There's always gonna be some light

This post chronicles my trip to England in February 2017. The main purpose of my trip was to attend the opening of Jim Steinman's Bat out of Hell musical, although as you'll see I had a few other adventures as well.

All photos by Ben Miller unless otherwise noted.

I took an overnight flight from home (Raleigh, North Carolina, USA) and landed at London's Heathrow Airport around 7:00AM local time on Thursday, February 16. After going through customs and passport control, I boarded the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, where I bought an all-day London Underground pass. My first ride on the Tube was on the Bakerloo line to Baker Street, where I found the Sherlock Holmes Museum fittingly at address 221B.

I then checked into my hotel, the Ibis at Euston Station, to drop off my luggage and then ventured on to the British Library around the corner. My favorite part was the Treasure Room, which houses original manuscripts ranging from Michelangelo and da Vinci to Mozart and Beethoven to Austen and Dickens. It was absolute heaven for me as a lover of books, music, and history. Also of note is the King's Library, a collection of thousands of books collected by George III over 200 years ago.

From there I went next door to King's Cross Station to have my photo taken at "Platform 9¾" from the Harry Potter series. I had my choice of scarf color but there was no Sorting Hat so I had to sort myself - I chose Gryffindor.

Photo credit: The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4

Next I hopped on the LU's Piccadilly line to Earl's Court to see the TARDIS from Doctor Who. It's actually a working police box installed 20 years ago to increase security around the Tube station, but as a fan of the TV show I'll take what I can get.

Using a combination of Underground lines and a lot of walking, I spent the next couple hours on a whirlwind tour of Central London, stopping by such landmarks as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, London Bridge, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge. Along the way I stopped at Pizza Express in Piccadilly Circus for lunch and coffee. I only managed to polish off a couple slices while the skinny posh girl at the next table nonchalantly devoured an entire pizza and a Chocolate Glory sundae (Google it). I was so jealous.

I sat on the edge of the Thames until the sun went down and then took a few night photos on my way to dinner (pasta at Prezzo) and back to my hotel for some much-needed rest.

On the morning of Friday, February 17, I wandered around Euston Square looking for breakfast. I was intrigued by a sign boasting "New York style mac and cheese," so I popped into the Mac Factory. It had tasty food and friendly service, can't ask for more than that. After that I checked out of my hotel and boarded the noon train from Euston Station to Manchester. Upon arriving, I walked to the Manchester Art Gallery for a peek around.

I also took a quick stroll through Central Library, pausing to play the riff from "Bat out of Hell" on a piano in the Henry Watson music wing.

On my way to check into the Victoria & Albert Hotel, I stopped in front of the Manchester Opera House to see the beautiful "Bat out of Hell" signage. Suddenly it all became real - the show I'd been awaiting for 10 years, that Jim Steinman had been awaiting for 50 years, was finally coming to life this very night! Ahh!

I was very excited to attend two fan meet-ups before the show, first drinks at the Moon Under Water pub followed by dinner at Red Hot World Buffet, the only local place which could accommodate such a large group (about 50 people) without requiring a substantial deposit. Some of the fans I had met before, but many I hadn't so it was great to put faces to the names. It was a bit of a blur, but I was so happy to see so many of us in one place.

After dinner we all adjourned to the theatre where a film crew had set up to interview folks, although I didn't participate because I'm rather shy. Once I got inside I went to the merchandise table and bought a t-shirt, tote bag, and poster. On my way to my seat, I ran into Jim Steinman's long-time collaborator Barry Keating, who gave me a hug.

The show was incredible. It retained its basic Peter Pan-esque format from Steinman's The Dream Engine in 1969 and Neverland in 1977, but it's since been updated heavily. Baal and Wendy are now Strat and Raven, Max and Emily are now Falco and Sloane. The music, of course, consisted of the hits we know and love from the three Bat out of Hell albums with a couple new ones as well but make no mistake, this is not a jukebox musical. The story came first; in fact every one of these songs was originally written to be part of the story. And the staging! Wow, just wow. A massive multi-level masterpiece complete with skyscrapers, cliffs, motorcycles, cars, and even a lake with real water. And the cast! Every member perfectly chosen, every song a tour de force. I was in tears practically the whole time, but tears of joy of course.

After the show, a group of us fans walked down the block to the Albert Schloss beer hall, but it was Friday night and very very crowded.

So, we left fairly quickly to find another spot, and who should happen to walk by but Andrew Polec and Christina Bennington aka Strat and Raven! They were very kind and graciously signed autographs and took photos with each and every one of us. I got them to sign my program and poster, and took a selfie.

I was fairly exhausted after that, so I retired back to the hotel, enjoyed the free glass of Prosecco that came with my room, and went to bed.

On the morning of Saturday, February 18, I woke up and walked back to Manchester Piccadilly Station, where the Cadbury company was handing out free chocolate bars (delicious!), and boarded the noon train to Birmingham. It was much colder that day so I didn't get to do much exploring, but I did take a walk around the Bullring shopping center. I was surprised to find a Victorian church right next to it.

After dining on a gourmet cheeseburger at Browns Brasserie, I made my way to the O2 Institute to see Tegan and Sara, a Canadian indie pop duo I'd been wanting to see live for several years. It was a magnificent concert with songs spanning their entire career.

After the concert I was able to get about two hours of sleep at the Holiday Inn before I had to catch the 4:00AM bus back to London to catch my flight home to America. Thus ended my brief but eventful journey to England. I've been keeping up with other people's experiences at the Bat musical, feeling jealous of the ones who get to see it multiple times. Hopefully it will come to Broadway so I can see it again!


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