Meat­loaf rem­i­nisces about Bat Out of Hell

40th an­niver­sary marked by rock opus pre­mièring in Oc­to­ber

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - LAU­REN LA ROSE

TORONTO — “Bat Out of Hell” is one of the big­gest sell­ing al­bums in mu­sic his­tory, but Meat­loaf says his rock opus was more of a slow burn with crit­ics out of the gates.

“When ‘Bat’ came out there was 10 peo­ple maybe that liked it; and out of hun­dreds of re­views, we got one good re­view from the Cleve­land Plain Dealer,” re­called the leg­endary en­ter­tainer in an in­ter­view on Monday.

Af­ter learn­ing a DJ who came on at mid­night planned to spin a song from the 1977 LP, com­poser Jim Stein­man was among about 50 peo­ple crammed into Meat Loaf’s apart­ment to tune in.

“We in­vited ev­ery­body in the build­ing and the stereo was cranked as loud as it could go,” he re­called.

“For them to play a 10-minute song, DJs back then loved ‘Par­adise (By the Dash­board Light),’ loved ‘Bat Out of Hell,’ be­cause they could go get a sand­wich, they could go to the bath­room, they could take these breaks — they loved us. And then it be­came a point where ev­ery­thing started to have to be shorter.”

With 43 mil­lion al­bums sold, “Bat Out of Hell” ranks be­hind Michael Jack­son’s “Thriller,” AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” on the all­time best­selling list.

As the al­bum marks the 40th an­niver­sary since its re­lease, Stein­man has brought fresh siz­zle to “Bat Out of Hell” by en­com­pass­ing the hits into a stage show mak­ing its North Amer­ica pre­mière this fall.

Fol­low­ing a sold-out run in Manch­ester and a stint at Lon­don’s Coli­seum Theatre open­ing in June, “Bat Out of Hell: The Mu­si­cal” is set to be­gin shows in Toronto on Oct. 14 at Ed Mirvish Theatre.

Stein­man cre­ated the books, mu­sic and lyrics for the mu­si­cal cen­tred on star-crossed love, re­bel­lion and rock ’n’ roll. The mu­si­cal fea­tures some of Stein­man’s and Meat­loaf ’s big­gest hits, in­clud­ing “I’d Do Any­thing for Love (But I Won’t Do That),” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

For Meat­loaf — a sea­soned stage per­former and an as­so­ciate pro­ducer on the show — his col­lab­o­ra­tor’s cre­ation is a nat­u­ral for the theatre.

“If any mu­si­cian has ever learned ‘Bat Out of Hell’ or any of Jim Stein­man’s songs they’re more in the line of op­eras,” says Meat­loaf. “I hate say­ing that be­cause they’re rock records. But in chord struc­ture-wise if you hear the first verse of ‘Bat Out of Hell,’ it’s noth­ing like the sec­ond verse — dif­fer­ent chords. Even the cho­ruses, the melodies are the same, but the chords vary.”

Meat­loaf was in Toronto on Monday for a mini street con­cert fea­tur­ing “Bat Out of Hell” stars An­drew Polec and Christina Ben­ning­ton, who were both awed by the ac­tor­mu­si­cian.

“He’s an in­spi­ra­tion. He’s a pow­er­house,” says Polec, who por­trays Strat, op­po­site Ben­ning­ton’s Raven. “He’s like the guy who first landed on the moon and we’re just try­ing to follow. We’re try­ing to get to the moon as well.”

The flam­boy­ant front­man says the in­ten­sity in the show very much echoes his own stage the­atrics.

“They found the perfect peo­ple for the cast, and I think they showed them live footage of me on­stage be­cause the play is very high­en­ergy,” says Meat­loaf, who re­cently fin­ished film­ing the pi­lot for new se­ries “Ghost Wars” in Van­cou­ver op­po­site Vin­cent D’Onofrio.

“All my shows were re­ally high energy — even at 300 pounds I was do­ing cart­wheels and flips and rolls. I played foot­ball in col­lege so I was used to do­ing flips and rolls,” he says, laugh­ing.

“So my shows were re­ally en­er­getic, and this show ... is ma­jor high energy non-stop.”

FRANK GUNN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Meat­loaf meets with lead per­form­ers An­drew Polec, right, and Christina Ben­ning­ton from "Bat Out of Hell — The Mu­si­cal," in Toronto on Monday.

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