Bat Out Of Hell: How star of Meatloaf musical didn't give up on her dream, despite anxiety attacks

Kellie Gnauck singing on stage
Bat Out Of Hell performer Kellie Gnauck. Photo credit: Chris Davis studio

Bat Out Of Hell star Kellie Gnauck says she kept auditioning for the Meatloaf-inspired rock musical for years until she finally got the role she wanted.

The British dancer and presenter has had an illustrious career performing in renowned musicals including the likes of Cinderella, School of Rock and Peter Pan. She also appeared in Aussie director Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby as a dancer.

But it's the role of Raven that remains dearest to this 31-year-old performer.

Gnauck, who's in Auckland ahead of two special performances of the show at Spark Arena on Sunday, told Newshub it took patience and perseverance to snag the part of lead Raven.

According to the show's synopsis, Bat Out Of Hell is a rebellious tale: "The story of the Lost Boys and Girls who flee into the tunnels below the city from its ruler Falco. When his teenage daughter Raven locks eyes with fearless leader of the Lost, the immortal Strat, the immensity of their love-at-first-sight-obsessions threaten to destroy both of their families."

It's a show Gnauck has long wanted to be a part of.

"I originally auditioned at the open calls about six years ago. I made it to the finals after nine rounds, however didn't end up getting an offer," she told Newshub.

"Five years later I auditioned again and was offered the role of Valkyrie / 1st cover Raven. I was lucky enough to get quite a few performances as Raven so when the role later became available, the team had seen me in the role already and were happy with my performance."

Gnauck has toured the world with the show and has expectations of what the New Zealand audience will deliver compared to its international bedfellows.

"Some of my favourite audiences were in Scotland and Glasgow, they just go wild for the show and give back so much energy - I've got high hopes!"

It's not just about the thrill of being on stage, with Gnauck confessing she still gets starstruck during the show - she's hoping that an Aussie legend will pay them a visit while they're on their Australasian tour.

'Total Eclipse of the Heart' singer Bonnie Tyler dropped by the show in December 2022 while it was touring in Wales and Gnauck said it "was honestly amazing, she's a legend in the rock world. I'm such a fan of Bonnie and I'm sure I can speak for the rest of the cast when I say they are too. She came on stage with us after the show and spoke to us all about working with Jim Steinman and we all got hugs and photos etc. It was such a special thing to have on our opening night.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't keeping everything crossed that John Farnham might come and visit us when we are in Australia. That would be the ultimate bucket list moment for me."

A scene from Bat Out Of Hell.
A scene from Bat Out Of Hell. Photo credit: Chris Davis studio

Bat Out Of Hell incorporates music from Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf's Greatest Hits, and while the 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad' singer's music may not be everyone's cup of tea, the Raven actress says that shouldn't put people off coming to see the show.

"Bat Out of Hell is an experience on the grandest scale. The first time I saw it I had no idea what I was in for and I left having had the best night. I think being a fan of the music is obviously a massive pull for our audiences, but there really is something for everyone in the show, young or old, fan or not. 

"Expect energy, expect fire, expect very loud anthems and most of all expect to leave singing at the top of your lungs all the way home," she said.

However, despite winning her dream role and travelling the world with the show, it's not been all highs for Gnauck. 

She revealed online in October she'd been suffering from anxiety attacks in an online post that laid bare the problems she'd been facing away from the glare of the stage.

"The past six months for me have been (with the risk of sounding dramatic) some of the hardest in my life," she wrote before revealing she'd "been struggling in a way that I (naively) never thought I would".

Gnauck says she's tried to maintain a positive outlook while managing to get help to tackle the problem, but she told Newshub opening up about her mental health helped greatly.

"As soon as I was able to let go of that and almost just embrace and accept that it was something that was happening, I was able to feel more confidence around it. Obviously there's a lot more to it than that and it's something I still work on every single day with yoga, meditation, and journaling, but I'm in such a better place now than I was six months ago," she said.

"For me, my anxiety doesn't come from performance or being on stage so mostly I was fine when I was physically doing the show, it was more when I came off stage that I would struggle. 

"A big problem - and anyone who's struggled with panic attacks will know this - was every attack was like running a small marathon. So having anywhere from one to four of those a day was leaving me exhausted trying to get through the shows. It's definitely a process that I'm sure has no definite end date, but the more open I've been about it the better I've felt and it's been amazing to hear from so many other people who've had similar struggles. It just makes it all feel far less big."

Gnauck also confesses to suffering momentary memory losses on stage in the heat of the performance.

"It's one of the most terrifying feelings you can have on stage. My stomach drops but muscle memory is a wonderful thing and luckily it always comes back just in time!"

When asked what will surprise the audience the most about the show, Gnauck is quick to answer.

"Always the fire jets! They give off so much heat and I don't think people are ever expecting it."

However, while she'd do anything to ensure audiences come and see the show, when it comes to revealing onstage secrets - she won't do that.

"Secrets? You'll have to come to the show to find out!" she laughed.

Bat Out Of Hell plays Auckland's Spark Arena for two shows on Sunday, January 22, 2023.