Friday. . . February 28, 2020. . . 7:30 pm
The opening scene here isn’t a collection of synchronized clocks, a garage door opening to a black 4×4 truck or a lightning bolt hitting a mast. This opening scene is just one of those rare and historical moments in my life and the ultimate highlight of my birthday weekend. Something different, new and exciting was organized and set-up for me by my partner and something that I thought could or would never come about.
I’ve seen the movie trilogy so many times and enjoyed every viewing, spun those CD soundtracks countless circles, seen the animated series, collected the memorabilia, built the models and experienced Hill Valley in an open immersive live experience as mentioned and covered in one of my other articles – The Crystal Maze Experience – Manchester. This was in the past, now it was time to change musical theatre history and experience the Back to the Future stage show.
1.21 Gigawatts, 88mph, 12 Weeks Only
This stage production, brought to life by Colin Ingram Ltd, was a world premiere and fetched the crowds in from the local city, wider areas and overseas. I’ve already seen a few videos on the web, documenting visitors and Delorean owners travelling from the USA to see the opening night show at the current venue, (as of 4 March 2020) The Opera House, Manchester, UK. I’d personally heard of the Back to the Future stage show sometime in late 2019 and got very excited at the prospect of it.
Strangely, at the time I didn’t exactly pounce on the hot tickets and before long the idea, although mentioned a few times in random conversations faded out, which I’m extremely surprised at as I’m a huge fan of the movie trilogy and have been for a long time.
It wasn’t until the approach to my birthday that I then found out I’d got a ticket waiting – “Great Scott!” My eyebrows raised, a smile crossed my face and I was very excited by the idea. See photos, videos and read all the full details of the production on the official site of Back to the Future the Musical.
Treading the Boards
I’m treading carefully working around this blog/review of the musical as I cannot give away any spoilers and have to try to make this more informative and neutral, but also exciting to read and review.
I think that stage productions and musicals have come on a lot since titles of the past, it’s not just about the actors and dancing but also the illusion of something, the technology that can now be implemented and I don’t mean just a waft of smoke.
After seeing Ghost I was mesmerised at the magic of theatre and how the production created and crafted certain scenes and it was added to my other list of favourites, including Phantom of the Opera. After Back to the Future I was emotionally overwhelmed and it hit home hard at some of the scenes presented. Theatre will always affect people differently, but as an amateur actor myself I can appreciate the timing, positioning, scripting and production values from both on and off stage.
Sets & Props
There were many key scenes from the movie made into a set and they were detailed in every way. Even the simplest of sets and scenes, for example, George McFly’s back garden was enough to improvise on, you knew what was happening and where the characters were. As a fan of the franchise, I was meticulously looking about for props and similarities to the movie.
I spotted a few that were taken straight out of the movie and designed well, namely the plutonium case, skateboard, guitar, Doc’s photographs of scientific legends/inventors and flux capacitor amongst many, many more, believe me. A great job was done as you can imagine and I was really surprised where everything was disappearing to once they glided into the wings. Theatre may have its limitations, but it was interesting how certain scenes were portrayed. The revolving floor at this venue helped a lot in particular parts.
Cast & Credits
Olly Dobson – Marty McFly
Olly trained at Arts Educational Schools in London. He has a slight similarity to the actor, Elijah Wood in looks but had a perfect Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) voice. I thought at first they may have cast A.J. LoCascio who is the voice talent behind Marty McFly in the Back to the Future game (2015) from Telltale Games and in this particular year was released on XBOX360, XBOX One and PlayStation 4 (PS4). Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
Roger Bart – Doc Brown
Roger’s acting and performance experiences range from small and big screen characters as well as various stage productions. He has worked a lot in television and with various brands, like Netflix, CBS Films, Overture, New Line and Universal to name a few. Roger divides his time between New York and Los Angeles. For his work, he has received both Tony and Drama Desk nominations. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
Hugh Coles – George McFly
Hugh graduated from LAMDA in 2017 and has worked with the BBC and ITV television projects. Back to the Future is Hugh’s professional stage debut. I found that Hugh portrayed George McFly brilliantly, everything from his voice, laugh and animated mannerisms and movement. Some of Hugh’s screen credits are: Urban Myths – Agatha Christie for Sky Arts and in 2019 he appeared in the final series of Doc Martin for ITV. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
Rosanna Hyland – Lorraine Baines
Rosanna is an Australian actress who’s accent is more tuned to “General American.” Rosanna trained at LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore and is a strong solo singer and dancer, with general dance skills in ballet, jazz and tap. Rosanna took this role on in a quirky way and played a great Lorraine, some very amusing scenes and comical tones when advancing on Marty. Rosanna appeared in a workshop of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Unmasked. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more.
Cedric Neal – Goldie Wilson/Marvin Berry
Cedric was most recently a semi-finalist on The Voice UK talent show and was mentored by Sir Tom Jones himself. Cedric has many television, film and theatre credits to his name, some of the small acting roles in TV shows include Friday Night Lights, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Chase and The Good Guys. Cedric also featured in the comedy film Lost In London. Cedric added a little comical edge in the role of Goldie and you just had to smile at him in some of the scenes. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more.
Aidan Cutler – Biff Tannen
Aiden trained at the Guildford School of Acting and has numerous theatre credits to his name. Compared to the movie, I didn’t think Aidan came across as the mean bully type as Thomas F. Wilson portrayed in the first Back to the Future movie, during the 1950’s scenes. As this was a musical, scenes have been adjusted to suit the stage, dance and movement. Aidan portrays a softer, vocal Biff Tannen and yet is still a looming presence for Marty in the show. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more.
Courtney-Mae Briggs – Jennifer Parker
Courtney-Mae is a talented singer, actress and voiceover artist. She has been a part of various theatre, commercial, musical theatre and acting projects. She has various theatre credits and BBC television appearances to her name and has been a part of Children in Need, The Royal Variety Performance and even The BBC Proms. She has also had ensemble roles and has been a vocalist for Kerry Ellis live at the London Palladium. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
Mark Oxtoby – Strickland
Mark is an actor, writer and director, has many theatre credits to his name and has appeared throughout different theatre venues. He has worked on television and film and is the recipient of over 50 indie short film awards. He has also been nominated for awards, picked up a few on the way and voted as “one to watch” by comedy website Jokepit.com. Mark did visually look like and portrayed a great Strickland character in the show. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
That’s Strickland. Jesus, didn’t that guy ever have hair?— Marty McFly
Will Haswell – Dave McFly
Will trained at Laine Theatre Arts and has a good list of theatre, understudy and ensemble credits in various productions. Some of the well-known characters Will has portrayed are Danny Zuko in Grease, UK Tour, Joe Pesci/understudy Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and Pinocchio in Shrek, UK Tour. Now, Will plays Marty’s brother and performs a quirky musical number that’s related to his employment, certainly got me smirking. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more credits and information.
Emma Lloyd – Linda McFly
Emma grew up in Yorkshire and trained in the Urdang Academy in London. Emma has a few theatre credits for the work she has done and has appeared in Doctor Dolittle, UK Tour. In Back to the Future she’s Linda, Marty’s sister – the middle sibling of the McFly family. Linda takes after Lorraine liking boys and longs for a boyfriend. In the movie it’s hard to know if Linda is at college or holds employment of sorts. Emma brings to life a related musical number. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more.
Rhianne Alleyne, Jamal Crawford, Cameron McAllister, Alessia McDermott, Laura Mullowney, Oliver Ormson, Katherine Pearson, Jemma Revell, Jake Small, Justin Thomas, Mitchell Zhangazha. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
Amy Barker, Owen Chaponda, Nathanael Landskroner, Bethany Rose Lythgoe. Visit the official cast & creative page from the official site for more information.
I had a great appreciation for all the costume design in this production and commented many times how true to the movie the styles and garments were. You certainly could tell who the characters were and the era presented. Even costume plays a vital role in theatre to tell a story, emphasise or show something off. The transformation of the McFly family is a great example of what I mean looking at the styles and differences from the original 1985 year the story starts from and then the altered version that Marty has a hand in towards the end.
It wouldn’t be proper if the Back to the Future Stage Show didn’t have the hits included that we’ve all come to love and know from the movie. The musical does feature the following original movie titles and artists:
The Power of Love (1985)
Performed by Huey Lewis & The News, Courtesy of Chrysalis Records, Inc.
Back in Time (1985)
Performed by Huey Lewis & The News, Courtesy of Chrysalis Records, Inc.
Earth Angel (Will You be Mine) (1954)
Performed by Harry Waters Jr. (as Marvin Berry) and (Tommy Thomas, Granville Young, David Harold Brown, and Lloyd L. Tolbert) (as The Starlighters), Produced by Bones Howe
Johnny B. Goode (1955)
Written by Chuck Berry, Performed by Mark Campbell (as Marty McFly) with (Tommy Thomas, Granville Young, David Harold Brown, and Lloyd L. Tolbert) (as The Starlighters), Produced by Bones Howe
The musical features all-new original material as to be expected, sewn into the storyline and performed by various characters and ensemble cast. To add variety and pace, some of the titles are energetic while others are a solo affair and more than likely the usual recipe and mix for a musical show.
The signature format and ultimate proof that you are there watching a musical production of the hit movie is when you see the likes of Emmet ‘Doc’ Brown, who not only can dance like in 1885 but can sing too. The character of Biff Tannen and his gang is another fine example of surprising vocal talent.
“When This Baby Hits 88mph, You’re Gonna See Some Serious Effects”
As most people know Back to the Future is a sci-fi, adventure genre and so as with the movie, it’s bound to need and to show off some spectacular special effects. Although this time around it’s all presented on a stage and not on location, this theatre production makes no exceptions and as I already mentioned “overwhelmed” me during a few particular scenes. It’s all in the details, the layers of the visual production and representation of the scenes, lighting, colour, sound and music all set in motion to bring it all to life.
There is rain, thunder, lightning, circuitry, flux capacitors – fluxing, the clock tower/courthouse and yes… I think it’s safe to say that the star of the show is brought to life, the Delorean time machine. It’s amazing what character they’ve created here, it wouldn’t be the show without it but “Great Scott” it’s impressive! Again, I’ll tread carefully here so not to give too many secrets and surprises away but I will say that this vehicle is very versatile, the production and creators of this have got it showing and doing a lot and you have to see it to believe it.
The climatic and dramatic scene up to the 10:04 pm lightning strike that sends Marty back to 1985 even got me sweating, not just Marty. Everything comes together nicely and the switching of scenes and angles, so you don’t miss a trick or the action, as with the movie, is recreated here too through the magic of theatre.
Hell, I’m in it with you and even I don’t understand it— Marty McFly
“Well, it’s All in the Past”
There are many movies I’ve enjoyed, collected and even upgraded to their more recent technological counterparts. All of the Back to the Future movies are no exception and the franchise behind them I’ve keenly followed for years and have spent a lot of money on. I’ve grabbed up rare toys and memorabilia from conventions, created board games of the titles, built the models, collected the cards and played the various video games over time. Indulge yourself and click here.
There’s something about Back to the Future, maybe it’s that 80’s connection, the years I loved and enjoyed, maybe it’s the idea behind the plot and the way it all works out at the end under a sci-fi/adventure genre or just maybe it’s the Delorean time machine itself that fascinates me.
Being a part of this historical world premiere musical and another way of seeing and experiencing Back to the Future again, gives me a sense of fulfilment and was money and time spent well. I did enjoy the show and it did physically move me at key moments. Many thanks once again to my partner who heard my dismissed comments at the time and pushed for this to happen, working it in around my birthday. I’ll always remember that moment.
Away from any biased opinion I wanted to mention and state that if you want a change from cinema or you want to watch Back to the Future again from a different angle, or you’re into your musicals then you must go try and see this production. It’s a new, first-time live experience compared with other stage productions that are great but will keep coming around.
There’s something for any audience here whether it be dance, song, acting, performance, tech or Back to the Future. I’m already asking friends and family if they’re interested, just so I can watch it a second time from a different angle. Be there, or be square.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about this production, the written content or even your own experiences with this genre of stage entertainment.