Tag Archives: west end theatre

Experiencing Bat Out of Hell the Musical

26 Jun
bat out of hell the musical londonJune 8, 2017.
The lights go out and Strat is standing center stage talking into the microphone.

“I remember everything!” he booms.

“I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday.” My eyes inexplicably begin to water. “I’m here, I’m really here,” I think to myself.

“I was barely seventeen, and I once killed a boy with a Fender guitar.”

OK, I’ve never killed anyone with a Fender guitar, but I do remember every word to Love And Death And An American Guitar, or Wasted Youth as it’s known on Bat Out Of Hell II. When I was barely seventeen I was reading Jim Steinman’s musicals Neverland and The Dream Engine, precursors to the Bat Out Of Hell musical, and downloading every mainstream and obscure song Steinman had ever written. I knew Bat Out Of Hell the Musical was in the works — it has been for 40 years — but I never dreamed Steinman would finish it and it would be performed in the very city I just happened to be living.

But there I was, watching Bat Out Of Hell the Musical unfold from the front row, wearing the Bat Out Of Hell T-shirt I bought on eBay when I was 17. And yet I somehow felt out of place. The women next to me were fully decked out in leather like they literally road in on the motorcycle displayed in the lobby. (A line from The Dream Engine comes to mind. “The revolution likes leather. The revolution wears leather to survive in the streets.”) They were dressed exactly like the members of The Lost wandering about on the stage a few minutes before showtime. My first thought was “Oh god, is this some kind of immersive theater? Am I going to have to interact with them?” (Another line from The Dream Engine: “Quiet. It’s only theater. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”) But no, they were not members of The Lost, just super fans who had seen the show in Manchester and came down to London to see it again. They waved their hands in the air and sang along to every song. Meanwhile I was completely still, “silently shrieking,” feeling every word and note in my heart and on every inch of my skin. (I’m trying to be poetic, but there was a speaker directly in my face. It obstructed my view a tad, but man, could I really feel the songs!). Those who know me are always surprised by my love for all things Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf. Steinman’s songs are about teen lust, going over the top, breaking the rules, and well, murdering people with Fender guitars. At 17 I was a straight A student who was president of the Latin club and played flute at Mass. I had barely slow danced with a boy, Paradise by the Dashboard Light was a completely foreign concept to me. And yet maybe that’s what attracted me to Steinman’s music — it allowed me to escape my top-button buttoned life and wear some auditory leather. (To quote one of his songs: “You’ve been nothing but an angel every day of your life, and now you wonder what it’s like to be damned.”)

The show was everything I could have dreamed it to be. There were certainly elements of Neverland and The Dream Engine in there, but it had been cleaned up and polished for a mainstream audience. The Dream Engine was pretty dark and outrageously sexual. Reading it as a good Catholic school girl was one of the most rebellious things I did back then. I’m not sure I even understood all of it, but I kept going back to it, even plastering lines from it all over my school notebooks. (Lines like: “Reality’s in agony and it’s about time it stopped. It’s about time we put reality out of its misery. And there are only a few of us left with the grace to try euthanasia.”) Even before I saw the show I had a feeling it wouldn’t be one I could see just once (even though my one ticket practically cost more than the 7 other shows I’ve seen this year combined). And when I realized the guy playing Strat was actually the alternate, I knew I had to go again to see the lead (though Ben the alternate was brilliant!). That, and it was the 49th show I’ve seen in London. I couldn’t let just any show be my landmark 50th.

Then like a sinner before the gates of Heaven, I’ll come crawling on back to you…

So I’m seeing it again this week. Front row center this time.

Viva Forever Spice Girls Musical: My 10-year-old self is freaking out

27 Jun

Every once in a while I think about how grateful I am to not be a full-fledged child of technology. I can use a computer or iTouch like a pro, but I also typed my stories on a typewriter as a child and didn’t have a cell phone until I was 16, and even then it was “just for emergencies.” But I think I am most grateful that YouTube did not exist when I was younger.

Let me back up a bit. When I was in elementary school my neighborhood friends and I were obsessed with the Spice Girls. I have since had other musical obsessions like Meat Loaf and Over the Rhine, but the Spice Girls will always be my first. My friends and I often karaoked to Spice Girls, which involved two boomboxes, one to play the cassette of the song, the other to record our singing on a blank tape. I shudder when I imagine my 10-year-old self innocently singing, “I need some love like I’ve never needed love before, wanna make love to ya baby.”

But the karaoke wasn’t the worst of it. We made “music videos.” That involved bugging my dad to come to my friend’s front yard and film us with his giant video camera as we danced and lip-synched to multiple Spice Girls songs. I was always Sporty Spice because I had long brown hair and liked gymnastics. I couldn’t do a back handspring like Mel C, though, so I mostly did haphazard cartwheels and front handsprings that looked like I was about to snap my neck. If I remember correctly, there were often multiple Sporty Spices in our videos because we couldn’t agree on who could be her. I think my favorite part of one of the videos was when we made my dad pan to my friend’s front door during the “Say You’ll Be There” line “If you can’t work this equation, then I guess I’ll have to show you the door, ” and my friend’s mom was there pointing at the front door. Now that I think about it, maybe this video could have went viral on YouTube and I could be sitting on mountains of theoretical Internet dollars now. Oh well. I’m still glad I didn’t grow up with YouTube.

I’m writing about this because I heard amazing news: there is going to be a Spice Girls musical!  And even better, it’s premiering in London in December! My inner 10-year-old is doing neck-snapping front handsprings. I don’t care if it gets crap reviews, I say I’ll be there.*

*Did you get that pun?