IT’S Monday afternoon in Manchester and Meat Loaf is in town.

A city centre watering hole has been commandeered for the launch of Bat Out of Hell: The Musical which will receive its world premiere at the Opera House in February.

Fans lucky enough to have got hold of a ticket, snake round the block hoping they will get to see their hero.

Meat Loaf won’t be in the musical but many of the songs are taken from the albums he recorded with writer and producer Jim Steinman and it would be unthinkable for anything Bat Out of Hell related for him not to be there - the first album alone sold 43 million copies around the world.

Tony Smith, who has managed both Genesis and Pink Floyd, is one of the show’s producers adding further to its musical credibility.

He said: “We decided that Manchester, given its music history, was THE place to open this show. It was a no brainer really to bring it here as a world premiere.”

From Manchester, the show will transfer to the London Coliseum where it will open in June.

Meat Loaf is introduced to the crowd to massive cheers. He’s clearly lost a lot of weight and is still recovering from emergency back surgery just over a month ago.

But he remains a force of nature.

When asked about how he feels about the musical becoming a reality he says: “For me it almost makes me cry,” he said.

“Jim has been my best friend and someone I have loved dearly for almost 42 years. This has been his dream for 50 years.”

He also revealed he’s lost none of his feistiness as he tells the crowd: “Anybody who has ever written that we had a falling out is wrong, that’s not true, it’s total c**p.”

The singer is quick to recognise the hold Bat Out of Hell has on fans and, as you might expect, has his own particular take on it.

“I’ve always said you can take Bat Out of Hell and once it has become part of you, just take a piece of white tape and cover up my name and write your own name there, it’s your album.”

Using some of Meat Loaf and Steinman’s most loved hits, the musical is a romantic adventure set in a post-cataclysmic city adrift from the mainland.

It will star Andrew Polec as Strat and Christina Bennington as Raven, the pair who become embroiled in an unlikely and dangerous love story and they and fellow cast members were on hand to run through three numbers from the show in front of fans.

Having been granted an audience with the Meat Loaf, I am taken to a nearby hotel and shown into a suite where he is sitting with Andrew, the show’s star.

Close-up he remains an intimidating presence with a steely gaze but you feeling that a sense of fun is also not too far away.

He takes a touching and almost paternal approach to his young protege.

Given Meat Loaf’s long association with Bat Out of Hell, the first record was released in 1977, he will always be indelibly linked to Bat Out of Hell.

“When Andrew goes on stage, I should never enter his brain,” said the 69-year-old singer. “That song needs to belong to him and he in turn needs to make it belong to the audience. That is what it’s all about.

“I’d give this advice to any singer and not just those on this musical. You hear on these singing shows on TV that you’ve got to feel the song.

“No, you don’t feel the song, you own the song. The songs become part of your soul You don’t feel the damn thing, you own it.

“It’s like when I’m doing a live show I’ve no idea what’s going on.

“I’ve taped every show since 1986 and I have no idea what happened during each show until I’ve listened to the tape because I’ve been so immersed in it.”

Jim Steinman always envisaged that Bat Out of Hell would become a musical one day and as opening night looms, Meat Loaf cannot hide his admiration for his friend.

“Bat Out of Hell is based on 50 years of work by Jim from the age of 19,” he said. “The first song he ever wrote was Who Needs the Young and it’s what we open my new album with. Braver Than We Are.

“If you read the lyrics of that song and think of yourself at the age of 19 trying to write something like that, that will tell you the genius of Jim Steinman.

“Every Jim Steinman song is alive. It’s not just pen on a piece of paper. It lives, it walks around, it haunts you and it’ll eat at your heart and soul.”

Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, Manchester Opera House, Friday, February 17 to Saturday, April 8. Details from 0844 871 3018