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London Theatre is a flickering tealight of hope: Allelujah! Bat out of Hell, Fun Home & King Lear

There is a special furnace in theatre hell reserved for rubbish state-of-the-nation plays, so I’ll keep it brief. You thought Young Marx was dull? Try staying awake through Alan Bennett’s new play, where the substance is so lacking that it prompted me to leave at the interval. Since the NHS is never out of the headlines and affects nearly all of us, we have long been crying out for a new play on the subject.

Unfortunately, Nick Hytner’s Allelujah! is not it. Generously described by Michael Billington as a “hospital drama”, rather than virtue signalling mediocrity. Not Bennett or Hytner’s finest hour, if we are honest.

Allelujah

Allelujah Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Old people singing and dancing sweetly– check.

Two original ‘History Boys’ – check.

A sub-plot involving immigration and Brexit – check.

I attempted to discover, once and for all whether Bat out of Hell was good. I can now announce my findings: no, it is nowhere near as dreadful as The Band.

This is exactly what, I think, consumers of Jukebox musicals – shows created out of the existing back catalogue of popular hits – want to see.

From musical to album to musical again, the mind-blowing scale of Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell; robot bats, motorbikes and a Cadillac is quite something to behold. I loved the nonsense of it all. The main source of fascination, though, is how cunningly constructed and gloriously sung it is.

BAT OUT OF HELL

BAT OUT OF HELL

This Jukebox musical is so meticulously crafted, with entertainment in mind, that it becomes disorientating to watch.  

Sometimes you see a show and you can’t quite pin it down. I loved Fun Home at the Young Vic, the Tony-Award winning musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s 2006 striking graphic novel memoir about growing up gay. I know what you’re thinking, another Broadway musical making a long-awaited debut in London. But, if anything, the accolades attached to this show understate the level of theatre sorcery going on here: kids tap-dancing on a coffin, a lesbian protagonist and a closeted gay father. Absolutely ideal.

An intelligent book and an inventive score combine with  often unbearable-to watch emotional performances that are so neatly done. Part of a fine ensemble, Jenna Russell is a cut above the rest. I haven’t seen as concise and uplifting a musical all year. Bit special.

FUN HOME

FUN HOME

Just when you thought you’d had enough Shakespeare, along comes Ian McKellen’s victory lap as King Lear at Duke of York’s Theatre. Jonathan Munby’s monumental production began life at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2017. McKellen is, of course, sublime at least in terms of unassuming lucidness: you will not see such another dignified Lear this year. A brilliant Sinead Cusack add further class to an evening that combines with something more mystic and mythical.

KING LEAR

KING LEAR

79 year-old superstar McKellen shines solidly for 3 hours 40 minutes, in what may be his last major Shakespearean role on stage. We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

Unmissable. Truly.

Allelujah! is at Bridge theatre, London, until 29 September

Bat out of Hell is at Dominion Theatre, London until January 2019 (link https://batoutofhellmusical.com/)

Fun Home is at the Young Vic, London, until 1 September.

King Lear is at Duke of York’s until 3 November and will be broadcast live on 27 September via National Theatre Live.

Box Office to open on 3 November for BAT OUT OF HELL

To celebrate the Box Office opening to the general public, there will be a special live performance by the cast at 5pm on Thursday 3 Novemberoutside the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane

Bat Out of Hell

Bat Out of Hell. Click on the image to book your tickets.

The world premiere of the long-awaited Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical will take place in London’s West End at the London Coliseum, opening on Tuesday 20 June 2017, following previews from 5 June, for a limited season until 22 July 2017. This follows previews at Manchester Opera House from 17 February to 8 April 2017. The box office for the London Coliseum will open at 5pm on Thursday 3 November.

As with many great works of art, the genesis of the Bat Out Of Hell album occurred across a number of years. One of the songs was written while Steinman was an undergraduate at Amherst College in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, Steinman wrote a theatrical musical that was presented in workshop in Washington D.C. in 1974 and featured many of the songs that would ultimately appear on the Bat Out Of Hell album, which was released in 1977.

Bat Out Of Hell became one of the best-selling albums in history, selling over 50 million copies worldwide. 16 years later, Steinman scored again with Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell, which contained the massive hit I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR BAT OUT OF HELL

For the stage musical, the legendary and award-winning Jim Steinman has incorporated iconic songs from the Bat Out Of Hell albums, including You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Bat Out Of Hell, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) and Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, as well as two previously unreleased songs, What Part of My Body Hurts the Most and Not Allowed to Love.

Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is a romantic adventure about rebellious youth and passionate love, set against the backdrop of a post-cataclysmic city adrift from the mainland. Strat, the forever young leader of The Lost, has fallen for Raven, daughter of Falco, the tyrannical, ruler of Obsidian.

Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell – The Musical is produced by David Sonenberg, Michael Cohl, Randy Lennox, Tony Smith.

Website:  www.BatOutOfHellMusical.com

Twitter & Facebook:  @BatTheMusical

LONDON LISTINGS INFORMATION

5 June – 22 July 2017

London Coliseum

St Martin’s Lane

London

WC2N 4ES

Performances:  Mon-Sat at 7.30pm, Thurs & Sat at 2.30pm (7pm on Tue 20 June; no matinee on Thurs 8 June; extra 2.30pm matinee on Tue 22 August)

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR BAT OUT OF HELL

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