Review: Back to the future the musical at Manchester Opera House

Great Scott - Back the Future the musical has held its world premiere in Manchester.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 5:00 pm
Back to the future the musical
Back to the future the musical

And it's certainly flying high.

The musical, telling the story of rock ‘n’ roll teenager Marty McFly who is accidentally transported back to 1955 in a time-travelling DeLorean invented by his friend Dr Emmett Brown, was officially launched at Manchester's Opera House in front of audience of press, public and invited guests, including many involved in the original film and the production itself.

Unsurprisingly, under such pressure, it was a slightly nervous start from a cast who soon warmed up into a piece of fast-paced, emotionally satisfying, musical theatre only upstaged by the scene-stealing production values invested into the futuristic set and iconic time-travelling DeLorean which make Phantom of the Opera's crashing chandelier seem tame.

Back to the future the musical

This is a work in progress as the musical hurtles toward inevitable success in the West End and I'm reminded of Ghost - the world premiere of which I also attended in Manchester many years ago - and became a huge hit.

They share the same producer in Colin Ingram and the creative game-changing stage-trickery.

The first and critical success for Back to the Future, led by Tony Award-winning director John Rando, was casting.

Olly Dobson follows in the iconic steps of Michael J. Fox and there is no doubt he is rock n'roll teenager Marty McFly to a T with every mannerism, tonal voice change and outfit - he must have watched the films a thousand times to emulate and emphasise this physical theatre and his vocal range is the icing on the cake.

Back to the future the musical

Courtney-Mae Briggs as Jennifer Parker is also an uncanny reproduction of the film character

Meanwhile Hugh Coles is a scene stealer - in his professional theatre debut as George McFly - he morphs from an older to younger George with ease bringing an awkward Mr-Bean-esque character to life on stage with a crowd-pleasing physicality and nailed-on humour.

Starring as Doctor Emmett Brown, Roger Bart just IS the Doc - again the sheer nostalgia of the reproduction of this character is fabulous and his interaction with the DeLOrean is hilarious. He definitely has the best one-liners.

Meanwhile the vocal chops of Cedric Neal as ‘Goldie Wilson’ bring another level to the musicality.

Back to the future the musical

The joy of this production is in the characterisation and nostalgic humour, the stage-production and the soaring music.

The ensemble cast are remarkable and versatile though a couple of the ensemble pieces verge on the chaotic - one in particular with mixture of slapstick humour, dancing cheerleaders and a chase verges on confusing without taking away performance-value. But it requires tweaks only.

This is no doubt this a new fresh take on a much-loved film that balances the nostalgic reproduction with humour and new and glorious sci-fi themes, adding a thousand gigawatts to the story and an undeniable wow-factor.


Back to the future the musical

*Back to the Future the movie was released in 1985, starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Dr Emmett Brown. The film grossed $360.6 million (£279 million) at the box office worldwide and the total box office for all three films in the Back to the Future franchise was $936.6 million (over $1.8 billion in today’s money).

*The full cast of the new musical includes Aidan Cutler as ‘Biff Tannen’, Courtney-Mae Briggs as ‘Jennifer Parker’, Will Haswell as ‘Dave McFly’ and Emma Lloyd as ‘Linda McFly.’ Also in the cast are Rhianne Alleyne, Amy Barker, Owen Chaponda, Jamal Crawford, Nathanael Landskroner, Bethany Rose Lythgoe, Cameron McAllister, Alessia McDermott, Laura Mullowney, Oliver Ormson, Mark Oxtoby, Katharine Pearson, Jemma Revell, Jake Small, Justin Thomas and Mitchell Zhangazha.

*Back to the future the Musical is directed by John Rando (Urinetown, On The Town), alongside the multi Tony and Olivier Award-winning design team of Tim Hatley (set and costume design), Hugh Vanstone and Tim Lutkin (lighting), Gareth Owen (sound) and Finn Ross (video), with choreography by Chris Bailey, musical supervision and arrangements by Nick Finlow and Illusions by Chris Fisher. Orchestrations will be by Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook, with dance arrangements by David Chase.

The musical is at the Manchester Opera House for a strictly limited 12-week season, finishing on May 17, prior to transferring to the West End.

Back to the future the musical - the cast outside the Manchester Opera House
Back to the future the musical