When the voltage-driven Meat Loaf album Bat Out of Hell debuted in 1977, the vocals painted by composer Jim Steinman were draped in theatricality. This was a rock musical waiting to happen. And, as Steinman’s backstory tells us, this was his intent all along—only not with a creative gestation period spanning decades. Still, when your maximalist concept overshoots the special effects available way back when, it’s not a bad thing to wait until you can effectively match your power ballads to mega screens, transformer furniture, and cutting-edge lighting.
Describing Steinman, Bat Out of Hell’s award-winning director Jay Scheib observes, “He definitely lives life behind dark sunglasses and there’s a dark sense of humor…but he doesn’t really dwell on the dark. To me his work is romantic in a kind of old-school way.”
Clearly Steinman’s vision fit comfortably into Scheib’s wheelhouse, which includes national and international stints as a theatre and opera director, with a reputation for daring, even controversial, techno-savvy productions. “Jim had been trying to make this musical for going on 45 years,” Scheib says, recalling that his initial phone conversation with Steinman—supposedly a “quick call”—turned into a marathon conversation. The first of many.
“Jim was influenced by Wagnerian operas, and he was also a scholar of Little Richard,” so much so, says Scheib, that when Steinman was a kid his friends called him Little Richard Wagner. Not surprisingly, Steinman wanted this musical to a feel like a rock ‘n’ roll opera, with one song flowing into the next.
“To me, Jim’s a bit like James Dean—a true rebel seeking out the less traveled path. We’re living at a time driven by divisiveness, but Bat is not an overtly political production,” Scheib says, explaining that the show presents loving fiercely as a way to diffuse much of the negativity currently going on.
Andrew Polec as Strat. Photo by Specular.
n the show, it’s this fierce love that comes thrashing through a storyline that’s comprised of two juxtaposed concepts: Romeo and Juliet (or West Side Story if you prefer, as everyone does sing and dance) and Peter Pan, with the young revolutionary Strat (Andrew Polec) straddling both scenarios.
Set against a post-apocalyptic landscape, the action takes place in Obsidian, a city helmed by a virulent real estate honcho named Falco (Bradley Dean). Notably, the newest addition to the cast is Tony winner Lena Hall, who takes on the role of Sloane, Falco’s conflicted wife.
The star-crossed-lovers theme emerges when Falco’s daughter Raven (Christina Bennington) falls hard for Strat who, along with his posse of Lost Boys, is unable to age beyond 18. “At an age when you’re just trying out who you are and how you fit in,” says Polac—who’s been with the show since its workshop days, prior to its 2017 premiere in Manchester, England—“being frozen at age 18, you’re a sun ember that can’t fizzle out. ”
Explains Polec, “Strat represents the truest form of rock ‘n’ roll: fighting for what’s right…fighting for love…he’s about always having a good time.”
So here you have the Lost Boys, their hormones all revved up with no place to go except rebellion, pitted against Falco’s malevolent political power, leaving them fueled by frustration and ripe for revolution—with Strat leading the way.
In the end, it’s all about passion: the romance, the anger, the insurgence, the schism, played out in epic, mind-blowing visuals from gauzy bedrooms to the backs of motorcycles to a stage pulsing with musical fury.
Andrew Polec as Strat with Christina Bennington as Raven and the cast of Bat Out of Hell. Photo by Specular.
It’s all backed by Steinman’s steamroller score of songs that have been adored and adopted by multiple generations. The aching ballads, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “For Crying Out Loud,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night),” “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”; the fiery endgame anthems, “All Revved Up with No Place to Go,” “Bat Out of Hell”; and the sexual everything of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”…and beyond. Of course beyond. It’s Steinman. It’s Bat Out of Hell. I want to be there.
Bat Out of Hell—The Musical is playing at the New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St. Previews begin August 1st, opening night August 8th. For tickets call 212-581-1212 or visit nycitycenter.org.