Being avid seekers of new entertainment experiences, we were aware very early that Manchester had been chosen to preview the brand new musical featuring the songs of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf, named after arguably their most famous and iconic rock song, the almost perfect ‘Bat out of Hell’. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and being big fans of the Rocky Horror show, we knew of Meatloaf and his songs but (apart from the brilliant ‘Dead Ringer for Love’) owned none of his songs or even listened to them. The titles were familiar and we could probably both hum a few lines of some of them but neither of us have ever had more than a passing interest in his music. So, not surprisingly we made no plans to go and see it, but then something very strange happened…
As the pantomime closed just after Christmas, social media began to come alive with features and snippets of what was taking place behind the scenes at the Opera House in Manchester. Rumours of scenery and staging never seen in Manchester began to surface – ponds on stage, flying motorbikes (although only one member of the family has any recollection of that!). The theatre was going to be closed for just over a month as preparations and rehearsals for the brand new show took place. Local news channels reported on the preparations and everywhere you turned in Manchester there were adverts and flyers. We followed all this with interest but still made no plans to go.
As the world premiere beckoned Adam (our theatre mole) began to tell us (no spoilers) of how exciting everything was looking. Together with his colleagues they watched the first full dress rehearsal of the show and he was blown away.
As the show opened our Facebook feeds were full of friends and families attending the show and posting their comments on how much they had enjoyed it. But still we didn’t book…
March 18th arrived when Bat had been going for just over a month to rave reviews and we began to think maybe we should go and take the opportunity to see it whilst it was within driving distance. Our 2 kids (the “grown ups”) had anticipated this and March 18th, being our wedding anniversary, saw us receive two front row circle tickets to see the show on April 6th and a night at the Radisson Hotel.
So, what did we think?
Being completely honest and having seen the likes of We Will Rock You and American Idiot we fully expected to have the same theatre experience, a sorry excuse of a storyline designed to fit in as many songs as possible, but this time with songs we were completely unfamiliar with.
How wrong we were.
From the minute, you enter the theatre you are immersed in sounds, images on screens and a very interesting stage! As is usual before a show people are drinking and chatting when you suddenly notice that two cast members are sat on a motorbike on stage interacting with each other as video screens placed everywhere around the auditoriums fill you in with the back story of the city of Obsidian.
The show opens with a menacing monologue from lead Andrew Polec in the role of Strat, leader of the lost teen rebels who never age and inhabit the underworld of a post-apocalyptic city, Obsidian. The show tells the story of Strat’s obsession with Raven, played by Christina Bennington, pampered and privileged daughter of Falco overlord of the city, and her subsequent descent into the underground world of the wasted youth. It’s a dark and dangerous world staged to perfection with Harley Davidsons, totalitarian security and the wasted youth, mutants who never age after their 18th birthdays.
Whilst all this takes place, Raven’s parents Falco played by Rob Fowler and Sloane, who was played by understudy Jemma Alexander the night we attended, provide comic relief with a series of spectacular duets – most notably their rendition of Paradise by the Dashboard Light which ended in the most unusually dramatic and funny moment!
The first act ends with the eponymous Bat out of Hell - motorbikes, leather, wild dancing and the best special effects we have ever seen in a show in Manchester.
The second act begins with a scene which could have come straight from a sci fi horror film with hanging bodies and chained and shackled members of the wasted youth but light hearted relief is never far away as Danielle Steers’ Zahara and Dom Hartley-Harris’ Jagwire continue to play out their own love story with our family favourite ‘Dead Ringer for Love’.
As the musical reaches its peak Meat Loaf’s biggest hits finally make their appearance with absolute crowd stopping versions of ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ and ‘I'd Do Anything for Love.’
It’s hard to pick out a favourite part of the show, from the very first minutes through to the finale, which comes much too soon, it is just a journey through a world of raucous rock songs, exciting, innovative staging and the best assembled cast we have ever seen. Every single member of the cast acts and sings exquisitely and it is hard to single anyone out, but we must give a special mention to the fabulous Jenna Alexander, who gave the most amazing performance as Raven’s Mum Sloane. A true sign of a fantastic cast when even the understudy is of such a high standard.
So as non-Meatloaf fans we are very glad we decided to gamble on going - it is quite simply the best show we have ever seen in Manchester. Spectacular staging, which is usually only seen at the long running shows in London, and a cast of relatively unknown singers and dancers who can only be going on to the dizzy heights of fame and nightly standing ovations as the show reaches London. Book your tickets and prepare for a night of great music and surprising humour as you journey through the dark world of Obsidian.
London you're in for a treat!
Full details here: http://batoutofhellmusical.com/
Everything about the show was good from the sets to the acting and of course the songs. Rhydian made a great dentist and sang the big song perfectly, even reappearing towards the end in multiple small character roles. Sam Lupton and Stephanie Clift were perfectly cast in the roles of Audrey and Seymour but the real star of the show was Audrey 2 chomping her way through the cast, brought to life by Josh Wilmott.
We found out that the stage show is very different from the film and quite honestly we’re not sure which ending we prefer! It was a great way to spend Halloween.
London. Again. Quite a novelty to have two trips to London in 3 months – one of the perks of the kids having left home that family trips are now much cheaper.
We had always wanted to visit the Royal Albert Hall and we do check what’s on each time we go down. When we booked the trip back in August we were pleased to see this time that there was a Disney on Broadway concert with the BBC concert orchestra so decided to get some tickets. At the time we had no idea what a special concert it was and exactly who would be performing but I think most of London did! I logged on bright and early to get some tickets to find I was 4638 in the queue! I decided to leave the ticket page running but was convinced I would never get through so carried on with all the other things that needed doing in life and just checked occasionally what was happening. I continued to move up all morning and after 3 1/2 hours and a very lucky break as I was currently sat at the computer I arrived on the ticket page to the flashing time in the corner – they are so stressful! - complete this page…… I hurriedly said give me any two tickets (in my price range obviously and not the £299 each in the stalls!) everything went through fine and I was really pleased firstly to get the tickets and secondly to find we were in a Loggia box! Apparently this is not that rare at the Royal Albert Hall as there are lots of boxes. The email confirming everything arrived safely and we then got very excited to find we could order food to our box – which we promptly did!
In the following days we found out just what a big concert we had accidentally chosen – hosted by John Barrowman with some of the original stars of the Broadway and the London stage singing the songs they made famous plus a very very special guest appearance by Alan Menken – composer of some of Disney’s most famous songs (and one of our other favourite musicals Little Shop of Horrors).
We arrived at the Royal Albert Hall after a simple trip on the Circle Line and as the auditorium was still closed we got to explore all the places which were available for walking around. The corridors were amazing and currently full of a display of film posters which were available to buy (no prices though!). Amongst other things I found out that vintage film posters are actually quite rare as they were made on very cheap paper which didn’t age well!
Bonnie Langford walked past us and a wonderfully ‘English’ gentlemen then told us the story of her family and how he had been in Gypsy with her when she was very young playing alongside the wonderful Angela Lansbury. He was such an interesting man and what a shame he wasn’t sat near us as I am sure he had lots of amazing stories.
The food was good if a little expensive – but well worth it for the experience. We ordered a tray of ten mixed sandwiches and a dessert tray of tiny delicate assorted cakes and tarts plus a large bottle of sparkling water and some beer – total £41. It was very exciting to have it delivered to the box but we were the only ones in the box who had so that felt a bit strange! I think if we had been a box full of friends or family it would have been a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience! The food was delicious and felt very special and the staff were very attentive both on the night and the weeks before.
Well done to Rhubarb. http://www.rhubarb.co.uk/locations/royal-albert-hall
The concert itself was excellent. We both love music of all kinds and enjoy orchestras very much. The singers were obviously some of the best in the world and the venue was everything we had hoped for. John Barrowman compered the evening and also sang several times. We had seen him in panto once before many years ago and he is always very entertaining! It was a very simple premise of singer and orchestra, which maybe the families with very young children attending hadn’t realised. Surprisingly for Disney there was no characters or particular branding just good songs. Several of which we had not heard of. Highlight of the night was the appearance of Alan Menken who performed a song from Aladdin which had been cut from the original film but had made it into the stage version. He received the loudest applause of the night – what an honour to see him perform. The concert finished off in fantastic style with the cast of Aladdin led by the genie performing ‘Friend like me’ – fireworks, lights and dancers in gold lame made the perfect end to what had been a wonderful evening. We hope very much to go back to the Royal Albert Hall and will definitely have more of the box catering!
So a week on from our exploits at the Brit Project we once again found ourselves on a Saturday in a dark enclosed space near Manchester. However this time we were at Cirque Du Soleil's Amaluna the latest show to pitch up (tent reference) at IntuTrafford Centre. And we also had the "grown-ups" with us too. (Just a bit concerned that Lucy's hubby Simon - on the right - is actually well over 6 feet tall in real life but looks the shortest of all of us on the photo!)
We first went to see Cirque a few years ago when they toured Varekai at the same venue and we had always said we'd go and watch them again.
With a story loosely based on The Tempest - shipwrecks and "forbidden" love - this latest extravaganza from the genius minds at Cirque grabbed the attention right from the start - in fact from before the start as the usual pre-show set-up of performers and audience interaction started a good 10 minutes before the lights went down.
Photography wasn't allowed during the show so the above was as the stage was initially set and yes thats a big bowl of water which saw a spellbinding routine as part of the show and yes we were that close to the stage too!
I won't give too much away in case you have tickets or get to see it at some time in the future but the stand out moment for me was in the second half and the balancing act. It reminded us of the worlds largest pick up sticks game and as the act progressed I did genuinely move to the edge of my seat and I've never heard an audience so quiet in all my life - time stood still.
Great stuff, two hours of music, fantasy, thrills - a few spills (literally from the bowl of water) and quite a few shakes of the head in awe at the skills on show. Basically go if you can if not to this then any of the other shows they do. They really are something else and hopefully they'll be back at Trafford in the not too distant future.
So first on our recommended list for the next few weeks was the Brit Project night at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester. How was it? Read on ....
The big draw for us - apart from the fact that we like live music and trying new stuff - was the chance to see Black Grape. We've both always been big fans of Happy Mondays and then Black Grape. Back in the days of the Madchester scene we had two little kids so concerts were impossible but it didn't stop us listening and loving their music.
I had sent the pre sale link to hubby when I first got it a few months ago just to show him, whilst I took my Mum round the supermarket - couldn't believe it when the next two pings on my phone were a confirmation email for tickets followed by a hotel booking!
So Saturday loomed and once again I was very nervous of the evening ahead. Black Grape were due on stage at 11pm followed by Primal Scream at 12.30am - both well past our bed time!
We checked into the AC Hotel Marriot, a very convenient 5 minutes walk from Victoria Warehouse, to find it full of mostly foreign happy United fans who had watched their team win earlier in the day. The hotel was great. The lovely Karolina on reception checked us in and made us laugh. We had a room on the 7th floor with a fab view towards the city. Lovely fittings - modern and comfy - we were really pleased. We then settled down to watch Strictly followed by the National Lottery show (neither of which we would have done at home!) and left for the gig at 9.30pm.
The Victoria Warehouse is an amazing building full of character and a great space for live music. We were very impressed with the organisation of the event and the music was amazing. There were two stages set up one for the more well known bands and a smaller one for some up and comings. We managed to see Badly Drawn Boy and were both amazed that he doesn't pass out in the heat with his woolly hat and coat on! We followed this with a band called Cupid on stage 2 who we loved although I am quite sure we are not their target audience!
The audience was a very mixed bunch from young people, who probably went out after the gig, to those of our age who were shocked to find themselves staying up till 2.30am! We bumped into Tony Walsh aka Longfella the poet and his lovely wife - who were also wondering how they had come to something with such a late finish! It is quite apparent that we all think we're 18 but are reminded frequently that we are not!
Black Grape came on 1 minute past 11 and were as wonderful as we expected them to be from the chemistry between Kermit and Shaun Ryder to the great guitarists and of course the music. We then nipped across to watch Alias Kid, who were also being watched by Oasis' legendary manager Alan McGee who posed for a few pics (not us though we were too shy!). Once again great music from the group who we hadn't heard of before Saturday - though once again we are definitely not their target audience either! We finished the night with Primal Scream who were introduced as having been together for 29 years - bit of a shocker for us such a frighteningly long time ago. Their set was amazing and the big finish of Loaded, Country Girl and Get Your Rocks off blew us away.
Overall the organisers of the first Brit Project pulled off a fantastic night which had great bands in a stunning venue. The toilets alone are worth the visit and there's plenty of them! The bars were plentiful (although the drinks were pricey but probably in line with every other city centre venue). we were particularly impressed with the pace of the evening and the way they kept each band to their time. Nothing worse than standing for hours waiting for the headliner! Acoustics were great and the warehouse really lends itself to such an event.
Lets hope for many more - we'd definitely go again although it may take us all week to recover from the late night!
We're often asked how we manage to get tickets for some of the really exciting things we go to but it's really simple - get on everyones mailing list! Pre sales are one of the greatest inventions ever - allowing you to bypass the stress and anxiety of general sale day! I've spent many a morning watching the clock tick by to ticket release time with umpteen tickets agents websites ready to go! Interestingly recently I've found that the quieter site seems to be the one linked to the venue and not everyone's usual first point of call - Ticketmaster.
Upcoming for us in the next few weeks are some very exciting things.
First up is The Brit Project at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester - tickets still available and an exciting line up of new and old bands. We were swayed by the appearance of Black Grape and the obligatory dancing by Bez! Think that could be a late night for us though but thanks to a trip to see Barry Manilow last year (eclectic music taste!) we have our glow sticks at the ready!
We're following this with a family trip to Cirque de Soleils Amaluna. We were very lucky six years ago to go as corporate guests (with front row seats!) to Cirque's Manchester show under the big top. We loved it so much we took the kids, but had to sit right at the back in the cheap seats! It was a great experience, particularly as it was under canvas, and the view from the back was excellent. The tickets start at just £17. Expect colour and music with spectacular circus and acrobat skills, dance and drama. Well worth the ticket price - we can't wait!
My third recommendation is for the wonderful Little Shop of Horrors. As a family it is one of our favourite films and we've all wanted to go and see it live on stage for many years. Looking forward very much to seeing Rhydian in the dentist role played by Steve Martin in the film. Reviews have been good on the tour so far, so we're expecting a night of great songs and a very impressive Audrey 2!
Reviews will follow!
Ups and downs of life on a small scale, as in the space of 2 mins disappointment at Ticketmaster UK having sold their allocation of Green Day tickets turned to family excitement, as we managed to grab 4 on Event IM. Even better they don't involve mountaineering up to the top tier! A good way to spend what will probably be a cold, but hopefully not snowy, night in February.
A bit of this .... and a bit of that. We do like doing fun stuff and maybe some things that people of a certain "ahem" age shouldn't - but what the hell. Concerts, music, theatres and anything else that's a bit different.