By Jim Stewart

AS YOU read this, the most eagerly-awaited theatrical event of the year will have just started a two-week season of previews ahead of the West End.

Opening Night on June 20, at THE LONDON COLISEUM, home of The English National Opera, JIM STEINMAN’s ‘BAT OUT OF HELL – THE MUSICAL’ may seem an unlikely production for the ENO, but as you read on you will realise that opera takes many forms and the ENO, one of the world’s premier companies, has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

It promises to be a huge production, making full use of The Coliseum’s massive stage, and offering the audience a night of not only great music, but an experience unlike any other, part Mad Max, part 50s sci-fi, but mainly a full-on rock show, definitely not a Juke-Box musical. Every song Jim Steinman has written has been leading up to this show, he already has one musical ‘Tanz De Vampire’ playing in Germany for a number of years, but ‘Bat’ promises to be the jewel in his crown.

Packed with his most successful songs, with hits from Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, Pandora’s Box, Celine Dion and Steinman himself, anyone who has seen any of the video clips he produced for his artists will know he pushes every button as hard as he can, and his imagination, like his music, has no boundaries.


I managed to grab a few minutes with one of ‘Bat’s leading ladies, SHARON SEXTON, who plays Sloane, during a break from rehearsing, to talk about the show, and we began with how things are progressing ahead of the opening previews.

“It’s going great, it’s all a bit mad because we don’t really know what we’re dealing with, ahead of moving into the Coliseum, so we’re just changing a couple of bits of choreography, camera shots, trying to get ready when we go there on Monday.”

It always amazes me how close to the previews you actually move into the venue.

“I know, you’d have thought with us having done a run in Manchester we should just slot into there, but we went there yesterday and saw the stage. At Manchester, we had to cut half of it down so it could fit, but The Coliseum is so much bigger, it’s just amazing.’

So Manchester went well.

“It was fantastic; we got an amazing reception, and we built up some really hardcore fans. The music seemed to speak to the people, so it’s given us a great head-start coming in to London.”

You were there for a good length of time so it must have given you the chance to really bed into the show.

“They did it right because it gave us the breathing space to play around with it, because it’s a big show, and a lot of pressure, because Jim Steinman’s been writing this for almost 40 years, so we’ve got to get it right. But it was wonderful to have that chance to try different things. We’re still playing with it now, finding new things, changing bits around, but it was wonderful to have the opportunity to do that ahead of presenting it to a London audience.”

How about the role you play ‘Sloane? Is she the bad guy’s girl?

“I suppose she is: when we got the script she was described as a wife and mother, the wife of the baddie, Falco, played by Rob Fowler, and mother of the leading lady, Raven, played by Christina Bennington, and as we’re creating a brand new role, I’ve actually been able to have input on how she should be.”

That must be great because you have a blank canvas and you actually make the blueprint for everyone to follow.
“Completely, it’s so exciting to be able to create a character, especially in a show like this. I’m able to have a say in how she moves, her costumes, her story and her journey, which is something I’ve not been able to do before, which is amazing – just a great opportunity.”

Especially as the show’s going into the West End.

“That’s right, I’ve been able to make her more than a wife and mother. She’s got a bit of attitude and a real badass.”

How familiar were you with Jim Steinman’s work ahead of this? “I actually didn’t realise just how familiar I was to be honest with you. Iit’s not until you hear them all together that you go ‘Wow, he wrote all that!’ I knew some of Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler’s songs, but I didn’t realise they were all the work of one man. It becomes overwhelming to think it all came from the brain of one man, he’s a genius.”

Do you know if Jim’s coming over for the opening?

“Hopefully: I know he really wants to come, everybody wants him to see the show, so the only thing to stop him is his health. So, fingers crossed, he’ll be happy and healthy enough to come over because this has been his vision for something like 40 years; so let’s hope he makes it.”

He’s got such an imagination, Steinman.

“Hasn’t he, it’s incredible. It’s the lyrics of these songs, that are like mini musicals themselves, which will set this apart from Juke-Box musicals. It’s definitely more than that. His songs are so epic, you don’t need to work a story to fit them, they just work perfectly.”

When I saw ‘Whistle Down The Wind’, his collaboration with Andrew Lloyd Webber, I loved the songs, but I was disappointed by the amount of Steinman magic within the production.

“I know, but he’s all over this one, in fact he’s on Skype all the time in the rehearsal room. He has massive input into the show, the songs, even the costumes, it’s all down to him, it really is his vision.”

What songs do you get to sing?

“Paradise By The Dashboard Light is my big song, a full on production number, car on stage. It’s my favourite, an 11-minute rollercoaster, you never know what’s going to happen, and It’s All Coming Back To Me, we have the cast recording coming out next month, I haven’t heard it yet but all the songs have been re-invented for the orchestra, it should be amazing.”

What would be your final words to anyone coming to the show.

“It’s like nothing else you’ve seen, a totally unique experience, you are just dropped into another world and you just have to come along for the ride, just go with it. It’s not your average musical, it makes the audience work. They get to make choices where it goes, they love it every night.’

Andrew Polac plays ‘Strat’, the lead character in the show, which has been selling so well, it has now been extended for a further two weeks until August 5, and hopefully when they have to vacate The Coliseum they will relocate to another West End theatre.

Jim Stewart 2017