Theatre is back and thankfully is showing no signs of going away again. Tonight saw one of the most highly anticipated new musicals of 2021 debut in the West End with Back To The Future enjoying its first preview. I was there loving every minute. While I won't be reviewing the show until press night next month, I'll be posting a few general things about the show and a lot of pictures. There may be slight spoilers in the pics but I promise I won't give away any of the magic and surprises you need to see for yourself to believe.
One of the most beloved film franchises of all time, a musical adaptation of Back To The Future had been in the works for a long time when it finally made its debut in Manchester early last year. The run had to be cut short though due to the pandemic, meaning the show only played for 3 weeks before stopping. Was this going to jeapordise the West End transfer that had already been mentioned? Thankfully not.
After being announced to open at the Adelphi Theatre in May this year, it only had to change its date once (which is a lot less than most shows) moving the opening night to August 20th 2021. The majority of the cast from Manchester returned to the roles for the West End run.
I will talk more about the cast when I write my review next month but it's fair to say they are all absolutely exceptional. It is hard to step into roles so iconic but Roger Bart and Olly Dobson are phenomenal in the lead roles - with a scene stealing turn from Hugh Coles capturing all of George McFly's manneurisms perfectly and doubtlessly ensuring him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the next Oliviers.
You got the idea something special was going to happen decoration wise when the shutters for the theatre were revealed to have a Delorean painted on. It turns out this was only the start of what they had planned.
The Adelphi theatre has been completely transformed from when Waitress last performed 17 months ago. Gone are the smell of fresh pies and in comes a renovation of the foyer that transports you into 1950s America. The level of detail is astounding and creates an immersive feel that is reminiscent of secret cinema.
My favourite detail is the old school cinema feel above the entrance to the stalls. A very clever touch.
The merchandise is pretty fabulous too. Decked out like an old shop is another inspired touch. I obviously spent far too much but how could I not when it's all so fabulous?
Please note I have been instructed by the Adelphi staff to spread the word that they are not selling programmes, but instead "Brogrammes" which are a hybrid of a brochure and a programme. Please use the correct term or Biff will get you.
The second you walk into the theatre, you know you are in for something special as the elaborate stage greets you in all its spendour. With lights pulsing out into the audience, it really is a beautiful sight to behold. I remember gasping the moment I first saw it in Manchester but they have upped the ante for the Londn production, ensuring it is bigger and better than ever:
A nice reference to the last performance it played last year:
The audience went all out for this first performance, some appearing in brilliant outfits inspired by their favourite characters from the movies:
While perhaps the overzealous first night crowd heckled the cast too much (There really was no need to shout "WE KNOW IT" referring to a speech abouit 'Johnny B Goode') the atmosphere was palpable, giving way to more applauses mid-speeches than I have ever seen before - most due to a brilliant bit of staging or a manneurism mimicking such loved characters.
On to the show itself - I'm not going to say too much but there are some surprises on that stage (and in the theatre itself) that will blow you away. It really has the best staging I have ever seen in all my years of theatregoing and is the best show visually by a mile. It doesn't matter your age, you will feel like a child again witnessing that magic come alive.
First previews can always give way to some unique moments and tonight featured a rather brilliant one when Roger Bart playing Doc couldn't find a prop that was crucial to the scene. Cue a lot of frantic searching around the stage before a stagehand ran on to show him where it was. Roger handled it like the pro he is with some absolutely hilarious ad-libbed lines.
Pictures are allowed for the curtain call so here are a few I took of the phenomenal cast:
The McFly zone at the front comes with a warning that it is extra loud as it next to some massive speakers. I'm here to tell you that I still have my hearing in tact so don't be put off sitting close to the action - although you may be better off a bit further back to see all the glory of the stage. It is a fairly high stage so you may miss some moments at the back of the stage in the front row.
Without spoiling the outcome of my review next month, it is clear to anyone with a pulse that this show is something incredibly special. Back To The Future is a spectacle and is the big show the West End was crying out for. I fully expect this show to stick around in the West End for a very long time. My advice? Get yourself a ticket now before reviews come out and the shows start selling out in advance.
Tickets available from lwtheatres.com