Tuesday, 12 October 2021

REVIEW: Back to the Future at the Adelphi Theatre

A cult classic with a huge following, this show has been tipped to come to the West End for a long time. With their preview period in Manchester cut short because of the pandemic, it finally hits London and plays at the Adelphi Theatre. Now, don’t come for me, but I have not seen the film! I know, I know, it’s a classic and everyone has seen it apart from me! However, walking into the theatre with an open mind was actually a refreshing thing as to not know anything about a show is a rarity! Helped along with the audience, I knew exactly what references were from the movie and what were new additions.

When Marty McFly sees that his good friend Doc Brown has had an accident with one of his inventions, he gets into his time travelling car to get help, little does he know that it’ll in fact send him back in time to the exact date his parents met. Whilst his mother is busy falling head over heels for him, Marty must think of a way to make sure his parents meet and fall in love to insure he and his siblings exist in the future. A classic empty plot we have seen a lot from big blockbuster 80’s movies but nonetheless, a storyline we can escape into. 

The star of the show is Tim Hatley's design, along with a large team of creatives including Tim Lutkin (Lighting design), Hugh Vanstone (Lighting consultant), Finn Ross (Video designer), Chris Fisher (Illusion designer) Twins FX (Flying Delorean) and Campbell Young Associates (Wigs, Hair and Make-Up), the look of this show is just phenomenal. We’ve not seen a design like this in the West End for a very long time, absolutely mind-blowing! Each and every scene change was seamless whilst all pieces created a full and distinctive setting for each location and the car... wow! Every time it was featured on stage I couldn’t believe how impressive it was, along with video design by Finn Ross it was the perfect marrying of a Hollywood blockbuster and a live theatrical experience. 

At this performance we were treated to a few understudies; Will Haswell as Marty McFly in the place of Olly Dobson, Shane O’Riordan as Biff Tannen in the place of Aidan Cutler and Ryan Heenan as Dave McFly in the place of Will Haswell. I am an absolute champion for understudies and each one of them did an excellent job, better advertising by the theatre would have been helpful as the listing was not only minimal but also incorrect. 

Will Haswell is wonderful as Marty Mcfly, an iconic role with an even better sense of style (little did I know I came dressed very similarly to him!) He leads the show as if he’s been doing it for years, a leading man in every sense of the word. Excellent vocals and really was the driving force of the story throughout. 

As Doc Brown, the legendary Roger Bart. In a role that could have easily been made especially for him, he excels in creating a goofy, loveable, intelligent and skatty character. Although I could only understand about 60% of what he said, he certainly understands how to get an audience on his side and has a level of stage craft that could match those of our finest actors. 

Another star of the show comes in the form of Hugh Coles, playing Marty's father (George McFly). His character is one of the funniest things I’ve seen on stage in a very long time. The upkeep of the character and the energy was tiring to watch so I can’t imagine how much it must take out of him! A really fantastic addition to the cast and a standout performance from the evening. 

Special mentions must go to Cedric Neal who plays Goldie Wilson and Marvin Berry, in a part that could be very easily forgettable he makes it something special. Courtney-Mae Briggs as Jennifer Parker and Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine Baines both give beautiful performances also, although they didn’t get dished the best material, they couldn’t be more perfect for the roles. 

To round the cast off is the ensemble, an incredibly talented bunch of people who are clearly very much enjoying the show they are performing. High energy and executed each number off brilliantly, it has to be up there with one of the best ensembles in the West End. 

The music by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri is actually very good, although not memorable in the slightest. Whilst there are some good moments with great songs, once they’re over you will not remember them. What you’ll remember from this production is the show-stealing design. 

I feel this show has struggled to understand what it wants to do, with a style similar to that of The Producers and Young Frankenstein, this show has a very ‘Broadway’ feel to it and it certainly succeeds in that, but what it lacks is being memorable as a piece. 

This show is an experience, whilst the material might not be terribly strong the show is impressive and most certainly enjoyable. With this incredible cast and outstanding design, it's sure to be a night at the theatre you’ll remember for a while. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, L13 | Price of Ticket: £140

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