Bat Out of Hell may be the most inevitable jukebox musical ever staged. Meat Loaf’s twin albums, written by Jim Steinman, sound more like musical theater than most musical theater; it doesn’t hurt, I’m sure, that together they’ve sold almost sixty million copies. In other words, it would be hard to screw this up: toss a bunch of pulsating lights and leather jackets and motorcycles onstage and you’ve got yourself a hit.
And yet screw it up they have. From what I can gather, Bat Out of Hell is about a post-apocalyptic world in which the gap between rich and poor has reached a breaking point. The wealthy idle away their hours in high-rises, while the “freezers” drink and smoke and party in the streets. When one of freezers (Andrew Polec) falls in love with Raven (Christina Bennington), the daughter of of the powerful Falco (Bradley Dean), the two worlds collide.
But this suggests a level of comprehensibility that Bat Out of Hell eschews entirely. Among the things we never learn are (i) how the world became a post-apocalyptic wasteland, (ii) why the “freezers” were turned into a race of mutant teenagers, and (iii) the reason Falco holds so much power. Is he a politician? A businessman? Do such things even exist in this vision of the future? Then, when it finally comes time to resolve nearly two and a half hours of narrative conflict, the cast sings “I Would Do Anything for Love” and mimes a series of reconciliations. The substance of these reconciliations remains one of the show’s many mysteries.
I would, however, be remiss in my duties if I failed to report that, at the performance I attended, the audience was positively ecstatic. Shouts of “YES!” greeted the opening notes of more than a few songs. The general feeling after curtain was total satiation. Perhaps they know something I do not. For what it’s worth, I would argue that anyone approaching the ensemble of Bat Out of Hell as anything other than an especially mobile cover band will be severely disappointed.
Bat Out of Hell runs through September 8th at the New York City Center Stage I. 131 W. 55th Street New York, NY. 2 hours 30 minutes. One intermission.