The final concert in a series featuring cast members from the London production of Bat Out of Hell The Musical was announced well in advance but that didn’t stop it coming around far too quickly for those of us who have enjoyed the ride. Vision of You has always been about discovering the backstories of two ‘BOOH’ characters, Falco (Rob Fowler) and Sloane (Sharon Sexton), and how they came to be the couple represented on stage on the West End eight times a week. As with the previous two act version of the concert, the narrative is abandoned at some point in the second half, the backstory complete.
As there are to be no more performances of Vision of You (Sexton and Fowler have been cast in an international touring production of Mamma Mia!, which will keep them busy for the best part of a year), it is rather tempting to reveal something of the ‘secrets’ of the show, previously kept under wraps by attendees so the magic of discovering the story isn’t spoiled for those who have yet to see it. But no – I couldn’t have that on my conscience.
Eleven special guests joined Sexton and Fowler for this final show, a fitting spectacular send-off. It was critic-proof, really – I might, with my proverbial reviewer’s spectacles on, have moaned about how hammy some of the performances were. But to quote Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, and this was a cast (if that’s the right word for them) that was absolutely playing to the audience, who responded in kind with cheering, applause and multiple standing ovations.
My knowledge of chart music being as rudimentary as it is, I was more at home with Stuart Boother’s rendering of ‘Nessun Dorma’ than with some of the tunes that I, um, can’t name for neither love nor money. Performed by people the audience came to appreciate through Bat, whether ballad or belter (or something in between), it was all hugely enjoyable. At one point, Sexton bounded onto the stage, mobile phone in hand – Zahara (Danielle Steers) was on the phone from New York City, where another production of Bat was having its last performances on the same day as this concert. It was one of quite a few extraordinary moments.
Vision of You went from (in earlier concerts) having about eight bars, or even fewer, of ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ before it was ‘decided’ not to do it after all, presumably for lack of stage props (which included an on-stage car), to having three Falcos (Fowler, Tim Oxbrow and Stuart Boother), three Sloanes (Sexton, Hannah Ducharme and Jemma Alexander) and a Blake (Patrick Sullivan) go for it, radio commentary and all. But that was chaotic (and it was), a rendering of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ in the second half saw three Strats (Simon Gordon, Ben Purkiss and Barney Wilkinson) all trying to win over one Raven (Georgia Carling) – the narrative remained unchanged, ultimately, so she ran off leaving all three crying, “No!” which left the audience almost roaring with laughter.
Luna Mai, Rob Fowler’s daughter, took to the stage again (having done so previously at the Southwark Playhouse Vision of You), and we were also treated to the delightful vocals of Emma Mullen, who will play Sophie Sheridan in the Mamma Mia! tour that Sexton and Fowler are also in. Indicative of how small this world can be, Mullen is also Wilkinson’s real-life partner; she was, in effect, in the ‘Batfam’ long before she was properly introduced to us. And she was in a drama series broadcast on national television.
Sexton’s version of ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress was as compelling and emotionally charged as ever (without a scintilla of melodrama), and Gordon, Sullivan and Purkiss (otherwise known as ‘The Songsmiths’, having very recently formed a vocal harmony group) gave an enthusiastic rendering of the 1977 Fleetwood Mac tune ‘Go Your Own Way’, which wasn’t particularly successful as a single in the UK but has nonetheless receives fairly regular radio airplay to this day. The final section of the concert became something of a Bat extravaganza, though Sexton and Fowler’s new single, ‘My Love, My Life’ from the motion picture Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again also featured – and the crowd revelled once more to the likes of ‘For Crying Out Loud’, ‘What Part of My Body Hurts The Most?’ and ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’. On the piano, as ever, was Steve Corley, this time assisted by Nerys Richards on cello and John Gregson on guitar. An incredible, joyous and highly memorable experience: “Happy, happy, happy!"
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.