How do you take the loudest, most bombastic show in the West End, and turn it all the way up to eleven? Simple: invite hundreds of people to sing lyrics with the cast.
Tuesday saw the first in a series of singalong performances of Bat Out of Hell at the Dominion Theatre, as scores of the musical’s most hard-core fans let rip and belted out their favourite numbers, without the fear of the Theatre Police demanding silence.
It was my first experience of a singalong performance, despite them occasionally popping up at productions in the West End, but are far more prevelant at cinema screenings of musicals: The Greatest Showman being a prime recent example.
While I’m sure that's great fun, I can’t imagine it would compare to joining in with a live musical, like Bat. My plus-one for the evening was my sister, and I have vivid memories of being stuck in the car with her belting out Meat Loaf’s greatest hits. Prior to the show, she told me she could remember maybe two or three songs from those albums. But as the lyrics flashed up on a small, clear, non-intrusive surtitle screen about the stage, and the infectious lyrics tickled her amygdala, her face literally said: “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now”.
For ABBA fans, a night singing along to the Mamma Mia soundtrack would be a perfect night out – if you’ve ever witnessed a hen party in attendance at the Novello, I’m sure you can attest to that. But what felt different about Bat was that it had a real rock concert vibe; the sheer noise buzzed around the auditorium as people headbanged in their seats. The best thing about a rock concert is the connection and unity a crowd of strangers feel when chanting the same lyrics together, so to feel the same energy in one of London’s largest West End theatres was something special.
Not every song was on the scoresheet for the audience: some slower numbers and duets like “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” aren’t surtitled, but why would wou want to do anything other than watch the magnetic performances of Sharon Sexton and, at my performance, Craig Ryder?
The first half comes to a head with the explosive titular song, and that’s the moment the crowd kick into action. But it really steps up a notch as for the final two numbers: “It's All Coming Back to Me Now” and “I Would Do Anything for Love”. As Andrew Polec’s Strat approaches the end of the stage for the finale (during his last week as part of the London cast, no less), he could hardly contain the smile bursting off his face after what must have been an exhilarating performance, unique to any that cast have done over the last two years.
As the cast took their bows, the Dominion erupted. Whatever was left of the theatre’s roof was well and truly blown off – not bad for a Tuesday night. There’s a singalong performance every month for the rest of the year (including two fancy dress shows on Halloween and New Year’s Eve), so if you had any inclination to see the show, or return for the nth time, I’d implore you to seek out one of these joyous experiences.
Singalong performance dates: Tuesday 25th September, Wednesday 31st October (evening), Tuesday 27th November and Monday 31st December.
Bat Out of Hell is booking at the Dominion Theatre until 5th January.