Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL, Adelphi Theatre

pixeltracker

A musical version of the iconic film shows the car is still the star

Back to the Future: The Musical

Back to the Future: The MusicalSince its release in 1985 Back to the Future has been an iconic film. It made a star out of Michael J Fox and catapulted Huey Lewis' "The Power of Love" into a worldwide hit. Despite repeated pressure and two sequels, creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale always refused to make a reboot of the original film, but the thought of a musical as a new medium to tell the story has proved irresistible.

The original film is so beloved that any remake carries a great weight of expectation, but the signs were good with some very positive reviews from the short run that show had at the Manchester Opera House before Covid reared its ugly head. This West End transfer has been hit by shutdowns and illness but is now enthralling audiences again.

The show sticks to the original plot where teenager Marty McFly finds himself unintentionally transported back 30 years to 1955 by his friend, the eccentric scientist Doc Brown. While trying to get back to the future, he becomes embroiled in a love triangle with his future parents and must make sure they meet and fall in love, to stop his own extinction.

Many audience members will want and expect to watch a direct imitation of the film and it is a tricky decision whether the cast imitate or innovate. As it stands, much of the show feels like a tribute act, albeit a very high quality one, rather than creating new angles to most of the characters.

Olly Dobson must have spent hours studying the original film as it is often hard to tell him apart from Michael J Fox's performance as Marty McFly; cheeky, likeable and very entertaining.

Hugh Coles' George is brilliantly spineless and really gains the audience's sympathy as he grows in confidence against Aidan Cutler's menacing Biff. Rosanna Hyland's Lorraine is sweet, awkward and very funny in her clumsy attempts to seduce her own son. She also has a lovely singing voice. However, all three feel like they are creating copies of the film's characters, rather than bringing their own slant to the roles.

Only Roger Bart creates his very own quirkiness and eccentricity in the role of Doc. He is less serious than Christopher Lloyd's original Doc, energetically bounding around the stage, occasionally breaking the fourth wall with wry comments and witty asides. The friendship between him and Marty is also genuinely touching.

A few things are different. Doc Brown's trusty dog Einstein is absent, as are the dastardly Libyan terrorists and the assault on Lorraine by the school bully is toned down somewhat. There are also some witty asides about the year 2020 being free of war and disease, with a few predictable jokes about kale.

The show looks incredibly eye-catching. Tim Hatley's set designs are detailed and well-considered; the elements of the 1950s are captured beautifully with a mint green diner and a gym-ballroom where glitterballs dance light around the theatre.

The period costumes, hair and makeup are also excellent, with very familiar touches such as Marty's faithful padded gilet and Jennifer's denim jacket, rolled up at the sleeves.

But how on earth do you show a car speeding at 88mph in a theatre? Surely this must have presented the biggest challenge to the production team, especially as the famous DeLorean is so intrinsic to the story. The results are visually nothing short of spectacular; Finn Ross' video projections combined with Tim Lutkins' lighting and illuminations creates an illusion of speed and movement so the car really does appear to speed off into the back of the theatre. The clock-tower scene, set in the infamous storm, is also suitably spectacular.

Musically is where the show weakens. About half the songs feel like fillers; familiar hits from the film such as "Johnny B. Goode", "Earth Angel" and "The Power of Love" thankfully remain, but many are colourless and forgettable. Doc's songs are often the strongest with the catchy "It Works" celebrating his invention and the nostalgic "For The Dreamers". Cedric Neal, who plays both Marvin Berry and Goldie Wilson, is the standout singer with impressive and honeyed vocals.

Whether the show becomes a musical stalwart remains to be seen, but overall the show is a visual feast, great fun and provides a warm and fuzzy hit of nostalgia.

Back To The Future: The Musical is now booking at the Adelphi Theatre until 3 July 2022

Photo Credit: Sean Ebsworth Barnes


Related Articles

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan