This week, the belated West End transfer of Back To The Future: The Musical was announced, giving the theatre world a much needed boost of positivity and something to look forward to in 2021 (only 3 more months to go before this ridiculous year is over!).
Ticket sales have already been strong but if you're on the fence about seeing this show or just reluctant to buy tickets in such an uncertain climate, I'm here to give you five reasons why you NEED to see this show next year.
I was lucky enough to see this show when it premiered in Manchester in February and I can categorically tell you this show is Great, Scott! (I'm assuming your name is Scott. If it's not, just insert your own name here). In this post there will be a bit from the show itself but I'll try and keep it as spoiler free as possible.
So let's go back to the future... Namely, May 14th 2021:
1. THE NOSTALGIA
Back To The Future is such a well loved film, and one of those rare film series' where the sequels actually add to the story and don't ruin the films. Focusing on the first film, it has to be one of the most well loved films of all time, evoking memories in everybody old enough to remember when it came out in the cinema in 1985, rented it when it came out on video from Blockbuster (The 80s equivalent of Netflix, ask your parents) or watched it on TV in the many, many times it has been shown in the 35 years since.
With any musical film adaptation, you always wonder can it possibly live up to the movie or will it destroy its legacy? For every well received musical adaptation like Beetlejuice or Mean Girls (both of which will hopefully transfer to the West end soon) there are some absolute stinkers (mentioning no names, BIG). I'm pleased to say Back To The Future fits into the former, keeping all of the best elements we all know and love from the movie, bringing it up to date in places (while keeping the action in the 80s, don't worry. You won't see Marty travelling to 2020... for good reason) and tweaking the story ever so slightly where action won't allow to recreate the movie. For example, the iconic skateboard chase scene changes to a different kind of chase but is still an absolute joy to observe.
I watched the reactions of some of the audience members when I saw the show in Manchester - seeing these iconic characters and story come to life on stage reduced people to tears - tears in the good way, not tears in the shape of "What is this travesty?" It was easy to see why - as musical adaptations of movies go, this sets the benchmark for how it should be done. Yes, essentially this is still a story that is partly about a boy going back in time and his mother falling in love with him, but we've all seen creepier things in the theatre, right?
2. THE MARKETING
I appreciate a good marketing campaign in theatre and Back To The Future have done no wrong. It's the little things like the tagline of "It's time to change musical theatre history" which is one up from the cringeworthy tagline of the show it is replacing at the Adelphi Theatre - "She's had enough of this shift" to promote Waitress made me want to shove my face inside a scorching hot pie. Speaking of the Adelphi, the day the show was announced, the shutters at the front of the theatre were painted to feature this:
If theatres are going to be closed for a while longer, at least things like that can excite passers by for the future.
The general promotion since the West end transfer was first announced has been world class, with the actors playing Marty McFly and his girlfriend Jennifer appearing in Trafalgar Square in a DeLorean.
With the famous car outside the Manchester Opera House during Press Night in March, it is exciting to ponder what else they have in store ahead of the show opening in London next year.
3. THE CASTING
How do you take such famous movie characters and bring them to life on stage in a way that does the original justice? With ease, apparently. Olly Dobson plays Marty McFly, channelling a young Michael J.Fox, Hugh Coles plays his father George, exhibiting all the characteristics that made the role famous in the movie. The first time George laughed, reactions in the audience varied from gasping in shock, grinning from ear to ear and laughing along with him. When you see the show, you'll know exactly what I mean.
Then there is the icon that is Dr. Emmett Brown. Christopher Lloyd's portrayal of that character in the film series is imprinted on the mind of everybody who has seen it. It is near impossible to separate the actor from the character so how can anybody step into those massive shoes? Step forward, Roger Bart.
A seasoned actor, some of Roger Bart's most famous roles include George the Pharmacist in Desperate Housewives and the singing voice of Hercules in the Disney movie. Within seconds of appearing on stage, you become blown away with his interpretation of the character, which is as perfect a performance as you can get.
While most of the characterisations are great tributes to the stars who made the original roles famous, at no point do you ever feel you're watching somebody do an impression of another actor. Instead, you truly believe you are watching that character live on the stage as each actor embodies the role perfectly.
The cast is full of some of the most talented people you will ever see on a West end stage. One of the star turns of the night comes from Cedric Neal as Mayor Goldie Wilson, while Rosanna Hyland as Marty's mum Lorraine, Courtney Mae-Briggs as girlfriend Jennifer and Aidan Cutler as bully Biff are also three standouts from the show.
4. THE SONGS
The film features a smattering of famous songs such as 'Earth Angel', the classic 'The Power Of Love' and who could ever forget Marty McFly's 'Johnny B. Goode'? All are present in the musical adaptation. The rest of the show consists of new songs written by Alan Silverstri and Glen Ballard, with some absolute stunners among them including 'For The Dreamers' sung by Doc and anbsolute showstopper 'Gotta Start Somewhere' sung by Cedric Neal's Goldie.
The cast got together virtually for a performance of 'The Power Of Love' while the country was on lockdown, and here is the result:
5. THE STAGING
The jewel in the crown of this show is the production value. The moment you take your seat you are blown away by the set. I can only speak for how it was in Manchester but, assuming it will be the same in London, prepare to be seriously impressed. This was the first thing you see in the theatre - a high tech looking curtain which eventually reveals the stage.
I don't want to give too much away as there are some incredible moments in the show. I may have gone to the theatre a lot in my time but my jaw was on the floor at certain moments, including the moment the DeLorean first suddenly appears on stage out of nowhere, to the glorious ending. This is the kind of show where you'd love to see the DeLorean fly over the audience. I said this post would be spoiler free so I'm saying nothing... except wow!
Even the bits which are trickier to stage compared to the movie such as the car crashing into a barn are done in such a genius manner involving video screens. And you will never smile more in the theatre than the sight of Roger Bart running up a massive flight of stairs!
Let's be clear about one thing - this is a BIG show, and the staging does not let it down. Technically it's a work of genius and will leave you feeling like a kid again!
I really can't stress enough just what a remarkable piece of theatre this show is. I feel very lucky that I got to see it earlier this year, considering it only lasted 3 weeks in Manchester. My full review from that show can be found here.
Back To The Future is currently only booking from May until September next year but this is a show I would expect to extend multiple times and enjoy a lengthy run in the West end and an eventual Broadway transfer.
With tickets starting at just £19.55, this is a show you really can't miss. Book your tickets yesterday from https://www.backtothefuturemusical.com/