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Theatre Review: Back to the Future: The Musical

By and large, classic films should not be rehashed as stage productions, writes TIM WALKER. But, this musical makes an exception.

Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Olly Dobson as Marty McFly in Back to the Future: The Musical. Credit: Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Back to the Future: The Musical
Adelphi Theatre, London,
until February 13, 2022

Theatre should always be about new frontiers, not retreading old ground, so I don’t in principle care for the idea of classic films being rehashed as stage productions.

I did, however, very much enjoy – despite myself – Back to the Future: The Musical. John Rando’s production is arguably a lot more fun than the 1985 film that starred Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

The star this time around is undoubtedly the time-travelling DeLorean sports car and this show amounts to a masterclass in how to use the state-of-the-art stage special effects ( take your bows, Chris Fisher, Finn Ross and Tim Hatley).

At one point the car breaks through the ‘fourth wall’ and careers over the heads of the punters in the stalls. Its voyages through time and space are exhilaratingly handled and put me in mind of the more weirdly hallucinogenic moments in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The story and a lot of the lines are lifted directly from the film and some of them take on a new resonance such as Doc Brown – the eccentric scientist who creates the time-travelling car – saying what a fascinating place the 21st century is with “no war, no crime, no disease”.

The last two words got a laugh as the part was originally going to be played by Roger Bart, but, indisposed as a result of Covid on opening night, his understudy Mark Oxtoby had to jump into the driving seat.

Seeing Olly Dobson as the young time traveller so perfectly recreate the precise moments and graciousness of Fox in the original film, it was hard not to reflect on how Parkinson’s had since robbed the actor of those abilities.

How terrible it is that even a character alternating between 1955 and today would see little change in the fundamental way this cruel disease is treated.

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