WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHEN?: Sunday 12 September 2021 (matinee), booking to February 13 2022 RUNTIME: 160 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
‘Great Scott!’ Michael J. Fox starred as hero Marty McFly in 3 Back To The Future films which made more than 900 million dollars in the 80s and 90s.
- Read on for reasons including how this musical is big on spectacle but short on memorable songs
There are enough reminders of those films here at the 1st worldwide production of the musical in London’s West End to please the most die-hard fans.
However, we would have liked more emphasis on the songwriting for this musical to have been as memorable for us as the original film which debuted in 1985 when we were just teenagers.
Leads Olly Dobson as Marty and Roger Bart as Doc Brown are particularly well cast and they pull off the enviable trick of displaying a chemistry between each other as well as providing faithful characterisations which will be familiar from the film.
Making his West End debut Hugh Coles as George McFly, Marty’s father as he travels back 30 years to 1955 to meet him in Hill Valley High School, is hilariously awkward as well as revelling in many of the perculiar mannerisms of the character played by Crispin Glover in that beloved film.
36 years have flown by since the 1st Back To The Future film was a hit and it somehow doesn’t feel enough to trade solely on the goodwill that a strategically placed dark peach bodywarmer, artfully used skateboard and souped-up, time-travelling Delorean car can summon up.
As we watch we’re reminded just how male-dominated this story is. Male hero uses eccentric male scientist’s time travel device to go back in time, bumps into future father and has to alter the course of history to ensure his dad successfully woos his mum while steering clear of the male school bully.
It would help if the new tunes were better and the inclusion of the iconic The Power Of Love by Huey Lewis and the News and Chuck Berry’s Johnny B.Goode from the original film illustrates how lacking in hooks the new material is here. There’s one moment when Cedric Neal’s (The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre) ambitious diner worker sings thrillingly about his aspirations that we feel hopeful but there is very little else of musical note to write home about.
We’re reminded of recent West End arrival Frozen – The Musical which ramps up the spectacle without ever realising that a musical relies on the magic of its songwriting and does not need to pull out so many visual stops to truly move its audience.
There is so much goodwill in the audience that it seems churlish to point out that the chords struck by the storytelling aren’t really reflected in the score. Instead we have a focus on soap bubbles blown out into the audience to set the scene for the pivotal under the sea dance and a final flourish featuring the iconic car that is a sight to behold.
Do go and see this if you want to feel part of the film but for us it felt too much like a musical for people who don’t much like musicals.