BWW Interview: Andrew Polec & Christina Bennington on BAT OUT OF HELL
Fresh off winning Best Musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, Bat Out of Hell returns to Toronto to continue performances.
While back in London, we caught up with stars Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington to talk Toronto, audiences, and the show's return to the West End in 2018.
Congratulations on Bat Out Of Hell's big win, as voted for by the public. How are you feeling?
Christina: It's just crazy. It's such a marvellous honour to represent the hard work of a hundred or so people, from the writers to the tech department, cast and creative.
Andrew: Yes, it truly takes a village to create a musical. And everyone joined in and gave their love. We saw all of our supportive fans come to the front and say, "You guys rock!"
Christina: The award is such a testament to our fans and audiences, really. They're very loyal and faithful. And we came to the West End for only three months and somehow managed to garner enough enthusiasm and support, that they all came out and voted for us.
I think it speaks volumes about what the British public wants and needs at the minute: a show about joy and love.
Andrew: They are amazing. We have people who have seen it like 72 times now! And it really is multi-generational. Everyone can come.
I imagine it attracts quite different audiences, from night to night?
Christina: You know, it's great because we actually get a lot of people who've never even been to the theatre before, never mind heard Meat Loaf. So it's like we've opened up a whole new demographic, a whole new audience.
And because of the existing fan base of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, it already comes with an expectation and people who love the music. What's amazing is they have almost the same enthusiasm as people who are hearing it for the first time.
And you're now bringing it to a whole new audience, in the Toronto production. How have international audiences been reacting?
Andrew: You know, there's so many Meat Loaf fans over the world and discovering another dichotomy of them, another culture that loves this music as much as we do, it's just been an absolutely amazing experience.
It's so amazing to see how they love this music in different ways.
Christina: And how they relate to the story in different ways too.
It's been written with a North American audience in mind in a lot of ways, just because of who's behind it. And it's been really interesting to see how the jokes translate there. They fall in different places; it's like we get an equal reaction, but to different things.
That's really interesting for us, because it keeps it fresh. So really the audience in this show (more than any I've been a part of) is like another character. Because the show changes so much, depending on whose in that night.
They certainly feel like part of the show. Do you ever get people singing? And should they be?
Andrew: Absolutely and we encourage it...highly! When we were in Manchester and London, people were singing at the top of their lungs. You almost thought that maybe there was an echo in the room, but it turned out it was a compilation of a few thousand voices.
Christina: So true. And the great thing about this show is because it has such an open heart and we wear our hearts on our sleeves, people in the audience feel like they have permission to tell us how they feel.
There are certain moments which seem open to calls and responses. I'm thinking "On a hot summer night" in particular...
Andrew: Yes, especially because there are those two failed attempts to start that song. By the time the third one comes around, I think everyone is expecting it. So when she says...
Christina: "Will he offer me his mouth?"
Andrew: Everyone goes, "Ooh!" And then Strat says "Yes" and everyone's like, "Yes! It's going to happen."
It's euphoric, it's so cathartic. It's a wonderful, shared experience with everyone. It's not that they're just watching us; it's like we're watching this together and creating it together. So we're grateful for that every night.
I imagine those interactions can lead to some funny moments too.
Christina: There have been some very shared, hilarious moments. One of the big ones we've had is at the end of the show, when we ask those all important questions from "I'd Do Anything For Love".