Music and Lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard; book by Bob Gale
Opera House Manchester
20 February - 17 May, 2020
Manchester theatregoers have long been in the privileged position of getting big new shows first, and following hot on the heels of recent smash premiere &Juliet comes the launch of the long-in-the-planning Back to the Future the musical. The show brings to life the hit film from 1985, which starred Michael J Fox as the high school kid who unwittingly put his existence at risk when he was sent back to the 1950s by his zany inventor friend Emmett 'Doc' Brown – and accidentally interrupted his parents’ meeting. With a creative team that includes the writer of the film, Bob Gale, and composer of the iconic score Alan Silvestri, the show is now following the footsteps of so many other screen-to-stage productions. It’s a show that seems to throw up more questions than usual – especially for devoted fans of the film. How will they do the car, the costumes, the characters? The answer is, for the most part, very successfully. Directed by John Rando, the show combines a crowd-pleasing mix of fantastic performances, cutting edge special effects and iconic songs and music from the film. The show has luxury casting in the form of Broadway star Roger Bart as Doc Brown. With charisma and star-power to spare, it’s hard to take your eyes off Bart, who pulls off the neat trick of making the iconic character his own. He doesn’t just imitate Christopher Lloyd, but his portrayal is familiar enough that it won’t disappoint any die-hards. The cast as a whole is terrific. Olly Dobson effortlessly captures Marty McFly’s mix of world-weary exasperation combined with boyish charm, his ever-growing panic at the situation he finds himself in perfectly realised. He absolutely nails MJF’s husky voice. Hugh Coles and Rosanna Hyland are perfect as Marty's parents George and Lorraine. You would be forgiven for thinking you were watching the actors from the film, their voices and body language are so spot on. Kudos even to the wigs team for some of the best I’ve seen on stage.
Having fun in supporting roles is ex-Hamilton star Courtney-Mae Briggs as Marty’s present-day girlfriend Jennifer (she also plays a range of ensemble parts in 1955). Aidan Cutler as baddie Biff and scene-stealer Cedric Neal, as Mayor Goldie Wilson, are fun too. And the car? This is a show with 1.21 Gigawatts of goosebumps when it comes to the DeLorean and time travel. Silvestri’s original music from the film joyously combines with incredible special effects, lighting and stagecraft. The original songs, composed for the show by Silvestri and Glen Ballard, are a mix of stand-out numbers (Gotta Start Somewhere, 21st Century, Put Your Mind To It) and other slightly less-memorable ones. I saw the show earlier in the run and enjoyed the songs much more second time round. But sometimes they slow the action down and it takes mega-hits from the movie, Power of Love, Back In Time, Earth Angel and Johnny B Goode to really power the music.
This reservation aside, there's no denying the power of the big moment at the end, when the clock ticks round to 10:04pm – and theatrical lightning strikes. I won’t say any more...
Event theatre? Absolutely. For BTTF and musicals fans it’s a must-see. The old "worth the ticket price alone" cliche is rolled out all the time, but here it is true. Fans of the film will not feel short-changed.
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