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Review: Back To The Future - Manchester Opera House

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads. Mainly because we are all locked inside our houses and can't go anywhere but in February the world was a different place. You didn't need to queue to buy a packet of loo roll at Tesco, you could still go out for a late night hookup and most importantly, the theatres were still open and thriving. Back To The Future opened in Manchester on February 20th 2020 at the start of what was expected to be a 3 month run. Unfortunately, that got cut short due to the pandemic so i t only lasted 3 weeks in Manchester. I was lucky enough to see it in that time and here is what I thought of it:

Movies being adapted into musicals are ten a penny at the moment. Last year saw BIG open to a collective shrug from theatre-goers. Mrs Doubtfire recently opened on Broadway, an adaptation of Sleepless in Seattle simply called Sleepless was due to open in London last month, and My Best Friends Wedding is due later this year. So how do you make your show stand out when there is so much competition around? It had better be pretty special! First impressions count and boy does this show make a good first impression. From the way the merchandise stand is decked out to look like the Enchantment Under The Sea dance to the amazing stage as you walk in to the theatre. This is one of the most loved films of all time so pleasing its die hard fans and making a show that holds up to its legacy was always going to be a big ask. So far, so good. The casting for the show was spot on. Olly Dobson channels a young Michael J Fox to deliver an incredible Marty McFly. Not only do a lot of the cast look like the characters we know and love from the movies, they have the mannerisms down to a fine art. Special mention has to go to Hugh Coles who isn't so much doing an impression of George McFly but for all intents and purposes IS George McFly. Then we have to talk about Roger Bart. Best known on these shores as George the Pharmacist in Desperate Housewives, he has the toughest job of all matching Christopher Lloyd in the movie but he certainly delivers with comic timing, style and stage presence. Another standout is the always reliable Cedric Neal who has a scene stealing moment and a standout song as Mayor Goldie Wilson.

The story plays out on stage as true to the film we all know and love, aside from a couple of tweaks. There is always going to be that creepy undertone of the relationship Marty has with his mother in the past but try not to dwell on that too much. The biggest strength Back To The Future has for it is its visual effects. It really is a feast for the eyes from the moment the Delorean magically appears on stage to the hugely satisfying flying car sequence at the end. As a grown man who has seen a lot of cool stunts in the theatre, I'm not ashamed to say my jaw fell open in places. This show changes the limits of what you can achieve on the stage and it really paid off. By no means is this a flawless show. For a musical, the music is far too inconsistent. Apart from the well known songs from the movie that make up the last 20 minutes of the show, the original songs don't quite hold up and could definitely use a bit of tweaking ahead of any future outing for the show. That really is the only niggle I have over what is otherwise a truly remarkable show. It really is a shame its run got cut short. After being in development for so long, this incarnation deserved to thrive. The plan was to take it to the West end in the near future but due to the uncertainty of the climate right now, that may be on the back burner for a while. Hopefully this isn't the last we see of this musical as I can see it being a big hit if it does land in London. ★★★★★ Final thought - If Bree knew what a beautiful singing voice Roger Bart had, maybe she wouldn't have let him die in Desperate Housewives.


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