After years of development Jim Steinman’s epic rock and roll theatrical fantasy Bat Out of Hell – The Musical has finally made the transition to the stage, currently appearing in London at the English National Opera’s London Coliseum. The critically acclaimed high octane musical adventure tells the story of Strat, the forever young, rebellious, leader of a gang of mutants called The Lost, who has fallen for Raven, daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of the post-cataclysmic city of Obsidian.
One of the most iconic and successful albums in history, with estimated total worldwide sales of over 43 million, Bat Out of Hell the album features hit songs recorded by Meat Loaf including “I’d Do Anything for Love”, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”, “Dead Ringer For Love” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and these songs, together with new songs written by Steinman, form the backbone of the score to the show.
Visually, the show combines stunning scenery, video technology and state-of-the-art lighting together with live motorcycles and vocal performances that soar relentlessly and, although the scale of the production is far too huge to allow it to fit into any of our local theatres, Sussex is well represented in the show with the appearance, as a featured dancer, of Worthing actress Phoebe Hart (pictured above left). After witnessing her amazing performance in this simply breathtaking show I spoke to her about her local connection and her role in this epic production…
So Phoebe, this is your first West End show, what a way to start!
I know, I am very very priviliged to have this as my first West End show. It’s such a huge show to be involved with.
…and a very long way from the lovely town of Worthing.
Yes. I spent my whole childhood there actually, the first 18 years of my life. I grew up in a little town called Findon Valley, just north of Worthing. I did, pretty much, all my schooling there. It’s where I learned to dance and I’ve even performed in the Pavilion Theatre on the pier in one of the dance festivals that they had there when I was younger.
So how did you get from there to here?
Well, I didn’t really start to dance properly until I was about 15. I had done some ballet training at the Jean Butterworth School of Dancing in Worthing and I went back there to do some more ballet, while also training in contemporary dance at the Davison High School. From there I went on to do my A Levels at BHASVIC (Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College) and did a dance course there, alongside a second course that I did at the Laban Dance Centre in London every weekend.
I was doing a course called the CAT scheme (Centre for Advanced Training) at Laban, which is one of the best contemporary dance schools here in London and I worked through all of that to prepare myself to be able to audition and also to further my studies in dance – which I also did at Laban. I did a three-year BA degree course in Contemporary Dance. It was very rigourous training but it very much prepared me for absolutely anything that I wanted to do in the industry. So, I never actually studied musical theatre, but I’ve ended up here.
But the dance moves in this show are very different from your more usual “jazz hands and high kicks” dancing.
Oh yes, it’s very different and quite acrobatic at times. The choreographer on the show, Emma Portner, was, from very early on in my studies, someone that I just idolised. I learned of her through YouTube, which is a great thing to have these days because it has the power to inspire so many people and, week after week, I would wait for her to post new videos of her dancing and she used to come to London each year, for a week, to teach. I was always at her classes, so that is how she got to know me.
After I graduated from Laban I joined the Richard Alston Dance Company, which is a London based touring Contemporary Dance company, and I spent a year working with them and they were amazing. I really furthered my training with the company, especially with my technique, and then I took a year out, and I didn’t dance at all, and I moved to Australia, which is where I spent last year.
Wow! Why was that?
I just decided that I wanted a break from dance for a while until I got an e-mail from Emma Portner herself asking if I could come back to London, last August, and do a week of workshopping for this musical. So I spent a week with her and I was extremely fortunate that she offered me the part in the Bat Out of Hell show. I was so thrilled to be asked by Emma because I have always done her classes, and I had managed to speak with her a few times when she had been visiting London previously, and it was just an absolute honour for her to consider me.
Well you must have done something right, because here you are.
It’s been such an incredible journey for me. I never saw myself being here at all. The Meatloaf fans who come along are all extremely dedicated to the show. We have a group called The Bat Clan who come back week after week, and they really are amazing supporters, they just love the show.
Is there a future for the show after London?
Well, yes. We are moving on to Toronto in Canada from here, so the whole cast will be jetting over to Toronto and we open there in October and run through until January 2018. I am so excited about it because getting to travel the world with the show is just like a dream for me. We have no idea whatsover yet about any more possibilities in the future with the show, but I am sure it will be huge – judging by the reaction that we have had here. Maybe they are looking into it but, as of yet, we haven’t been informed of any firm plans.
How was the rehearsal process for the show ?
It was a lot of hard work. The whole creative process for the show was very gruelling for everyone involved, but it really has paid off. Adding all of the new elements we use into a Musical Theatre show that has not really had them before was tough. Jay Scheib, the director, was heavily involved with the live video work that happens in the show and then we have the Contemporary Dance aspect being thrown in the mix, and all of the pyrotechnics. I think they really wanted to modernise what’s going on in Musical Theatre at the moment and to invite other art forms into it.
Well, it’s just great to see someone local doing so very well, so congratulations.
Thank you. I forgot to mention, my dance partner that you just saw me on stage with, Isaac Edwards, he’s from Peacehaven. He went to BHASVIC as well, and our new off-stage swing, Aston Newman Hannington, he’s from down our way too. I think he went to St. Bede’s School in Eastbourne. So there are a few of us representing our county.
Bat Out of Hell, the musical that critics are calling ‘A must-see show in 2017’ plays the London Coliseum, 33 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4ES for a strictly limited season until August 22nd, with Monday to Saturday evening shows at 7.30pm and Thursday and Saturday Matinee shows at 2.30pm.Tickets are available through the website at www.batoutofhellmusical.com and all usual London theatre agents.