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Is Back To The Future The Best Musical Adaptation?

One of the musicals I had the joy of seeing on the West End recently was Back To The Future: The Musical in the wonderful Adelphi Theatre. It was something I’d heard about but never really considered watching it despite a small love for 80s movies (and their corresponding musical adaptations). Until someone I knew took their family to see it in Manchester so long ago. They came back telling everyone how amazing it was and how it was one of the best musicals they’d ever seen.

Unfortunately, it took a while for me to see the show, but they were absolutely right.

Before seeing it, I was admittedly still skeptical. I knew the BTTF Car was involved with the making of the DeLorean used on stage, I’d seen it on their Instagram page (it’s pretty cool actually, check it out here), but I also knew movie to musical adaptations weren’t always great. Sometimes they were a little more niche like Heathers. I have no shame in saying I was wrong.

I’m so glad I was wrong.

I’ve seen a few movie to musical adaptations now and Back To The Future: The Musical left me wondering, is this the best musical adaptation?

The exterior of the Adelphi Theatre showing the Back To The Future: The Musical sign and poster.

What I Loved

Firstly, it removes some of the outdated and offensive parts like Libyan terrorists trying to kill the Doc. It even removes a few other things that they either weren’t allowed to use for copyright reasons, or because they would be too awkward to do on a stage. What was cut made sense to be cut, like Einstein and chase scenes. I wish I could say the same for Bat Out of Hell’s West End run, click here for my opinion on that.

Secondly, it gives its time to other characters instead like Maybe Goldie Wilson and Jennifer Parker, Marty’s girlfriend. Some get their own songs or in the case of Marty’s siblings, their own parts of songs. It’s nice these characters had some moments instead of being sidelined in favour of Marty and the Doc.

What I liked about this was that it wasn’t trying to outshine the movie (which would have been an impossible task with how beloved it is). It’s not trying to be a carbon copy of the movie, and that helps it so much. It surprisingly fits well into musical theatre.

Lastly, how can I not mention the time travelling DeLorean?

As I left the Adelphi theatre, so many people asked how they managed the trick at the end. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It is beyond words. But the DeLorean prop is amazing as it moves around stage and cast members interact with it. There some minor changes made to make it fit better on stage like it being voice activated rather than needing to typed in.

The rest of the stage magic is brilliant, effects and lighting come together perfectly, whether it’s for Marty knocking over things with a single guitar strum or the DeLorean speeding up to 88mph.

Acting and Performance

Of course, it’s pointless to talk about this show without mentioning the acting and performances from the cast. I do like that most of the cast, specifically Ben Joyce and Roger Bart, as Marty and the Doc respectively, don’t try to perfectly copy Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

Roger Bart is phenomenal as Doc Brown. The vaguely self-aware nature meant that his actions and jokes were extra-hilarious (especially involving his magic back up dancers ending up his his house after the song had finished), and it was well-balanced to not get too repetitive or boring.

Oliver Nicholas as George McFly received a round of applause within a minute of him appearing on stage. He absolutely perfected George McFly’s mannerisms from the movie, from the awkward way of standing to the nervous laughter. He was amazing and deserved every second of the applause he got.

Ben Joyce as Marty was awesome and fun and the other performers were equally great in their roles. And as a bit of a science nerd, I loved some of the jokes. Mostly the ‘Who, that’s heavy/mass has nothing to do with this, Marty, it’s temporal physics’ back and forth exchange that lasted for half a minute or more without getting old. As well as the running joke of Doc’s back up dancers who appear when he sings. They manage to balance it perfectly so it doesn’t get annoying and cringe-y. There’s also a sneaky joke about 2020, which unlike We Will Rock You’s attempt at a CovID-19 joke, did manage to make me laugh.

What I Didn’t Love

Originally, this section was called ‘The Negatives’, but the title was too inaccurate. There was nothing in this musical I strongly disliked. But if I had to pick one thing I didn’t love?

The music.

Obviously, the music is okay. But when something is so good, something does fall flat. For me it was the songs.

The best songs are the ones from the movies. There’s no doubt about that. The opening number ‘It’s Only A Matter of Time’ and ‘It Works’ are the stand outs of the first act. But in comparison to songs from the movie in the second act, they’re nothing. The weakest thing about this musical is the songs, simply because it wasn’t the original intention. They’re not bad songs, and some are pretty catchy, but in a musical where so much is stunning, the music is just… less so.

Despite this, the orchestra was amazing and there is just a certain excitement that comes with hearing the theme start to play as the DeLorean gets closer to 88mph.

So, is Back To The Future the best musical adaptation?

From what I’ve seen, I’d say yes.

Yes it is the best musical adaptation.

It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who likes the film and theatre and a definite must see for any avid theatre fan. While it’s not my favourite (a tie between Wicked and Bat Out of Hell), it’s certainly in my top 3.

The Back To The Future Stage at the Adelphi Theatre. There is a screen showing the words ‘Make like a tree and get outta here’.

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