Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
If you, like me, are of a certain age, then you spent all of your teenage years listening to Bat out of Hell by Jim Steinman and Meatloaf. What you probably didn't know is that they had a really hard time getting it made. Jim Steinman's lawyer David Sonenberg believed in their vision so he borrowed $35,000 from a relative to pay for the recording session. They recruited Todd Rundgren to produce it and two of the E Street band members to play on it. The recording process was finalized in 1976, but no one would distribute it in the age of disco and punk, it was just too weird. An agonizing eighteen months later, Steve Popovich accepted the album for Cleveland International Records who released the album in 1977. It wasn't an immediate success anywhere, but slowly, starting in the UK, it built up a cult following from being played on a BBC show called The Old Grey Whistle Stop Test, where they showed the band playing the title track. It was so popular with the show's fans, that they played the same clip the next week and then later invited the band to the studio to play "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". It was in regular rotation on a popular Canadian radio station and eventually the US caught up. By 1978, the album was selling half a million copies every week. Bat out of Hell is now one of the best selling albums of all time, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.
That being said, I listened to that album for decades without realizing that it started life as a Rock and Roll musical called Neverland. They took the three exceptional songs from that show and wrote four more to go with them and that eventually became Bat Out Of Hell the album. This show is the culmination of Jim Steinman's dream that started way back in 1974, when he performed his futuristic rock version of Peter Pan for the Kennedy Center Music Theatre Lab workshop with Meatloaf. Forty-four years later that dream has been made a reality! When Meatloaf, who was an executive producer for the show, saw the show he said, "All I can do is cry and that's what happens. This human (Jim) has had a dream and I am here and alive to see it." And next year, in 2019, the show will begin touring the US and you can see it too.
Above is the show's website where you can get way more info on the production as well as buy tickets. Below is the trailer promo for the show.
These signs were all over the lobby, which says way more about how seriously the show takes itself. Their use of the word "epic" is 100% fact and it would only be more true if they'd used all caps. I would have used all caps.
Here's a tiny bit of plot and character details so that the rest of this blog makes sense. It's based on Peter Pan, so Strat is Peter, the leader of The Lost, teens that due to a chemical spill are permanently young and immortal. They live on their own in the sewers because their parents are afraid of them and throw them out. Raven is Wendy, an uninfected teen girl who sees Strat from her window and instantly falls in love with him. Her father, Falco is both Jim Darling and Captain Hook, protective of his daughter and wanting to make sure that Strat and his filthy band of freaks never sully her. Falco is also the business tycoon responsible for the chemical spill that has infected the city's teens. Sloane is Mrs. Darling who was once in love with her husband but has woken up to his responsibility for the chemical spill (as well as all of the city's other problems) and realized that she hasn't felt loved by him in years. She drinks to drown her sorrow for her lost youth and vitality. Tink is a boy who got turned immortal much younger than the rest of The Lost and will therefore never experience puberty or sexual love and is extremely jealous of Strat's newfound girlfriend Raven. That's all you need to know.
This was our view of the stage. We weren't nearly as high up as Kinky Boots and even though we were in the second section of the first balcony, we had great seats.
Here's a video from the show's website that is a time lapse of the set being built. Let's talk about the set design for a minute. It was designed by British scenographer, Jon Bausor, who also helped design the costumes. Notice how they built out into the private boxes. The live band was backstage behind the curtain and were only visible in a scene set in a bar. The orchestra was stage left in a small pit in the corner of the apron. The fire curtain is concealing on stage right a gigantic sewer tunnel with a cave above, and on stage left alternately, a two story apartment in the shape of a guitar neck, a bar with a live band, and a waterfall. The set was so over the top I couldn't believe they got all that crammed into the space. As you watch the video you can see all the different locations that I've mentioned. Working with the set was the live video feed and projections onto the walls of the apartment building. For some scenes the walls would be the outside of the Falco building, others the walls would become transparent so you could see inside their living room or Falco and Sloane's bedroom on the first floor or Raven's bedroom on the second floor. Sometimes the live video feed was used to show us a scene that was happening inside Raven's bedroom while the walls were opaque. Other times the walls would show us the newsfeed of a television broadcast or be used as ad space like billboards.
Rob just found this for me. It's Raven and Strat take you on a "backstage" tour of the set.
Now let's talk about the special effects. What you don't get to see and will never see unless you go see the show (which I highly recommend) is the really cool sleight of hand by the designer/techies/actors that the show keeps pulling out of its metaphorical hat. The first awesome moment is when Raven's parents Falco and Sloane, are having an argument over Raven's birthday dinner and Raven rips the tablecloth off of the overlarge dining room table to reveal that it's a Cadillac. The table cloth itself is ridiculously long, maybe 15 feet and as soon as Raven rips it off, sending all the gifts, food, and flowers flying, the sewer tunnel opening on stage right literally sucks the tablecloth into its gaping maw like it was the biggest vacuum cleaner in the world. But the magic isn't over yet. Falco and Sloane then sing "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" in the Caddy and at the end of the song, Raven, sick of her parents' very public display of sexuality as well as their inability to not fight about it, picks up the back end of the car by the bumper and shoves it off into the orchestra pit on top of the musicians. After some screaming and breakage, two musicians and the conductor crawl out of the pit with their smashed cello, flattened saxophone, and broken in half but hanging on by a thread baton, cursing the actors and shaking their fists in rage. You'd think intermission would be next to deal with the Caddy in the pit situation. Nope, they just kept on going and eventually the Caddy sank out of sight without us really noticing.
The next bit of theatrical magic occured right before intermission when Raven is running away with Strat on his motorcycle. Now this motorcycle has been on and off the stage from the beginning. It rolls, it moves, it sounds like a real bike. It holds two people. They jump on it, dance on it, sit on it. They have a wreck in the middle of the title song, and the bike is instantly smashed into a thousand pieces that literally fly up above the stage floor forming a heart in mid-air and hovering there seemingly as if by magic. I was looking for wires and saw none. I have no idea how they did it. At the same time, the wreck has caused Strat to be punctured and his "heart, still beating, has broken out of my body and is flying away like a bat out of hell". His torso is covered in blood, and there appears to be a gaping hole in his chest. He finishes the last lines of the song and collapses in death in the center front spotlight with Raven crying over his dead body. As the music plays the last phrases of the song, the metal hovering in mid-air heart explodes into glitter which rains down all over the stage in a shower of awesomeness. Lights go up, stage goes dark, house lights come up, Strat is still lying there with Raven screaming for help. We hear an ambulance. Medical personnel come onstage with a stretcher, put Strat's body on it, and carry him off under a sheet. Cops show up to take eyewitness accounts. Someone wraps a blanket around Raven and gives her a cup of coffee and leads her off stage. Street sweepers come onstage and immediately start cleaning up the wreckage and only after the shop-vac has sucked up all the glitter, only then is it really intermission.
After intermission, all the Lost Boys are now locked up in a cage awaiting torture and death. Some of them are being hung upside down from this giant cage and still manage, once rescued, to dance their way out of the cage. Falco finally gets caught after killing Tink, and must face drowning in his own pool of chemical spillage. The actor is pushed into the hole in the stage that is clearly filled with glowing, green liquid and appears to drown only to be dragged up again, wet and slimy. The floating in mid-air metal heart reappears for the finale and this time bursts into flame! This was easily the most over the top show I've ever seen including the stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Costume Design Team
The costume design was amazing. The Lost had the best costumes. There was a lot of black leather and denim, tribal makeup and very big hair going on. It was extremely colorful, a cross between glam and punk meets Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I never got tired of looking at the costumes.
Jon was a music major at Oxford and then trained in the Motley Theatre Design Course. Jon is also the scenic designer. Meentje Nielsen studied design at Berlin University of Fine Arts and then went on to work with the Berliner Ensemble.
Photos from the Bat out of Hell website, all photography by Specular.
We paid $35 for our seats here. They were worth every penny.
Here's them performing a concert version in Trafalgar Square.