Packed with songs made famous by Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell” explodes loudly at the audience from the outset and hardly ever lets up. Arriving from previous runs in London and Toronto, it is both a visual extravaganza of light, sound, projections, splashy scenery, frantic choreography and bizarre costumes. Best of all are the rousing vocal performances by a talented cast that compensates for having to follow the cockamamie plot that serves what is essentially a juke box musical.
Jim Steinman is credited with book, music and lyrics, and Joy Schelb has directed the onslaught, with choreography adapted by Xena Gusthart. Credits include musical supervision and additional arrangements by Michael Reed, music direction by Ryan Cantwell and orchestrations by Steve Sidwell. Behind-the-scenes forces also include set and costume designer Jon Bausor, original costume designer Meentje Nielsen, video designer Finn Ross, lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe and sound designer Gareth Owen. Citing so many of these extensive credits--and there are deserving others--is a way of saying that the total production of “Bat Out of Hell” is what dominates, along with the outstanding singing.
We are introduced to a futuristic setting with focus on a group known as The Lost, consisting of 18-year-olds frozen in time by a chemical mishap. The odd group, which constitutes a tunnel community, is led by the charismatic Strat, played by Andrew Polec.
The villain in the plot is Falco, a powerful tycoon played by Bradley Dean. He is married to Sloane, portrayed by Lena Hall, who drinks too much and has fallen into a desolate state, rendered comically by her lackadaisical body language. They battle nastily, except in a flashback that shows their earlier passion, with hot, simulated sex in a convertible. They have a daughter, Raven, played by Christina Bennington, who has fallen in love with Strat. Falco is furious and wants to break up the romance, but Raven stubbornly resists such control. How will it work out? Does it matter?
Apart from the basic set-up, there are side situations dramatized in dialogue and song by other members of the musical’s talented contingent, which includes Avionce Hoyles in the important role of Tink, Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Paulina Jurzec, Danielle Steers, Will Branner, Lincoln Clauss, Kayla Cyphers, Jessica Jaunich, Adam Kemmerer, Nick Martinez, Harper Miles, Erin Mosher, Aramie Payton, Andres Quintero, Tiernan Tunnicliffe snd Kaleb Wells. It is the singing, whether solo or choral, that bursts through as a strong attraction geared especially to those who know and like the numbers sung by Meat Loaf on his phenomenally-selling recordings.
For example, one highlight consists of Dean and Hall singing “What Part of My Body Hurts the Most?” Polec as Strat gets to show his vocal zest with “Heaven Can Wait.” Bennington as Raven gets her chances to stand out vocally, and so do others in the supporting cast in the parade of songs included in the show.
Among the numbers are ”Bat Out of Hell,” of course, and “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “All Revved Up with No Place to Go,” “Love and Death and the American Guitar,” “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are,” and many more.
How one reacts to all of the above will depend on such variables as taste for the chosen songs, endurance for the super-loud effects, ability to follow or care about the plot and whether one is impressed by the overall production. I appreciated the aggressively creative staging that went into the show, but mainly came away with admiration for the cast members, leading and supporting, and the dynamism of their singing, into which they poured heart, soul and talent. At New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street. Phone: 212-581-1212. Reviewed August 15, 2019.