One of the most loved film trilogies ever, the time travelling adventures of Marty McFly have captured the imaginations of successive generations ever since the first film was released in 1985. Its popular appeal can now be seen every night on The Strand, as T-shirt wearing devotees make their way to the Adelphi Theatre for the London premiere of Back to the Future: The Musical.
The show had an out of town run in Manchester, which was cut short as a result of the pandemic. But that doesn’t seem to have deterred producers, who almost immediately announced the London transfer. Fans have had a long wait, but it seems that the 1.21 gigawatts of praise the show garnered in Manchester was well deserved.
Never before has a screen to stage adaptation been so faithful to the original, perhaps because original co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, lead the creative team. The stage show, and indeed the cast, resemble the film so much that for large chunks of Back to the Future: The Musical it feels like we’ve all discovered a flux capacitor and ended up on the Universal Studios back-lot, circa 1984.
A big part of that is down to the cast, for a second it looked like Hugh Coles might get a standing ovation just for delivering his first line as George McFly. But the reincarnation of the movies original characters doesn’t stop there, with Rossana Hyland’s Lorraine coming eerily close to Lea Thompson’s performance.
Neither are we disappointed by the two main protagonists. Those concerned that Back to the Future couldn’t work without Michael J Fox need not be worried; Olly Dobson honours Fox’s Marty McFly, while putting a slight twist on the character. Dobson and Roger Bart, as Doc Brown, bounce off of each other with tremendous energy, giving this iconic duo a brand new lease of life.
One can become so engrossed in the similarities to the film that you forget that this is actually a musical; with each song jolting us (sometimes begrudgingly) back to the present day. The songs are pretty good, but you’re unlikely to go home humming any of them, except ‘The Power of Love’ which of course featured in the original.
In the few scenes, and character changes, in which the musical strays from the film’s trajectory, Back to the Future The Musical drops down a gear, but director John Rando always seems to recover it again quickly, as another well-loved quote or scene builds the audience up in to a new frenzy.
Where this show really does get its calculations right is in the visual effects. The combination of automation, lighting, video, and the all-important DeLorean is truly spectacular, leaving the audience feeling like kids on their first trip to Disneyland. How they make a time travelling car speed at 88 miles per hour on a cramped stage has to be seen to be believed. Add that emblematic theme tune played live over the top of it all, and even a casual fan will find themselves getting quite emotional.
With all its special effects, Back to the Future: The Musical achieves something incredible; it’s not just like watching a Hollywood movie, it’s like being in a Hollywood movie. And while the new songs might not add a great deal, this is a production that has clearly thought ‘if you’re going to bring a movie into a West End theatre, why not do it with some style?’