Review: Bat Out of Hell (Dominion)
Jim Steinman's musical returns to the West End following its world premiere at the Coliseum last year
Composer Jim Steinman's original intention was to create an updated musical version of Peter Pan. Curiously, the estate of JM Barrie wasn't convinced by his rock 'n' roll take on Neverland, so the project went on to become 1977's Bat Out of Hell – a 50 million-selling album for vocal powerhouse Meat Loaf.
Not a bad result by any musician's standards, but the idea of a full-on musical never went away. And in a triumph of perseverance, Jim Steinman's musical Bat Out of Hell, has finally emerged 40 years later.
A watered down Peter Pan link is still there, with the tribe of Lost Boys becoming simply The Lost – outcasts whose DNA freezes at the age of 18. There's also a jealous Tink (Alex Thomas-Smith), determined to get back into favour at any price.
But the inspiration doesn't stop there, with Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty themes thrown in for good measure. And of course, there are the songs – 20 classic Steinman anthems, superbly arranged by Michael Reed, and directed for the show by Robert Emery.
The cast assembled by director Jay Scheib is dazzling. It's led by Andrew Polec as Strat, leader of The Lost. Wild-eyed and tousle-haired, he's reminiscent of guitar hero Peter Frampton circa 1973 and commands the stage from the very first crashing power chords. His voice sails through the high-voltage demands of the songs, and he sizzles with passionate, restless energy throughout.
Matching him in vocal quality but with a more restrained ardour, Christina Bennington is Raven, the beautiful heiress who is irresistibly drawn to the underworld glamour of The Lost outcasts.
Danielle Steers makes a fabulous Zahara and comes close to stealing the show when duetting with Wayne Robinson's Jagwire in "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad".
Robinson also excels harmonising alongside Giovanni Spano (Ledoux) and Patrick Sullivan (Blake) in their poignant prison lament, "Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are".
Raven's dad, property developer Falco, is the villain of the piece, and Rob Fowler relishes the role, leading truncheon-wielding thugs and justifying their brutality as protection for his imprisoned daughter. His vocal masterclass is a vital lynchpin for the show and he's as keen as any of the younger men to strip off his shirt and show he's still got it.
Not that his wife, Sloane, seems convinced of that. Sharon Sexton brings a laconic, restless cynicism to a woman who's almost as keen to break free as her daughter. The couple's throwback anthem to teen sex in the car, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", is also the cue for a spectacular stage crash – just one of the many thrilling effects created by designer Jon Bausor.
This is a long show, so there's time to consider the thin plot, and the missed opportunities for character development in the members of The Lost tribe. But this is carping, if what you're really after is a full throttle, high volume, spectacular rebirth of a musical masterpiece.