Back to the Future The Musical – review

Image above: Back to the Future: The Musical, at the Adelphi Theatre

Review by Tim Hiley

Great Scott! The Adelphi Theatre has fired up the DeLorean and is taking the audience back to the 1985 classic film Back to the Future, as a musical stage production.

It follows the adventures of Marty McFly, a streetwise, high school kid with dreams of being a rockstar, and Doctor Emmett Brown, a seemingly crazy mad scientist who has invented time travel inside a stainless-steel DeLorean car.

Image above: Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical; photograph Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Well, as Doc Brown says, “if you’re going to build a time machine out of a car, you might as well do it with style!”

Of course, anything to do with time travel is fraught with the possibility of catastrophic error, and sure enough, during a test run, Marty ends up back in 1955.

Image above: Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical; photograph Sean Ebsworth Barnes

What’s the worst that could happen?

What is the cardinal rule of time travel? Every self-respecting time traveller knows they must not alter the path of history.

So what does he do?

He alters the course of history. And after causing his mother to not meet his father, he now has to find a younger Doc Brown, still near the beginning of his scientific career, in order to get back to 1985.

The story is ridiculously silly, which is the joy of it, and like Christopher Lloyd and Michael J Fox in the cult classic, Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly ramp up the silliness to make a thoroughly enjoyable night of nostalgia.

Image above: Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical; photograph Sean Ebsworth Barnes

While the musical deviates from the film in places, it is mostly a faithful recreation of the movie. The audience reacted with glee whenever their favourite lines or scenes from the film were recreated on the stage.

The experience created by the production team is outstanding. Without spoiling the effect, the way the DeLorean travels through time not only defies the logic of the space time continuum but also defies the logic of staging practicalities, and it leaves the audience breathless with excitement and wonder.

It truly feels as if you have travelled back to 1955; full credit to the incredible production team, especially video designer Finn Ross, lighting designer Tim Lutkin, illusion designer Chris Fisher, designer Tim Hatley and associate set designer Ross Edwards. They have created a spectacle unlike anything musical theatre has seen before.

Of course, just as iconic as the time travelling car, are the classic characters from the movie. Legendary West End and Broadway star, Roger Bart had the daunting task of taking on Doc Brown, after Christopher Lloyd’s beloved and celebrated portrayal in the original trilogy of films. Bart doesn’t try and replicate the original, but instead puts his own spin on the character.

All the mannerisms and catchphrases are still there, but the character is more layered than the original. It explores more closely the relationship between him and Marty and, while he is initially more crochety, the story is more satisfying for having a more nuanced Doc Brown.

Images above: Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical; photographs Sean Ebsworth Barnes

The other half of the duo, Marty McFly, is played masterfully by Olly Dobson who embodies Michael J Fox’s mannerisms and characterisations so accurately that if you squint, you could almost believe he was the original.

They are supported by good performances by a stellar cast but the songs were a bit more hit and miss. Apart from The Power of Love and Johnny B Goode from the original film, most of the music has been newly written for the musical, but the songs don’t stick in the mind in the way that the catchphrases do.

Images above: Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and the cast of Back to the Future The Musical; photographs Sean Ebsworth Barnes

It doesn’t have a stand-out ironic, hummable song like One Day More from Les Miserables, Defying Gravity from Wicked or You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen, which stay in the memory.

However, that’s not what this musical is necessarily about. It’s about iconic characters, witty lines, incredible staging and an off the wall plot that brings audiences to their feet.

Back to the Future: The Musical is running at the Adelphi Theatre and is now booking through to 3rd July 2022

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See also: Aladdin at the Lyric – review

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