter perfection as they recall their own hot and steamy teenage-hood and Falco's coerced promise to love Sloan "to the end of time." Another exceptional singer is Danielle Steers, who plays Zahara, the only one who has her feet planted in both the world of The Lost and in Falco's home, where she works for the family and takes care of Raven. When she cuts loose with "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," sounding rather like Cher at her alto best, she will blow you out of the water. As for Strat and Raven, the couple at the center, Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington sing very well, too, but their style is more in keeping with the kinds of performances you might see on one of the many TV singing competition shows rather than in a theater. Different strokes.

No matter what else, the big numbers from the "Bat Out of Hell" album are there, including, of course, the biggest hit of all, "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." If you can understand what Strat means when he asks, "On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?" then don't worry about the incomprehensible plot twists or the staging peculiarities. Go for the music, and you won't be disappointed.


Jim Steinman's Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical
Through September 8
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues
Tickets and current Performance Schedule: www.nycitycenter.org


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