Bringing the songs of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf to life, stage musical Bat Out Of Hell has started its UK and Ireland tour in Manchester. The M.E.N's Lucy Hilton went behind the scenes of the much-loved show, which is in the city until October 2, with the fabulous Joelle Moses, who plays Zahara in the production.
The average audience member would be forgiven for thinking that the backstage mazes of a rock and roll musical are glitz, glamour, and leather jackets.
But they would be underestimating the hard work of the cast and crew.
Being led through the labyrinth backstage at the Opera House, it’s easy to see where all the ghost stories come from, and difficult to see how people don’t get lost.
Grateful for our guides, we traipse up stairs and down corridors, wondering how the cast and crew sprint these routes day in and day out without even breaking a sweat.
With studded boots, spiked jackets, and colourful silks hung up everywhere, the dressing rooms are an instantly comfortable place; lived in and laughed in, reminiscent of how your bedroom inevitably ends up as you prepare for a night out.
Touring shows end up all over the country; cast and crew don’t always live near enough to go home on days off, so it’s easy to see how they become one big chosen family.
I met up with Joelle to learn her pre-show makeup routing; how she transforms herself into her character Zahara.
The double life of Zahara, the best friend of the show's hero, Strat, is central to the story - as she balances her friendship with The Lost, the group of youths whose age has been frozen in time, and her job with the enemy; Falco, father of Strat’s love interest, Raven.'
With matinee and evening showings, the look has to be one that Joelle can recreate every night, and that won’t get lost behind the bright lights of the stage.
Though glittering red eyelids and teal lipstick might sound a little bit too niche for a casual day-to-day look, it's works perfectly here.
Joelle does her regular make routine while I copy. We start the look with a base; your regular foundation, powder, and a rosy brown blusher, before we get into the ‘show look’.
Eyeshadow palettes cover the dressing room table, with every vivid colour you could dream of.
Joelle says she does Zahara’s eyeshadow ‘like a sunset’, with a pale gold in the inner corner blending into a bold gold centre, and a sparkling red outer corner.
A striking cat eye liner follows, with the largest false eyelashes I’ve worn since my university days.
The pièce de résistance is the lip; Joelle varies between a vivid purple, and a bright teal.
Though liquid eyeliner takes razor sharp focus, I talk to Joelle about what it’s like being in the show.
She tells me how fun it is to see the crowd singing along with the songs they know and love; how it isn’t a distraction for the cast, but a celebration.
I tell her how she can expect Manchester to feel a special sense of ownership over the show, since it’s opened here first on this year’s tour, and premiered at the Manchester Opera House in 2017.
Joelle needs a hand from a crew member to get on her costume; the intricacies of stage costuming cannot be underestimated. It’s a full body workout to get in and out of, and factoring in makeup and wigs, it’s a wonder they have time for the show at all.
Emily Crawford, who works for the Palace Theatre and Opera House and invited me to come and take a look behind the scenes, regales us with stories of people telling her how they’ve booked five nights at the show, and sit enraptured through every single one.
Although I had a basic understanding of how much work goes into productions like Bat Out Of Hell, seeing the theatre from the other side; being backstage, sitting in the dressing room, and looking out on the audience seats from under the lights, really highlights how much of an artform it is.
Each person's part, from cast to crew to theatre staff, turns in sync to bring glorious entertainment to our city. It’s easy to sit in your seat and only see characters, but knowing these people bring that person to life every night, before going backstage and becoming themselves again, is a wondrous thing. Manchester is a city full of theatres, full of culture, and we’re very lucky that these productions trust us to act as their home.
Bat Out Of Hell is running at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday, October 2. You can buy tickets on the website here: www.atgtickets.com/shows/bat-out-of-hell/opera-house-manchester/