This is a show that was even less than a road-closer…an abortive composition that never even made it to an actual public stage. That said, it did get a recording, and an official one at that…like the rest of Jim Steinman’s demos, it was not a bootleg item, but an authorized release by the man himself on his own website. I plan to cover it here because it was announced for Broadway at one point, because it’s historically important, given that a much more successful superhero musical would appear at the end of the decade, and because the demo recording provides me with the resources I need to do so.
The truth is, judging from the demos, it’s not quite as bad as most people assumed it to be. Many people have wondered how anyone could possibly sign off on such a project, but I honestly think the general response was, “If anyone can do a Batman musical, Jim Steinman can”. And indeed, while the idea was still probably unfeasible for other reasons, Steinman’s score, or at least the portions he completed, has quite a bit to be said for it. Steinman’s dark, melodramatic, over-the-top composing style is about the most convincing match for the tone of the material they were likely to find, and he seemed to have a genuine feel for these archetypical characters, doing a surprisingly suitable job of establishing and capturing them in song.
Granted, there is one outright embarrassing number, the goofy ballad “Not Allowed To Love” for the Batman-Catwoman romance. However, the opening “Gotham City” sequence, including fragments of the songs “Angels Arise” (later incorporated into the Broadway version of Dance of the Vampires) and “Cry to Heaven”, is a marvelously atmospheric opening. And while it’s debatable if capturing Batman’s motivations in song is even possible, his establishing number here, “Graveyard Shift”, comes pretty damned close. “In the Land of the Pig, the Butcher is King” (later included on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell III album) is a suitably terrifying villain song, and “I Need All the Love I Can Get”, a reworking of the Steinman-penned Sisters Of Mercy hit “More”, is a fine Rock ballad, with a particularly ravishing intro verse.
Best of all is “Wonderful Toys”, a gloriously insane piece of violent randomness that is the perfect character number for an embodiment of destructive chaos like the Joker. And the planned climactic number of the show, “We’re Still the Children We Once Were”, while not exactly subtle in its emotionalism even by Jim Steinman standards, does provoke a pretty devastating emotional response, and its evocation of primal childhood fears seems appropriate for the story of Batman, a man who lost his parents when he was eight years old and never moved on from it.
The material in the demos, while still clearly flawed, demonstrates that there was more potential in the project than most people gave it credit for, and if Steinman and his collaborators hadn’t gotten discouraged by the negativity and given up the project, they might, just possibly, have found a way to make it work on stage. At any rate, this project, for all its numerous problems, was not the utter catastrophe that legend has made it out to be, and the completed portions of its prospective score have more merit and dramatic spark than anything found in its clearest successor in the field, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark.