THE combination of Jim Steinman’s words and music, and the wide vocal range and dynamic delivery of those numbers by Meat Loaf, created a string of international best sellers in the 1970s and 80s that have become pop classics.
Since its premiere in Manchester in 2017, this show, which incorporates 19 numbers from the Bat Out of Hell album trilogy, has undergone a few changes, but at its heart still uses a harsh, no-punches-pulled modern retelling of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan story to accentuate the songs. Like all musicals which use songs not written specifically for the show, the book writer (in this case Steinman) is faced with the problem of making the lyrics fit the developing story.
Director Jay Scheib, musical supervisor Michael Reed, choreographer Xena Gusthart and a brilliant combination of lighting and video design from Patrick Woodroffe and Finn Ross, ensure that this production fully captures the harsh realities of life under a bullying dictator, Falco, and the underbelly of society inhabited by The Lost, headed by Strat.
Numbers, particularly those backed by the powerful chorus, roar at you like an express train bearing down on an innocent bystander who has foolishly stayed onto the railway line. The interpretation of the lyrics range from an X-rated Paradise By the Dashboard Light performed by Rob Fowler (Falco) and Franziska Schuster (his disillusioned wife Sloane) – which in earlier times this would have brought the Lord Chamberlain down like a ton of bricks, ready to close the show – to the, to borrow a quotation from American critic George Jean Nathan,The Triumph of Sugar over Diabetes’ finale, I’d do Anything for Love’, which ends the show in true JM Barrie at his most sentimental style.
No one could accuse Fowler, Schuster or their rebellious 18-year-old daughter Martha Kirby (Raven) determined to break away from her father’s stifling control and make a new life with Strat (Glenn Adamson), of holding back on their vocals. The parents in What Part of my Body Hurts Most, and the young lovers in For Crying Out Loud, fairly tear themselves apart vocally and dramatically as they extract every last drop of emotion from the songs.
In a show almost completely dominated by big dramatic numbers, Jolle Moses’ controlled study of Ravens nurse Zahara, her lover an d Strat’s loyal lieutenant Jagwire (James Chisholm) and Killian Thomas Lefevre as the innocent Tink, provided two lovely oases of musical tranquillity with Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and Not Allowed to Love.
Those who come to hear those Meat Loaf classics revived in full-blooded style get their money’s worth in this hard hitting production that makes excellent use of modern theatrical staging, video and lighting techniques.