Back to the Future
Reviewed – 6th October 2021
“It is sleek, well-oiled and will surely be burning bright for quite some time”
Even with the help of a 1.21 gigawatts flux capacitor and an unhealthy dose of radioactive plutonium, 88 mph seems a pretty modest speed required to propel a rear-engine ‘DeLorean’ through time. But this piece of eighties iconography has no trouble landing on the stage of the Adelphi Theatre in the twenty-first century, swept along by the sheer force of a gravity-defying publicity machine and the collective, kick-starting power of a couple of thousand fans a night, adding to the lightning bolts of energy that burst throughout the auditorium. To say “Back to the Future: The Musical” is spectacular is an understatement. It showers us with special effects, jaw-dropping sets and transitions, blurs of neon, CGI magic and a hi-wattage, fifties/eighties mash up of a soundtrack. It is sleek, well-oiled and will surely be burning bright for quite some time.
But listen closely and you hear some troublesome knocking in the engine. Not enough to stall it and too quiet to worry the crowd, the flaws are invariably swamped by the energy of the performances. It’s a bizarre adaptation of the film; simultaneously faithful to the original but adding quirks and eccentricities that don’t always sit comfortably with the source material. Doc Brown attracts an ensemble of backing singers and dancers like flies. It’s a lot of fun, is wonderfully appealing to the ears and eyes and it breaks the fourth wall. But you wonder why. The music and lyrics of Alan Silvestri and Glan Ballard are crowd pleasing pastiches, with words and rhymes full of witty observation and humour; but sometimes side-stepping into banality. The almost relentless breaking into song takes away from the narrative and the characterisation; we barely have time to take a breath (so how do the cast cope?) and we miss those moments when we can absorb the concepts of space, time and history that the film allowed us to contemplate.
Yet despite being stripped of at least one dimension of their characters, the cast give impeccable performances. Olly Dobson, as Marty McFly, is a dead ringer for Michael J. Fox and is a fireball of energy. When he arrives back in 1955, the moments when his teenage mother (Rosanna Hyland) has ‘the hots’ for him are played for real laughs. (It is bizarre to note that when the film was originally pitched to Disney, the appalled executives rejected it outright, declaring it to be a movie about incest). More emphasis is placed on Marty’s relationship with his dad, George. Hugh Coles gives one of the stand-out performances; lanky and geeky with angular awkwardness, and often hilarious in the way only a highly skilled mover can re-enact ‘bad dancing’. Roger Bart’s Doc Brown is a contagious concoction of quirks, marred only by his over playing to the audience at times.
The special effects, sets and lighting are as much a lead role as the protagonists. Tim Lutkin’s lighting, Finn Ross’ video design, coupled with Chris Fisher’s illusion design, Gareth Owen’s sound and The Twins FX animatronics cannot fail to produce a breath-taking show. Add on the extra layers of Chris Bailey’s sleek, though sometimes excessive, choreography; and musical director Jim Henson’s thirteen-piece band and you have a display that defies the laws of physics. Like the well-worn bumblebee flight myth (it is a scientific and aerodynamic impossibility that bumblebees can fly – yet fly they do) the unconventional components that make up this vehicle should leave it grounded. It shouldn’t do – but it flies. It soars even. Although not timeless, it will stand the test of time and we’ll still be seeing this show in the West End way back to the future.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Back to the Future
Adelphi Theatre until July 2022
Shows we reviewed in September 2021:
Ben Forster will extend his run as ‘The Phantom’ until Saturday 2 September in the smash hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA”. Now in its 31st year at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, the show also stars Celinde Schoenmaker as ‘Christine Daae’ and Nadim Naaman as ‘Raoul’.
They are joined by Siôn Lloyd as ‘Monsieur Firmin’; Mark Oxtoby as ‘Monsieur Andre’; Paul Ettore Tabone as ‘Piangi’ and Daisy Hulbert as ‘Meg’. Also continuing their roles are: Lara Martins as ‘Carlotta’ and Jacinta Mulcahy as ‘Madame Giry’ and Harriet Jones as alternate ‘Christine Daaé’.
Ben Forster is probably best known for winning the ITV1 show, ‘Superstar’ – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV talent search for ‘Jesus’ in “Jesus Christ Superstar”. His other theatre credits include: ‘Buddy’ in “Elf The Musical” and ‘Magaldi’ in “Evita” both at the Dominion Theatre.
Celinde Schoenmaker has played the role of ‘Fantine’ in “Les Misérables” at The Queen’s Theatre, having made her West End debut in 2013. Previously she played ‘Jenny’ in a production of “Love Story” which toured Holland.
Nadim Naaman most recently appeared as ‘Charles Clarke’ in “Titanic” at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. His London theatre credits include ‘Anthony Hope’ in “Sweeney Todd” at Harrington’s Pie & Mash Shop; “One Man, Two Guvnors” at The National Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket and “The Sound of Music” at the London Palladium.
Siôn Lloyd most recently appeared in “Titanic” at the Charing Cross Theatre. His other recent theatre credits include: “The Bodyguard” on tour; “The Pajama Game” at the Shaftesbury Theatre; “Avenue Q” at the Noel Coward Theatre and “The Full Monty” at the Noel Coward Theatre and UK tour.
Mark Oxtoby most recently appeared in “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. His other theatre credits include: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Adelphi Theatre; “A Model Girl” at the Greenwich Theatre; “Brighton Rock” at the Almeida Theatre and “Oh, What a Lovely War!” at the National Theatre.
Paul Ettore Tabone’s previous theatre credits include “Love Never Dies” in Melbourne, Sydney and at the Hamburg Stage Operettenhaus. In 2013 Paul was accepted as a ‘Young Artist’ in the prestigious Luciano Pavarotti Foundation of Modena; performing with Placido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli at the Arena in Verona, Italy. He made his professional operatic debut in 2014 in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at the Opera Națională Bucureşti.
Daisy Hulbert made her West End debut in the corps de ballet in “The Phantom of the Opera”. Previously as a company member of the National Moravian-Silesian Ballet in the Czech Republic she performed in “The Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake” and “Snow White”.
Lara Martins has appeared in many operas around the world. Her credits include ‘Queen of the Night’ in “The Magic Flute”, ‘Susanna’ in “The Marriage of Figaro” and ‘Despina’ in “Cosi fan Tutte”.
Jacinta Mulcahy’s previous theatre credits include playing ‘Baroness’ in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and David Ian’s production of “The Sound of Music”. Her other theatre credits include ‘Cosette’ in “Les Misérables” in the West End.
Harriet Jones returns to “The Phantom of the Opera” having made her West End debut as ‘Christine Daaé’ in 2013. Her opera credits include: ‘Flora’ in “Turn of the Screw” at Grimeborn Opera Festival, ‘Zerlina’ in Woodhouse Opera’s “Don Giovanni” and Classic FM’s 20th Birthday Celebration concert. She has recently finished filming the role of ‘The Queen’ in the new Disney film of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Continuing until 2 September the full cast is: Matt Blaker; Bridget Costello; Maria Coyne; Scott Davies; Hadrian Delacey; Morven Douglas; Ben Forster; Lyndsey Gardiner; Lori Gilchrist; Ryan Goscinski; Philip Griffiths; Hettie Hobbs; Lily Howes; Daisy Hulbert; Ellen Jackson; Harriet Jones; Richard Kent; Tim Laurenti; Adam Robert Lewis; Siôn Lloyd; Lara Martins; Luke McCall; Leo Miles; Fiona Morley; Tim Morgan; Paul Morrissey; Jacinta Mulcahy; Nadim Naaman; Mark Oxtoby; Danielle Pullum; James Roxby-Brown; Celinde Schoenmaker; Tom Sterling; Joanna Strand; Paul Ettore Tabone; Claire Tilling, Charlotte Vaughan; Victoria Ward and Georgia Ware
“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” became the longest running show in Broadway history on 9 January 2006 when it celebrated its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record holder “Cats”. This coincided with the Broadway company and the US national touring company celebrating an unprecedented 20,000 performances in the United States. On 26 January 2013 the Broadway production celebrated an amazing 25 years on Broadway. In October 2011 the London production celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a spectacular staging of “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall” which was screened live in cinemas all over the world and subsequently released on DVD and in August 2015 the show celebrated 12,000 performances in the West End. On 9 October 2016 the London production celebrated 30 years in the West End with a very special charity gala performance in aid of The Music in Secondary Schools Trust. To celebrate this milestone, the current stellar cast were joined onstage by members of the original company and special guests for a spectacular finale. Footage from the evening including red carpet arrivals, interviews and the finale itself was streamed live on Facebook, gaining over 1 million views and reaching a global audience of 5 million people.
“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” has won over 70 major theatre awards, including seven Tony’s on Broadway and three Olivier Awards in the West End. It most recently won the ‘Magic Radio Audience Award’, voted by the public, in the 2016 Laurence Olivier Awards. “THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA”, which opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 9 October 1986 starred Michael Crawford as ‘The Phantom’ and Sarah Brightman as ‘Christine.’ It is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company Limited.
“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” became the first stage production to reach worldwide grosses of $6 billion, which it did last summer. Revenues far surpass the world’s highest-grossing film “Avatar” (at $2.8 billion), as well as such other blockbusters as “Titanic”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Jurassic Park” and “Star Wars”. Worldwide, a staggering 140 million people have seen “THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” in 35 countries and 160 cities in 15 languages.
“THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA” is currently showing in London, New York, Budapest, Stockholm and on tour in the US.
Production photography – Johan Persson
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Tickets are priced from £23.00 – £72.50
0844 412 2707