Bell Media’s sizeable investment in the theatrical adaptation of Jim Steinman’s 40-year-old blockbuster album Bat Out of Hell is on course to become another smash hit for both the American composer and lyricist and the show’s producers–two of whom are Canadians.
Before its Toronto premiere at the 2300-seat Ed Mirvish Theatre on Wednesday night (25th), the Steinman book play had a successful limited-run earlier this year at the Manchester Opera House Feb. 17 – April 29, earning rapturous reviews from the outset. It then transferred to the London Coliseum in June, extending for two additional weeks and ending its run on August 22 with the promise of a return to the UK in 2018.
Unsubstantiated figures suggest the musical has sold in the ballpark of 350,000 tickets combining the UK runs with pre-sales in Toronto, realizing a box-office estimated to be in the region of $35-million. And the show’s just getting started rolling.
Wednesday night’s red-carpet premiere was a celebrity event with Mayor John Tory, CTV News anchor Lisa LaFlamme, TVO show anchor Steve Paikin and a credit roll of TV stars seen in the orchestra section of the historic film and playhouse that opened in 1920 as the Pantages Theatre.
The hyperbolic theatrical reinvention of Steinman’s operatic rock musical is a full 30 minutes trimmer this side of the Atlantic, but it is still gargantuan in its scope. The show has 30 song performances, a run time of 160 minutes (including intermission), 32 cast members, 18 understudies–plus gaffers, riggers, engineers, programmers, vocal coaches and a circus tent of attendants managing everything from wigs and hair to makeup and costumes. According to one observer, Bat Out of Hell, The Musical, took nine semis to load in before show time Wednesday.
Backers of the show are four producers (pictured above): US-based Canadian entertainment impresario Michael Cohl, Bell Media President Randy Lennox, UK superstar manager and theatrical producer Tony Smith, and American entertainment mogul and lawyer David Sonenberg.
For Lennox, Bat’s successful launch is part of a string of IP endeavours he has brought to BCE’s mass media subsidiary, starting with a series iHeartRadio-produced events in Vancouver and Toronto. Other initiatives include funding big-budget shows, such as The Launch that targets international audiences and Russell Peters’ Indian Detective that runs on Bell properties in Canada and is further monetized globally on the Netflix platform.
An in-depth interview about Lennox’s vision at Bell Media can be read on the subscription-based Canadian cable, radio, television and telecom business news website Cartt.ca and there is a fascinating article to be read about the technical wizardry employed in the show here.
Oh, and one other Canadian connection with Bat Out of Hell: The Musical is Montreal-born Norman Perry whose New York-based Perryscope Productions is the exclusive merchandise licensor for the show.