Bat Out of Hell: The Musical - London

Jim Steinman's epic rock and roll theatrical fantasy explodes on the London stage.

Andrew Polec on Headlining Jim Steinman's Rocktacular Bat Out of Hell in London

Andrew Polec on Headlining Jim Steinman's Rocktacular Bat Out of Hell in London
Andrew Polec on "Bat Out of Hell"
(Photo: Specular)

Shows don’t get much more “rocktacular,” or so one assumes, than Bat Out of Hell – The Musical, the vaunted Jim Steinman hymn to youthful passion whose stage version is previewing at the London Coliseum prior to a June 20 opening. Drawing on an iconic back catalog of songs, director Jay Scheib’s production stars American performer Andrew Polec as the romantically questing, rebellious Strat—a that the West End newbie described as close to heaven-sent.

How does it feel to be headlining the rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza of London’s theatrical summer?
Everything about this for me has been the most huge and wonderful leap, and I’m so grateful for everything that’s been happening. Every day I just feel very grateful to be working with such an amazing group of people.

Did you ever envisage yourself fronting a rock musical?
I wasn’t actually a rock and roll kid. This is going to sound weird, but I didn’t realize I had a singing voice until late in my teens. I was a big sports kid at the time and played a lot of lacrosse and then I was in a terrible biking accident that ended all thoughts of that as a career, and so I joined the school choir and performed a solo. When I came off stage, my parents were, like, “Wow, you can actually sing!”

Didn’t you realize that yourself?
I guess I was under the impression that everyone could sing, at least enough. I didn’t realize that there are people out there who can’t hold a tune and that this is a gift I have been given from the universe and that it was probably important to respect it and to see if I could use it. 

What kind of character is Strat?
For one thing he doesn’t age, so he is forever 18! Something happened to Strat that kept him in this 18-year-old mindset where he wants to be wild and reckless and to rebel against this despotic ruler, Falco. He’s trying to break out of the system and find freedom and all of a sudden, he sees Raven, who is the daughter of Falco, and he turns into this big pile of mush.

Is it fun to be playing someone “forever 18”?
Yeah, of course: it’s all acting. The right mindset is all you need.

Have you had to alter your appearance for the part?
I think I look pretty much like me but what’s interesting is that when we were trying out the show in Manchester, people didn’t recognize the way I acted onstage as opposed to the way I looked onstage. As Strat, I’m a little more forward and aggressive and not as nice a person onstage as I would be offstage, so that sort of changed everyone’s perspective.

How are you fielding your composer Jim Steinman’s famously demanding vocals?
Throat massage is really important, and pacing is also crucial. You have to be very aware of what’s actually worth pushing and going for, and what is worth sitting back on. It helps that I’m doing six performances a week and [castmate] Ben Purkiss is doing two. 

Is it a challenge escaping the influence of Meat Loaf? 
Well, he’s the guy who landed on the moon or maybe I should say Pluto first, and we’re all walking in his footsteps trying to figure out how he did it. He climbed Everest with his vocal acrobatics, so you actually think, “How did you do all that and still have a voice?”

How did you land this production to begin with?
I went to an open call in New York but I don’t think they were looking for my type.  At the time, I was there to audition for the SpongeBob musical and had brought my drum with me, and someone said, “Are you here for the Bat Out of Hell audition down the street?” At first I thought it was a misnomer and they were just using the phrase “bat out of hell,” but very quickly I realized they were talking about a completely different musical. So, there I was lugging my floor tom drum down the streets of New York, bumping into a lot of people on the way. 

Do you remember your introduction to the music of Jim Steinman?
My dad played me “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” [sung by Meat Loaf on the Bat Out of Hell album] when I was younger, and I fell in love with the sheer energy of the song.  It was then that I realized that you can put as much energy into rock and roll as you can into a sport, and that kind of got me hooked. From there on, I played in quite a few rock bands.

Where was musical theater in all this?
I think it just depended on the show. I grew up with Meat Loaf, but I also grew up with The Fantasticks, which I got to do just recently in New York [at the Snapple Theater Center], and all of a sudden I was part of both those worlds. At the same time, our show has been compared to American Idiot, which, unfortunately, I never saw, and I’ve also never seen Les Miz or Rent. I’m clearly not the person to ask about musicals!

What do you think SpongeBob would make out of Bat Out of Hell?
Obviously, SpongeBob is a comical character but he also firmly believes in everything he does, and what’s so beautiful about Jim’s music and so many of his lyrics is that you could look at it all as totally comical but if you play it seriously, then it rewards being taken seriously. There’s such a human element to what Jim writes that if you play it 150%, then the comedy comes through, the love comes through, the total heartbreak and the awkwardness come through.

Given that the Bat Out of Hell album was first released in 1977, does the material speak to where we are today?
I hope so. We’re dealing here with a character who can be seen as the blueprint of rock and roll, which in turn came from the idea of rebellion and changing the way people think about society and the way they think about each other. With the terrible racism and homophobia that seems to be coming back at the moment, I’d like to think that maybe this is the character needed for this time.