Great Scott! The Fun of Back To The Future: The Musical
Get yourself to the Adelphi Theatre, Strand, London while you can and enjoy a ridiculous amount of fun, clever songs, heaps of cast energy and a DeLorean that really ‘flies’! (Plus all the horrors of 1980’s hair, fashion, spandex, leg warmers and synth rock music…but not for long as you travel back to 1955!)
I didn’t quite know what to expect as this is a musical made from a film — but it’s super fun and has great energy in both halves, from cast and audience. The lighting and visuals add to it. I don’t know how they’ve done it but with clever lighting and a moving stage, the DeLorean appears to drive (sometimes at speed) and at the end, to ‘fly’…even rotating in the air slightly over the audience! It’s great! There’s also a funny moment as Doc goes up the clock tower to sort the cables and they’ve made him travel up flights of stairs like escalators. There is visual rain too and a collapsing clock tower in his last minute bid to send Marty McFly…back to the future. What a relief when he links those power cables together!
A lovely dads and lads outing to judge by the audience; incase you don’t know, Marty McFly in 1985 jumps in a time travelling DeLorean (the cool car with the wing like doors) after his scientist buddy Doc melts due to an incident with Plutonium. Marty has been dreaming dreams of the future with his girlfriend Jennifer, wondered how to deal with his family — his brother in a low valued job; his sister wanting a date whilst trying to avoid their mother giving out advice and reminiscences, and his dweeby (but kind hearted) father bullied by his colleague Biff, a continuation from their school days. In a bid to save Doc, Marty jumps back in time to 1955 — but gets stuck there and after finding younger Doc, has to reunite his parents to save himself and his siblings and get back….to the future.
We join Marty as tourists in small town America — a funny song celebrates the cheapness of their gas, the medicinalness of their cigarettes and a self starting guy dreams dreams about being Mayor and improving himself. Strangely this version of 1955 America ignores the civil rights struggles of the day by having affable diverse casting — there is a moment when a white female dancer touches a black male dancer, which would have had everyone freaking out in a terrible racist manner in real 1955. But here class is more the issue, and the wannabe Mayor of the future Goldie Wilson has a cracking song (1960s style) about working his way up.
Doc also has some great songs — when he creates his time travelling car and the Flux Capacitor (get that pronunciation right), he goes Robert Plant and gains glittery 1980s dancers. When he seeks to solve a scientific problem in 1955 he gains a backing group of roboting, club mixed dancing lab coats! There is a hilarious moment when he gains a dance troup who interrupt things and are sent out of the door; one by one he has to dampen their enthusiasm and send them out for interrupting his great thoughts!
Some moments are creepy too — Marty meets his Dad, George, who is a put upon dweeb with no spine (cue another song) and a perv, as he spies on birds, chicks and Marty’s future Mom (Lorraine) in her bedroom from a tree branch. But, whoops, it is Marty (not George) who falls out of the tree, is found concussed by her Dad and who his Mom appears to fall in love with (cue doo wop girl group to join in the serenade). Creepily too she has removed Marty’s jeans and knows his name from his underwear — Calvin Klein!!!! Funnily the girl group appear behind the bedroom curtains and invade the room. Fleeing all these Oedipal complexes, Marty finds Doc, gets him started on getting him back to the future and gets his future Dad finding a spine to impress his future Mom enough to date him and kiss at the Under The Sea school dance.
Unfortunately George’s attempt to impress the girl by announcing himself as her dentist isn’t the thing of destiny and he fails to stand up to Biff, again. Biff is a sex pest and Lorraine constantly has to fight him off. Proving herself not the demure legend she will later create for her children, Lorraine tracks down Marty at Doc’s and asks him to the dance! (not his Dad!) Embarrassed by his parents in 1955, as in the future, Marty snaps and stands up to Biff. There is a funny fight/chase around the school as cheerleaders, American footballers, the Dean and the dinner lady get in the way. At one point, Marty goes full Luke Skywalker with a light sabre sending Biff tumbling into a vat of spaghetti sauce and humiliation infront of the whole school. Unfortunately all this does is impress his future Mom further — eeep! (Cue a song about how she is impressed with what a guy Marty is as he flexes his biceps!)
Noticeably, the energy has high in both the first and second halves. Everyone cheers and claps for their favourite moments — when Marty hooks up his guitar to Doc’s hardware and blows the amps; the talking DeLorean which doesn’t like cuss words or any voice apart from Doc’s; Doc in general; the DeLorean’s appearance and Doc’s dream of 2020 — where people are eating green tissue paper called kale; and there is no traffic, no disease and no conflict!
The songs and music are really well performed, and the dancing (such as when Marty becomes a member of the band and introduces guitar solo’s 20 years early) is brilliantly jivey. Another creepy moment when Marty takes his future Mom to the dance in order to get George to intervene and ‘save’ her: only to be beaten up by Biff and George really does get to save the girl! (Though I’m sure that Lorraine could have saved herself given that she is conniving — sneaking liquor out of her parent’s house and boy mad, and having to deal with a lot of unwanted attention and sex pesting at the dance). I think they dweebed George up too much — oily hair, gangliness, creepiness, social awkwardness and odd laugh — though he seems to have invented the Floss very early! (This turns into Elvis legs in the original 1980s). Apart from the fact that he’s a great kisser and a secret, sensitive Sci-Fi writer, I’m not sure why someone as put together and smart as Lorraine would actually go for him? But well, opposites attract and by playing the right tunes, Marty restores the space/time continuum, keeping himself and his siblings existing in the future.
Brilliantly Doc gets Marty back to the future and there is a family reunion as Marty gets to sing that 1980s power ballad ‘The Power of Love’. Here it is a bit like a pantomime as some very keen bees in the audience really want to clap along! It isn’t just Marty and his band — everyone gets to join in — Jennifer goes a bit Country and Western; his family have a go; the singing Mayor; even the banner waving lady from the start gets to dance around with a giant cheque. Some things have changed in the future — his Dad is a successful Science Fiction novelist; everyone is more glamourous; his sister has a date, and Biff is an obsequious employee. His Mom even likes his girlfriend Jennifer now. There is true love — but also more adventures….
Like kids, the entire audience leaned forward, enraptured, to see the DeLorean rise into the air, spin around and whizz off into the next time travelling adventure. Worth staying to the end as the orchestra are great in their play out.
Overall, it’s really fun; very well done; great cast dynamics and got to love the singing Mayor! A good homage to a classic film, but also a strong standalone in its own right. The school Dean is also impressive as he spends much of the action with his fingers in his ears, disapproving, and confiscating George’s soft drink — which can only be spiked as it causes him to Floss a few decades too early! Not to mention Doc Brown’s accent which extraordinary — part Simpsons and part out of this world!