Did Bat Out Of Hell take the words right out of the critics' mouth?
Jim Steinman's musical based on the Meat Loaf albums opened at the London Coliseum last night
Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage
"Bat Out of Hell? Bat sh*t crazy more like. Jim Steinman's jukebox rock musical is like nothing you're going to see anywhere else right now. "
"Be warned: the songs have barely any connection to the narrative and this is not so much a musical as an exceptionally expensive way of getting them live, onstage and pumped full of OTT drama. But with a show this tight, and with its funny bone set perfectly in the right place, who cares?"
"In a future where a man called Falco rules a dirty, unhappy city, there's a bunch of genetic mutants who don't age past 18 called The Lost, who live in a place underground called The Deep End (stay with me). The leader of The Lost - Strat [Andrew Polec] - is obsessed with Falco's daughter, Raven [Christina Bennington], though he doesn't actually know her."
"Polec's range is remarkable and the two of them blast these songs to the rafters. It's hard to keep your eyes off them. Bennington and Polec were made to rock and roll together and the chemistry between them is flame inducing."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Running to an overlong three hours, and cramming in greatest hits (and not so-great hits), Bat Out of Hell won't win awards for reinventing the musical."
"Yet to focus on its evident weaknesses, which extend in Jay Scheib's pumped-up, pyrotechnics-loaded, Max Mad-fashioned production to some iffy video-work, is to miss the life-affirming point.
"The "story" is based on Peter Pan, and the essential appeal is to our inner arrested adolescent. Never mind the crude narrative segues into (often barely comprehensible) song, what matters is the over-riding libidinal mood, with Andrew Polec's tousled Strat awakening carnal desire in Christina Bennington's gothy Raven with his bare chest, impish looks and pelvic thrusts while the music goes hell-for-leather with its revving anticipation, orgiastic frenzies and electric-guitar climaxes."
"Would it make more sense on the main-stage at Glastonbury? Undoubtedly. But faced with the chance of seeing it in town, whether a fervent fan or idly curious, I wouldn't bat away the offer."
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard
"Sometimes it's as if Bruce Springsteen is performing Wagner, sometimes it's as if a posse of unemployed Wagnerians are attempting a hyperextended version of Born to Run, and sometimes it's frankly much stranger than that."
The script may be thin, but the songs are never less than bombastic. Director Jay Scheib favours two styles of performance - loud, and louder. His cast are equal to this, and besides the superb Polec there's glorious work from Danielle Steers and Sharon Sexton.
"Equally impressive is Jon Bausor's design, which is like an expensive tasting menu - a mix of swanky grandiosity, deranged fantasy and whimsical surprises - though the less said about the ungainly choreography the better."
"A riot of leather, gym-toned torsos, dubious hairstyles and dodgy puns, it's light years away from Monteverdi. But this jaw-dropping spectacle — at some pretty jaw-dropping prices — will certainly bring a fresh audience to the Coliseum."
Mark Lawson, The Guardian
"Andrew Polec, a young American in his UK debut, commands the stage as a shock-haired, wild-eyed Strat, with Christina Bennington's Raven giving more life than the writer has to the stereotype of a pampered daughter. Stalking each other round the stage, they memorably fight for vocal and physical dominance while duetting a song that is classic Steinman in both its title and bloated emotions: "For Crying Out Loud"."
"Loudness is sometimes overdone in Jay Scheib's production, resulting in some of the perky wordplay of Steinman's lyrics being lost; perhaps ENO's surtitle machine should be commandeered. With the jokes in the songs often overpowered, the biggest laugh comes when a Buick seems to crash into the orchestra pit. The choreography rarely gets beyond synchronised limb-swinging."
"The best musicals have a compelling storyline, thrilling stage pictures and astonishing sounds. This show completely lacks the first, but what swagger and songs it has. As Steinman put it himself, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad".
Ann Treneman, The Times
"Andrew Polec plays Strat with such energy that he is like a bat out of hell. He's got leather trousers with sparkly stripes up the side, a torn shirt and eyes lined with kohl. He's also got a Harley-Davidson (gold, as you ask). This is Polec's debut and he is sensational, exuding confidence, making his cartoony character work."
"Jay Scheib directs and there were actual sparks, not to say a bit of lust, between Strat and Raven, a gutsy Christina Bennington who seemed to be permanently in Doc Martens and underwear. Indeed, we get to see most people's underwear including, hilariously, Rob Fowler as Falco in some X-rated gold briefs and Sharon Sexton as Sloane in something turquoise. There are some very funny moments involving cars, pools of water and large items falling into the orchestra pit."
"The set is a great dark bat-cave of a place created by Jon Bausor. The choreography, by Emma Portner, is sharp but, at times, misfires. There are a few writhing moments that simply don't work and, at two hours and 45 minutes, including interval, it could use a trim. But, otherwise, it's all revved up, with some place to go. Vroom! "
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"There is absolutely nothing I could possibly say here to dent its popularity: it's only calling into the Coliseum for a limited season, and it's very hard to imagine that ticket-holding fans of Steinman and Meat Loaf's 'Wagnerian rock' will be arsed about the fact that it's not exactly Hamlet in the plot department."
"The one undeniably top-drawer thing about it all is Polec: he has a bug-eyed, borderline feral intensity that invests Bat Out of Hell with a genuine sense of danger. If he'd been some sort of sensitive innocent type it might have been the death of the show, but he invests it with the thrill of genuine unpredictability, and he's no slouch in the vocal range."
"Bat Out of Hell isn't exactly going to be bothering Hamilton at the Oliviers next year, but is pleasingly daft, and in Polec boasts a proper, honest-to-god great lead performance. And as I believe some guy or other once said, two out of three ain't bad."
Bat Out of Hell runs at the London Coliseum until 22 August.