In Review

Back to the Future musical: a crowd-pleasing ‘triumph’

Marty, the Doc and the DeLorean hit 88mph at the Adelphi Theatre

I approached this lavish musical adaptation of Back to the Future with some trepidation, said Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. How could the show hope to compete with one of the best-loved Hollywood films of the 1980s – the fabulous tale of a California high-schooler propelled back to 1955, thanks to a plutonium-powered flying DeLorean? But I “needn’t have worried”: the whole thing is a crowd-pleasing “triumph” with heart, soul and astonishing special effects.

The show “packs more energy than a nuclear reactor”, agreed Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail. Olly Dobson is excellent in the Michael J. Fox role of Marty McFly, who has to save his family’s future by engineering his own parents’ first date. As the nutty professor Doc Brown, Roger Bart is even better: the “theatrical equivalent of the Higgs boson”. “Back-comb your mullet, snap on your headband”, and get yourself a ticket.

Bart had had to pull out of the performance I saw, said Quentin Letts in The Sunday Times. But near-disaster turned to triumph, thanks to his understudy, Mark Oxtoby, grabbing his moment and stealing the show. Yet even his performance could not make up for a significant problem in a musical: second-rate songs. Although “performed with gusto”, they did feel “thin and slightly unnecessary at times”, said Arifa Akbar in The Guardian. The choreography, too, is a fraction “underwhelming” – until the final number. 

They say no one ever left a hit musical humming the scenery. But it is Tim Hatley’s “stunning, multi-dimensional design” that “lifts” what could have been a “movie retread”, said David Benedict in Variety. The scenery, lighting, video projection, sound and hydraulics combine to create action sequences so “hairraising that even the hardest heart capitulates”. The DeLorean itself is “shockingly exciting” – eliciting a “roar of delight” as it hits the crucial 88mph, and “zaps the audience between the eyes and ears”. Is it a great musical? “Absolutely not. Is it a great night out? Oh, yes. You’ll believe a car can fly.”

Adelphi Theatre, London WC2; backtothefuturemusical.com. Until 13 February

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