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Review of Back to the Future The Musical at Manchester Opera House

Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes.
Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes.

There are a good number of actor-musicians out there (some musical theatre courses have for many years now insisted on their students learning an instrument as part of their studies), so it’s a more than a tad disappointing to see people on stage holding, say, a guitar in position, with their fingers shuffling about, but evidently not actually playing it. It’s indicative, I suppose, of a division of labour – the band below the stage (‘band’ being the word used for the 14-strong team of musicians in the show’s programme, rather than ‘orchestra’) plays the instruments, and nobody else.

I couldn’t help feeling it is only natural to have reservations about Back To The Future The Musical – a highly successful film trilogy put on stage with song and dance numbers. Fake guitaring aside, I may as well say at this point that it is worth checking out. Time flew by, so to speak. Fans of the first movie, from which the material in this show is derived, will find quite a lot to be the same, and also quite a lot of differences. The production has, for instance, paid attention to the old adage about not working with children and/or animals, so Doc Brown’s (Roger Bart) trusty dog Einstein has been written out, for instance.

While what was achieved with a car in Bat Out of Hell The Musical was impressive, Back To The Future The Musical has achieved something far greater with a DeLorean. With the aid of video projections (Finn Ross – whose previous credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: if you’ve seen that, you’ll know how impressive that production is) and the kind of technology deployed in the stage adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin to make the ‘flying carpet’ fly, the DeLorean does pretty much everything it does in the film.

Twenty musical numbers are to be enjoyed throughout the evening, many of which are standard (if highly enjoyable nonetheless) feelgood musical theatre fare, with Marty McFly (a suitably engaging Olly Dobson who even matches the lower than average height of Michael J Fox) making digs at his parents in the way in which (some) teenagers do, particularly in ‘Hello – Is Anybody Home’. And of course, ‘The Power of Love’, made famous by Huey Lewis and the News, makes an appearance, as does ‘Johnny B. Goode’.

The set is incredibly detailed from start to finish. At the performance I attended, Doc’s laboratory received a round of applause as soon as the curtain rose on it – if there’s any disappointment to be found in this production it’s that the staging leaves very little, if anything at all, to the imagination.

George McFly (Hugh Coles), possesses a huge stage presence, all the more remarkable given that this is one of the meeker characters, belittled and knocked about by school bully Biff Tannen (a convincingly menacing Aidan Cutler) and his chums. George’s unease and vulnerability are palpable as he prepares to ask Lorraine Baines (Rosanna Hyland) to a school dance.

The manner in which the Doc climbs up to a clock tower in a late scene had me in stitches (for all the right reasons), while the costumes throughout the show fit whatever time period the narrative is in at any given point. And this isn’t the kind of production to get frustrated about with regards to not being in chronological order – it’s about time travel! It’s not quite 1.21 gigawatts (if you know, you know) of theatrical power, but this is an ambitious and delightful production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Great Scott! We’re sending you Back to the Future… The Musical! Turn your flux capacitor on and get ready for 1.21 gigawatts of excitement.

Why go and see it?
This much-anticipated world premiere by the creators of the film promises to thrill musical theatregoers with new and the film’s songs, incredible choreography and blow your mind special effects.
I came here in a time machine that you invented…

The 1985 movie and pop culture phenomenon that everyone has the hots for is transported to the stage by creators of the original film, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. You know that new sound you’re looking for? Well, listen to this!

The combined eight-time Grammy Award-winning pairing of Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard will send you on an electrifying ride through time with an all-new score alongside the movie’s iconic hits, including The Power of Love, Johnny B Goode, Earth Angel and Back in Time. Call your cousin! When this baby hits 88mph, you’re gonna see some serious… entertainment.

Strap yourself in for a thrilling musical adventure directed by Tony Award-winning John Rando alongside the multi Tony and Olivier Award-winning design team of Tim Hatley (design), Hugh Vanstone and Tim Lutkin (lighting) and Finn Ross (video) with choreography by Chris Bailey and illusions by Chris Fisher. Time circuits on.

Set your destination to the Manchester Opera House, 2020 and make a date with history – your future depends on it.

BACK TO THE FUTURE, The Musical will open at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End. Previews will begin on 14th May 2021.

Roger Bart and Olly Dobson will reprise the roles of ‘Dr Emmett Brown’ and ‘Marty McFly’ respectively. Also returning are Hugh Coles as ‘George McFly’, Rosanna Hyland as ‘Lorraine Baines’, Cedric Neal as ‘Goldie Wilson’, Aidan Cutler as ‘Biff Tannen’ and Courtney-Mae Briggs as ‘Jennifer Parker’. Further casting to be announced.

BOOK TICKETS HERE

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