The thunderous roar of Harley Davidson motorbikes echoed through the city centre on Monday night. The bikers rocked up (excuse the pun) on George Street to usher in the premiere of Bat Out Of Hell at the New Theatre Oxford.

Bat Out Of Hell is a rock musical with music, lyrics and book by Jim Steinman, based on the best-selling 1977 debut album by Meat Loaf. The new UK tour runs until November 2022, hitting Glasgow, Birmingham and London after Oxford.

The show is a thrilling, sensory assault of guitar riffs, screeching tires and literal flames – delivering Steinman’s theatrical brand of rock in an explosive fashion. However, the spectacular musical numbers – which are really what this jukebox musical is about – do not quite veil the show’s wafer-thin plot.

The musical is a loose retelling of Peter Pan (with the star-crossed lovers trope of Romeo and Juliet thrown in) and set in post-apocalyptic Manhattan, now named 'Obsidian'. The story follows Strat (Glenn Adamson), the eccentric and forever eighteen-year-old leader of 'The Lost', a group of misfit, rock and roll teenagers whose DNA froze at eighteen causing them to remain young forever.

Strat falls in love with Raven (Kellie Gnauck) the daughter of Falco (Rob Fowler), Obsidian’s tyrannical ruler. Their romance causes a rift in the tightknit group and outrages the revengeful Falco.

Jon Bausor’s dystopian stage and costume design sets the mood for the show before the first chord is strung. The grungey, dilapidated city-scape world of Obsidian is made up of abandoned tyres, metal tunnels and a large steel structure called Falco Towers, which lights up like the strings on a guitar’s neck. The windows built into Falco Towers – a not-so-subtle nod to Trump Tower – offer the audience a view into Raven’s room, enabling spectators to see the action of two scenes simultaneously.

The Lost’s costumes are an apocalyptic mix of ripped denim, glam rock-esque leather studded jackets and Doc Martens. Strat’s shaggy blonde hair, sleeveless tees and sleek leather trousers sat on Adamson’s tall, slender frame make him look like a mix between Machine Gun Kelly and Steel Panther. Intentional or not, it certainly says something about the influence of 70’s rock on modern music and style.

Bausor’s multi-perspective set design is further explored throughout the show by video designer Finn Ross, who makes use of video cameras on the stage which livestream to a huge screen on the back wall. The grainy hues of the recordings make you feel like you are watching a music video from the 70s, as well as a stage show in 2021. The danger here being that, as a spectator, I sometimes felt lost in the action and did not quite know where to look.

The high energy musical performances are, without doubt, the highlight of this show and appeal to hardcore Meat Loaf fans and general melophiles. Making use of confetti cannons, lights, flames and purring motorbikes, the performances are an all-out rock and roll armageddon. The intensity of the songs, backed by the ensemble to Xena Gusthart’s choreography, bounce unceasingly from one to the other leaving the cast dripping with sweat. It is something emphasised in one moment where Adamson removes his shirt and in any other context it felt like he should throw it into a fanatical audience of female fans.

The pitfall of this jukebox musical, like all others, is that the songs carry the weight of the show. The musical numbers are loosely tied together in a plot that justifies the narrative of each track. Think Donna Sheridan worrying about the financial state of her Greek hotel in Mamma Mia and queue ABBA’s ‘Money, Money, Money’.

Particular praise, however, must be paid to Gnauck’s performance as Raven as the Oxford show as her first outing as the character, which is usually played by Martha Kirby. She balances her role as rebellious teenager looking to escape her controlling father with the right amount of angst only young love knows.

Amongst all the hardcore rock there were a few comical moments which broke the fourth wall. Musician’s from the orchestra climbed onto the stage and stormed off with broken instruments after a car engine is thrown into the pit and hand sanitiser – in true 2021 fashion – is used when Falco and Tink (Killian Thomas Lefevre) strike a deal with a spit-sealed handshake.

Bat Out Of Hell is an extravagant, all guns blazing musical which shows off the incredible work of Meat Loaf and Steinman. The cast keep up the energy to deliver high adrenaline performances and incredible vocal numbers. The show is really a three hour rock concert rather than a fully formed musical as it is all about the music which, with music as good as this, it should be.