Bat out of Hell, 3rd December 2018
Location: Dominion theatre London
price: about 70 pounds
Transport: British Airways
Hotel: Motel One Tower Hill
Favourite song: What part of my body /Anything for love
Favourite lyrics: ‘Will you raise me up? Will you help me down? Will you get me right out of this godforsaken town? Will you make it all a little less cold?
Favourite quote of the night: “You were right the second half was just splendid”(the man who sat next to me when the show was over). Love the word ‘splendid’ 🙂
Why this show?
In June 2017 I was in London for a conference. Long story short, I was asked to come along to see ‘Bat out of Hell’, because the person who asked me had free tickets and had seen the show 6 times already. I asked what the story was and all I got was “It’s the Meatloaf musical”. Like that explained anything. I hadn’t even heard about it. Back then it was still playing at the Coliseum. We sat up in the circles and I was frozen in my seat because of my horrible fear of heights. I just couldn’t move.
The show started and I was a bit overwhelmed at first. I am usually very focussed on the plot, but in this case that doesn’t make too much sense, because the story is way over the top. I still remember that I loved the moment Zahara sang her first solo lines because her voice was so powerful. The ‘parents’ Sloane and Falco made me laugh, the one liners were hilarious and (pretend) drunks on stage usually make for great comedy. My main problem back then was that for some reason I couldn’t really connect with the characters of Raven and Strat. Especially Strat. The age maybe?
Anyway, the second half came and to this day I have not forgotten the feeling, the goosebumps and finally the tears I cried, when Falco and Sloane sang “What part of my body hurts the most”. And I am serious when I say I don’t cry easily. The chemistry between these two in this sad scene was unbelievable and remained this way throughout the rest of the show. (If you want the full story, check out my post from back then)
I couldn’t get the song out of my head for the next weeks, but sadly there was no cast recording out at the time. With time the addiction to it lessened a bit, but then I would hear any Steinman song and remember that number. Months later I found out that there was finally a CD out and I ordered it. Who says you have to fight all addictions?
Fast forward to the beginning of November 2018. Because of some health issues I wasn’t able to make it to London in between, when usually I’m in town at least 5 times a year. But, I was finally back. I was so happy I literally sobbed when I saw my friend waiting for me at the tube station. It was a bit like finally coming home again. I did all the things I always wanted to do, like go to the V&A museum, see a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, see the Natural History Museum at night, see Harry Potter and the Cursed child, party again in Soho, eat at Nandos, shop at Boots, buy tons of books at Foyles… and that’s when I saw it again: Bat out of Hell was playing at the Dominion, across from the Tottenham Court Road station. My original plan was to see the show in May when I had more time in London and could come on a Friday/Saturday. However I was told that the show was ending January 5th. That’s why I bought a ticket and went to see it at the beginning of December, hoping to see Falco and Sloane back together on stage.
I have to start this review by pointing out that maybe half an hour before the doors opened, my know-it-all of a friend told me that the actress who usually played Sloane and who I had seen the last time, Sharon Sexton, was not going to be there that night. I was crushed. We actually went to do some comfort shopping, because the only thing I said was “Now I need chocolate or gin or preferably both, I am so disappointed.”
By the time we made it back to the theatre I was in a better mood, had stopped sulking and went to take my seat in the stalls, while he went back up to the circle.
The auditorium was strangely empty and at one point I moved over four seats to the middle so I wasn’t all alone on the other side of the row.
Bat out of hell is the story of Strat and Raven, two young lovers in a bit of Peter Pan meets Romeo and Juliette kind of story in the dystopian future. You’re still with me? It’s set in Obsidian, a town that’s ruled by dictator Falco (from the Falco tower – Anyone can guess which idiotic ruler’s tower I am thinking about?! Hint: It’s golden) and who fights ‘the lost’, a group of genetically mutated youths who can’t age and live in the caves beneath the city. Their leader, Strat, falls in love with Falco’s locked up daughter Raven and she, of course, with him. Meanwhile Falco’s own marriage is in shambles and his wife Sloane is basically drunk all the time and either making sarcastic or sexual comments. There are also Strat’s friends Tink, who doesn’t like Raven too much, and Zahara, who works for family Falco (still no idea why they would hire her!). That’s about as much as I can give away here, but the war between Falco and the Lost and the relationship dynamics of Strat and Raven, as well as Falco and Sloane are basically the plot.
What surprised me was that this time I liked Strat instantly. It was another actor but the same role, same songs… I don’t know. I have nothing against the actor who originated Strat and he’s a great singer. All I can say is, that this time I liked the role better. Why? No idea.
The woman who plays Raven wasn’t the original either. Overall there were a lot of swings on stage that night and they did an outstanding job.
Then came Zahara and it made me smile so big when I heard the same voice I remember from the first time (and the recording of course). Danielle Steers, what a powerful voice! There are videos up on youtube that give you an idea how great she is.
The ‘swing’ Sloane was very good and played well with ‘Falco’ (the original: Rob Fowler), but there was just that little 0,00001% missing that made the magic the last time.
In all the shows I’ve seen, I’ve never once seen a couple on stage whose voices went so well together and that had such indescribable chemistry as the duo Sexton/Fowler. The casting director sure struck gold.
During the interval, I talked to the lovely people who sat next to me and they bombarded me with some of the same questions I had the first time I saw the show (and honestly still have). I told them to lean back, enjoy the second half and not think too much about the plot, because by the end of the show it wouldn’t matter anyway. Even if the newly added monologue Sloane has, helps somewhat with some of the many plot (hole) questions I still have.
The second half came and what had started in the first half continued: ‘Falco’ kept coughing (very subtly, but still) and one could tell, at least if you know the recordings and have seen the show before, that something wasn’t as it should be. Hopefully it was just a scratchy throat.
Then came the scene that will probably haunt another poor guy for a long time: ‘Strat'(Barney Wilkinson) slipped on/with a mattress and fell feet first (thank god) in the pool on stage. And he wasn’t supposed to go in there, at all. He managed to keep on singing like nothing had happened, but, as always, the rest of the cast weren’t able to pretend it was normal. The conductor laughed, the actors on stage giggled and couldn’t keep straight faces. It was hilarious. I would have loved to hear the commentary on the intercom.
The show then came to its’ explosive finale and I was glad I got to see it again. What a fun night.
Fun facts random thoughts
Totally random side note concerning something else, before I get to the point: Why in the world are there still these idiots in the audience who film/take pics during the shows? There was a guy who first got called out for filming and then he kept texting. If your phone is more important than watching the actual show, save yourself the money and stay home! BTW, for this reason there aren’t any show pictures in this post.
Now, back on topic: I am not really sure how much of the show was lost on me, because I was so disappointed Sharon Sexton wasn’t in as Sloane. And I feel that’s unfair to the fabulous actress who was on that night (I’m so sorry I don’t know her name) and I am very sorry for that. Also, for whatever reason she was off, and even if it was just her free day, it’s not fair of me to pin the success of a show on one actress. You should go for the show, not the actor/actress – I guess, that’s the difference between a show and a concert.
It’s hard to describe it though, but seeing the magical dynamic between Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton in 2017 just left such an impression, that for the first time ever I left the theatre remembering the actors names, part of the lyrics and actively went looking for a recording of the songs. So, by seeing the show again, I was surely trying to recreate that for myself and sadly that couldn’t be achieved. However, not because of anyone’s fault, but simply because of the unfairness of the task.
I don’t know what would have happened, if Sharon Sexton had been in. Maybe I would have been even more disappointed, because over a year’s worth of expectations mixed with the memories could not be fulfilled? I don’t know and I guess I’ll never find out, because Bat out of Hell is sadly ending on January 5th and I don’t think I’ll be able to fly back to London before then.
What I know however, is that the amazing duo Sexton/Fowler have recorded an album together called “Visions of you” that will be released sometime soon and I will do my damnedest to get my hands on it. For that reason I’ll be stalking them, uhm, I mean, follow them on Social Media until I finally hold the CD in my hands. (Yes, I know I can download it on iTunes as well. But it’s just like with books: There is stuff I read on my kindle and then there are books I need on the shelf. This is one of the shelf category). Hopefully they will continue to make music together in whatever way or form and I’ll see them on stage together again, burdening them (unknowingly) and myself (knowingly) with these impossible expectations.
Edit: And the Album is out. You can order it here if you are in Germany or check out the Facebook pages if Sharon Sexton and Rob Fowler. It’s supposed to be available there as well. And no, I don’t get paid for the advertisement and are not affiliated in any way. I just like the music.
Do it again?
If I got the chance, absolutely. Sadly I don’t think that’s possible between Christmas, New Years, my birthday, the show ending and the simple fact that sometimes I have to work. Have to pay for them tickets and travels somehow.