In today’s theatrical world, screen to stage adaptations are two to a penny but that doesn’t stop a stage musical adaptation from being a big box office draw. After opening in Manchester in early 2020, ‘Back to the Future the musical’ came roaring into the West End last Autumn, transforming the Adelphi Theatre into Hill Valley.
Based on the 1985 film of the same name, Back to the future tells the story of Marty Mcfly (played here by Olly Dobson), who accidently finds himself sent back to the school days of his parents following an experiment with a time travelling car invented by his scientist friend Doc Brown (played at this performance by Mark Oxtoby). Finding himself the object of interest of many around him thanks to his fancy clothes and music taste and faced with the possibility of every decision he makes changing his own future forever, Marty must ensure that his parents George Mcfly (Hugh Coles) and Lorraine Baines (Rosanna Hyland) end up together so that everything is perfectly in place when he gets back to the future.
Olly Dobson’s Marty McFly fits the hero role perfectly, on stage for the vast majority of the show, it’s a marathon of a role and Dobson takes it all in his stride. Marty is a lovable troublemaker, more focused on music than school but under all of that show, he’s actually a soft soul who just wants his family to notice him more, to achieve his musician dreams, spend his future with his girlfriend Jennifer (Courtney-Mae Briggs) and for his father George to stop being such a pushover who still allows his old school bully Biff (Aiden Cutler) to boss him around. It’s really no surprise that Dobson has recently been nominated for an Olivier Award for this role, with him both playing tribute to Michael J Fox’s performance in the film and making the role entirely his own.
Also nominated for an Olivier Award, Hugh Coles received many a cheer on the night for his performance as George McFly, Marty’s geeky pushover father who spends his school days coming up with stories whilst trying his best to capture the attention of Lorraine and avoid the attention of Biff. His solo ‘My Myopia’ had the audience in stitches, as did his dance moves in his duet with Dobson’s Marty ‘Put Your Mind to It’. Coles proves himself both to be a natural comedian and a complete scene stealer throughout. Mark Oxtoby took on the iconic role of Doc Brown at the performance I attended, and he was a crowd pleasing delight throughout with his buzz of constant energy and pure excitement at everything that was happening around him.
Rosanna Hyland’s Lorraine Baines is yet another big role and impressed throughout. The character is lovable and cheeky, not afraid to talk back to the bullies and tell her friends all about the new boy who has captured her attention. Cedric Neal is also given his moment to shine as Goldie Wilson, impressing with his performance of ‘Gotta Start Somewhere’. The ensemble showcases immaculate dance skill, jumping in and out of various scenes and various characters in both the 1950’s reality Marty is having to face and the doctor’s many dream sequences as he fantasizes about all that he could achieve with his inventions.
The songs, by Alan Silvestri, are in the most part fun and catchy, with stand outs including ‘Future Boy’, ‘Something About The Boy’, ‘Put Your Mind To It’ and ‘For The Dreamers’. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel that some of the musical numbers felt a little bit unnecessary. Two of the Doc’s numbers ‘It Works’ and ‘21ST Century’, whilst fun, catchy and full of energy and science fiction comedy, don’t actually do much to move the story along, instead feeling as if they have been included simply to add further comedy and to give Doc a little bit more stage time. Musical numbers that fail to move the story along don’t help the production, as with a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, the whole show does feel as if it runs for maybe 20 minutes too long with some of the younger members of the audience getting a little bit fidgeting towards the end.
Over the years, screen to stage adaptations have become increasingly ambitious, and Back to the Future might just be the most ambitious of the lot. The auditorium has been transformed into a sci fi dream, a blur of blue lights in the stalls that bring the stage into the audience with the lights being used throughout the performance. Of course, to anyone who has seen the film, you can easily guess what prop becomes a star of the show in its own right. The famous DeLorean, of course. The special effects used to create the scenes with this iconic car are simply incredible, and I don’t want to give too much away but you will find yourself completely drawn into the wonder of it all as the car takes centre stage, not to mention the finale. This production is a sight to behold, with the creative team pushing what is possible to do on stage to the extreme, with bigger sets, bigger props and lighting and sound effects that truly bring the story to life.
The audience was clearly full of fans of the movie, with many delighting at just how well the show is cast in relation to the film. Not only does the whole production and the cast look like the film come to life but the performers are able to brilliantly balance playing homage to the original film character renditions with making the characters their own.
Overall, Back to the Future is perhaps a sign of the future coming to the west end. A fresh, slick production crammed full of the very best of modern technology. Whilst the story may be set in the 80’s and the 50’s, the show feels new and is unlike anything else currently playing on a London Stage. Whilst many audience members may have been fans of the film, I would say that you don’t have to had seen it to be able to enjoy the stage version, you could go in fresh and open minded and still have a wonderful experience.
You can buy tickets to Back to the Future here https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/back-to-the-future-tickets
Images found via Google, not my own