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Back To The Future - Review

Starting with a countdown from the performance date to 1985 the production creates excitement immediately. Based on the classic 1985 film “Back to the Future - The Musical” the creatives have taken on the Herculean task of bringing the iconic scenes onto the stage, including the DeLorean hurtling through time, while also bringing something fresh and new to the audience. It’s a well-known story of Marty who accidentally gets sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in the time machine his friend Doc invented. In 1955 he finds the younger Doc and with his help tries to get back to the future while not changing the past.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about why people feel the need to make a movie into a musical. Just like many classics in the past have been based on books, such as “Les Miserables” or “The Phanton of the Opera”, films tend to be the source material now for many musicals. And there have been some excellent adaptations such as “Legally Blonde”, telling the story in a new way and bringing more depth to it. Unfortunately, in this case, it doesn’t manage to match the source material.

We should first mention that what would appear to be the most daunting task, that of bringing the car to the stage and having it head to 88mph, was impressive. The effects for this were well thought out and really wowed the audience. This is what most people want to see and on that area they delivered.

However, while they have clearly spent a lot of time making the effects work the music feels like an afterthought. None of the music is memorable and didn’t appear to serve any purpose. To emphasise this fact, during at least 5 of the songs the set changes to give the effect of a Vaudeville show complete with golden flashing arches or dancers in top hat and tails. This can work for one or two songs but the numerous times it was done here is just a distraction. It shone a spotlight on the fact the songs were entirely superfluous, neither developing characters nor the plot. It does a disservice to musicals as it fits the old cliché of songs appearing randomly for no reason. It feels like they were there just so it could be called a musical, which commercially tend to do better than plays, rather than wanting to create a musical. Ironically, the only thing that felt fresh was the non-original song Johnny B Goode.

With the story they have made a few changes to make it work more easily on stage which were welcome. The more problematic parts were with the characters. Apart from Marty and Doc the characters are caricatures of the film characters, who themselves were archetypes. With a musical you can give them more depth. Biff could easily have had a song that gave him more backstory and motivation but instead they made the characters even more one-dimensional. The most problematic part of the movie is Marty’s mother “having the hots” for him so it’s curious why they decided to lean so heavily into this. Did she really need 3 songs about this? Freud would have had a field day with whoever made that decision. The cast did well but were limited by the creative decisions that had been made.

The film is actually fairly complex at times but the show is completely vapid and does a disservice to what had come before. As a play with a different script it could have worked. Or with better songs that were integrated into the story and more character development. Sadly this just relies on people booking because of the movie. The effects with the car are truly theatre magic but the rest of the show falls flat.

Rating: 2 Star


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