Back to the Future (Adelphi Theatre)
Back-comb your mullet, snap on your headband and wriggle into your leopard skin leotard. The stage musical of the Eighties’ classic has just screeched into the West End, the tyres of its time-travelling DeLorean leaving six pounds of scorched rubber on The Strand. And there’s really no other way to put it, folks: the show is a blast from the past.
Where to begin, with a production that packs more energy than a nuclear reactor? Could it be Olly Dobson, taking on the Michael J Fox role of Marty McFly: the floppy-haired Eighties teenager who finds himself stuck in the Fifties, trying to save his family’s future by securing his parents’ first date?
Just like Fox, Dobson is an affable ‘everykid’ who handles the agonies (…and the agonies) of dating your teenage Mom, with all the exhilarating horror that portends. Weirdly, Dobson not only looks a lot like Fox; he seems to have been augmented with a touch of that other great Eighties icon, Michael Douglas.
Back-comb your mullet, snap on your headband and wriggle into your leopard skin leotard
But arguably the trickiest part to get right must’ve been Doc Brown, the nutty professor who creates the time-travelling DeLorean sports car (hold your horsepower, I am coming to that).
In Roger Bart, John Rando’s production has discovered the theatrical equivalent of the Higgs boson. Younger audiences will have pre-loved Bart as violin-torturing Principal Nero in Netflix’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
Bart tested positive for Covid this week and is being replaced by understudy Mark Oxtoby until he’s cleared to return. Wish him well though because he is to the frizzy-haired manner born.
Never missing a tic, he’s got an eccentric vocal repertoire, too. He can certainly sing (hitting some very high notes); but he also provides a startling range of human sound effects: gurgling, growling, hissing and whispering like an effervescing test tube.
One problem I’ve always had with the film is the way Marty’s dad seems a little TOO wet. Here, they’ve cracked that as well. Hugh Coles, as George McFly, may start off as Forest Gump meets Mr Bean; but by the end he’s practically Clark Gable. Alright, alright, so what about the car!? The show’s whole credibility hinges on that DeLorean (with its gull-wing doors and ‘OUTATIME’ reg), which blasts Marty back to the Fifties.
I’m happy to relate it has everything from flashing wheels to parping cooler vents, blazing tail lights and the all-important, nuclear-powered Flux Capacitor.
The stage musical of the Eighties’ classic has just screeched into the West End, the tyres of its time-travelling DeLorean leaving six pounds of scorched rubber on The Strand
And when it comes to launch time, Tim Hatley’s design lays on video special effects that have us speeding through neon lit streets in a blur of coloured streaks. And that’s on top of already spectacular sets of clapboard suburbia, the High School, a farmyard barn, the town square (with bust clock) and of course, Doc’s chaotic man-shed. As if that wasn’t enough, Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard’s music relaunches the story as a whole new entity.
Pop songs like All Right With Me at the start are sweet and catchy; and although the deafeningly shrill sound levels take some getting used to, originality and pastiche combine in Doc’s number It Works! (the car draped in a flock of Charlie’s Angels chorus girls).
Pictured left to right: Glen Ballard, Alan Silvestri, John Rando, Bob Gale, Donovan G Mannato and Christopher Lloyd attend the opening night performance of Back To The Future: The Musica
A DeLorean arrives at the opening night performance of ‘Back To The Future: The Musical’
From Cedric Neal’s Goldie Wilson, who goes from diner busboy to the town’s first black mayor, there’s a motivational Gotta Start Somewhere. But my favourite was George McFly’s batty, Peeping Tom tongue-twister, My Myopia Is My Utopia. Naturally, Dobson electrifies the Prom, playing Johnny B. Goode on guitar. And there’s a final incantation of The Power Of Love.
Did I even mention the auditorium, clad like a computer circuit board? Or the Star Trek bridge scene after the interval, when we travel at warp speed through the universe in Doc’s sci-fi dream?
What about the Batman style ‘biff’ and ‘kerpow’ sound effects for the High School fist fights? Or the hoverboards – yes, there are hoverboards! I could go on, but you’re better off just going.
Be warned though: sci-fi nuts, Trekkies, Whovians and Eighties nostalgics are already out in full force.