Miriam Gibson

Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE at the Adelphi Theatre

Back To The Future: The Musical will only appeal to fans of the original film….so that’s pretty much everybody.

From the bar to the curtain, the Adelphi Theatre’s design sets the scene for show’s sci-fi theme. Bob Gale’s adaptation of the movie’s script is a faithful one. There are very few plot changes, and all the favourite jokes remain- Calvin Klein, Ronald Reagan, “Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?!”.

Back to the Future the MusicalBack to the Future the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre.

Roger Bart and Ben Joyce play the double-act of teenage wannabe musician Marty McFly and his mad scientist pal, Dr Emmett Brown. Joyce has the lion’s share of the material, proving himself to be a great singer whose Michael J Fox impersonation is second-to-none. Joyce must have studied the film endlessly to perfect Marty’s vocal inflections and backwards stagger. He also has Fox’s likeability, making Marty an easy-to-route for hero as we travel with him to 1955. Stranded in his home town thirty years early, Marty must find Doc Brown, stop his mum fancying him long enough to persuade her to date his dweeby dad, and fix the DeLorean time machine so he can get…well, you know.

Doc Brown’s transition from screen to stage isn’t quite as successful as Marty’s. He disappears from stage for large parts of the action, and his songs don’t insert into the story’s action particularly well. In general, it’s the songs which are the main issue with Back To The Future: The Musical. Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard’s score isn’t bad… it’s just completely forgettable. You know you’ve got Johnny B Goode and Power of Love to close the show, so you just have to sit through the nondescript songs in the way until the story gets there. This is made easier by John Rando’s direction and Chris Bailey’s fun choreography. The first act closer is hilariously staged as a caper through Hill Valley High School, with Marty scampering through a variety of school settings as he tries to dodge both the bullies and his smitten mother.

Sophie Naglik is excellent but underused as Marty’s girlfriend, and Jordan Benjamin is a scene-stealer as Mayor Goldie Wilson. Back To The Future is the West End debut of many of its performers, who commit themselves wholeheartedly. George McFly may be a supporting character but he’s perhaps the best role. Oliver Nicholas gives a funny and sympathetic performance of George both as a hopeless adult and a milquetoast teenager.

Juggling a 21st-century musical, based on an 80s film which is largely set in the 1950s, Gale is juggling multiple eras and sensitivities. Perhaps this is the reason for some of the datedness in Back To The Future, like the running gag of Doc being surprised when dancing girls turn up in the middle of his songs… and, actually, the existence of dancing girls at all. These corny meta gags aren’t needed, as the original script’s gags are amusing enough on their own. One thing which isn’t dated is the use of effects, especially the ones involving the DeLorean. There’s one jaw-dropping effect in Back To The Future’s finale which has audiences marvelling, “How did they do that?!”.

Back To The Future won Best New Musical at both the Oliviers and the WhatsOnStage Awards, and a Broadway transfer is in the works. It’s a crowd-pleasing show which will go down well with families. It’s also a good pick for film geeks who might not ordinarily see stage shows, although the bland score might not convert them to musical theatre fans. Now for the real question…how would it be possible to stage the sequel?!

Back to the Future the MusicalBack to the Future the Musical at the Adelphi Theatre.