By Lori Zelenko
Gothic. Epic. Operatic. And yes, definitely “over the top” as they say across the pond where the musical based on Meat Loaf’s masterpiece, Bat Out of Hell is a hit in London. The third best-selling album worldwide—43 Million Copies sold since its release in 1977—falling into place just behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and AC/DCs Back in Black—is now a musical opening in August at NYC’s City Center. Jim Steinman wrote the songs from this monster album (actually the first in a trilogy). Steinman’s talent as a longtime Meat Loaf collaborator is unparalled; he is essentially the man behind the music and the legend. Though the two were tightly linked creatively, there was a time when Steinman became a Meat Loaf defector, opting to work with Springsteen. So naturally, some may hear a Springsteen influence in the tunes, but they are still very much “owned” by Meat Loaf.
Each big, kitschy, crazy, dramatic, percussion-fueled number takes 70’s classic rock to breathless, Wagnerian heights. Todd Rundgren produced the album that brought us You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night); Heaven Can Wait; All Revved Up With No Place to Go; Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad; Paradise by the Dashboard Light; For Crying out Loud; Great Boleros of Fire, and the title track.
THE MAN AND THE MUSIC
Meat Loaf was born Marvin Lee Aday in Texas (he changed Marvin to Michael in later years.) We know his beefy body from more than 55 films and television shows. He made his debut as Eddie in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show and has held on to the spotlight not only through memorable even melodramatic music videos but with appearances in Crazy in Alabama and Fight Club (1999), The Salton Sea (2002), Wishin’ and Hopin’ (2014) among other roles and even a turn (actually three!) on Celebrity Apprentice (2011). He has 13 studio albums to his credit, Braver Than We Are came out in 2017 and yes, it was written by Jim Steinman who originally conceived Bat Out of Hell as a stage production—undoubtedly different than what’s taken London by storm, after all, it’s had endless rewrites to become the rockin’ success it is today.
There is actually a plot to Bat Out of Hell: The Musical. Star-crossed young lovers in dire straits: “an epic story of rebellious youth and passion” but entertaining though it may be, it’s just a framework for the music Meat Loaf, and Steinman made famous. Chart-topping power ballads that keep fans charged-up, hanging on every tune from this show that’s has been called “electrifying,” “giddy,” “exhilarating,” and “thrillingly alive.” For hardcore lovers of Bat Out of Hell—which Rolling Stone called one of “The Greatest Albums of All Time”—there’s a bonus of two previously unreleased songs which will premiere with the show, “What Part of My Body Hurts the Most” and “Not Allowed to Love.”
MEAT LOAF POSSESSED
All this hoopla on both sides of the Atlantic! What does Meat Loaf have to say about it all? Agreeing as he defrays praise, he acknowledges the album can get you hooked. He says, “David Letterman got a lot of speeding tickets listening to Bat Out of Hell. I don’t know if it’s true, but that’s what he told me.”
Meat Loaf is an associate producer—aka he says, “an ego credit”—on the musical, which arrives with the stellar cast from London’s West End. No stranger to acting himself, he understands the art of performance so it’s only natural that he would recognize the energy it takes—“an incredible amount”—to rev up the crowd and as an actor create the drama. As he explains, you have to “totally believe it, and you have to become it. You have to become the character you are playing. You have to let go and let the character, like a ghost, almost possess.” For four decades, Meat Loaf has captivated us with his gorgeous, passionate, romantic, and in every sense of the word, tremendous, performance. What’s his secret? He confesses, “I’ve been possessed every night.”
Interestingly enough, Meat Loaf doesn’t see the music industry recognizing him as a musician; he feels he’s seen as an actor. And from that point of view, he wonders if indeed the young cast members in Bat Out of Hell: The Musical will harness the energy from the audience and be able to engage, challenge, surprise and electrify them. Meat Loaf has always said he can give the same performance to four trees as he can to 400,000 people. “The energy in the room,” he says, “will not change.”
Meat Loaf doesn’t leave his on-stage presence to chance, he prepares for five hours in his dressing room, so by the time he takes the stage, he’s “a serial killer.” Ruthlessness aside, Meat Loaf is a powerhouse performer though he doesn’t star or even have a walk-on in Bat Out of Hell: The Musical his “energy” is there, vital, gutsy, pulling you into the fray, getting you to travel along with the emotional, turbulent, remarkable journey that is this show so epically conceived by Jim Steinman.
ABOUT THE SHOW
Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, directed by Jay Scheib, stars Andrew Polec who thrilled London and Toronto critics with his powerhouse performance as Strat. Joining him is Christina Bennington who originated the role of Raven in London, Bradley Dean as Falco, Avionce Hoyles as Tink, Danielle Steers as Zahara, Wiltez Jones as Jagwire, and Tony Award winner Lena Hall is playing Sloane!
Bat Out of Hell: The Musical is scheduled through September 8th. The musical has recently launched a global partnership to support the Invictus Games Foundation, the governing body of the Invictus Games—a global sporting event for wounded, injured, and sick servicemen and women.
For more information on Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, visit batoutofhellmusical.com.