Time-travel film Back to the Future to be adapted for West End as a musical

Original team behind hugely successful film following adventures of Marty McFly is reassembled to create a musical version

Back to the Future, which starred Michael J Fox as Marty McFly, is to become the latest film to be adapted as a West End musical.

Jamie Lloyd, a rising star of theatre, is to direct and co-write a new version of the 1985 movie that will also involve the original men behind it: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale.

Lloyd said he was five when he first saw the film "and I have been a huge fan ever since". Back to the Future is due to open in 2015, the 30th anniversary of the original film – and the same year that McFly visited in Back to the Future II.

The producers said it was not a matter of simply transporting a successful film to the stage. Gale, who co-wrote and co-produced all three Back to the Future films with Zemeckis, said it had been important to get the right team and to "create a show that is true to the spirit of the film without being a slavish remake.

"With all of us working together, we know the integrity of the material will be preserved in a production that will be a wonderful companion to the trilogy."

He said they had been exploring the idea of a musical for a decade and would include new music and lyrics by Alan Silvestri (the film's original composer) and Glen Ballard, as well as original songs in the film such as Huey Lewis & The News's The Power of Love and Chuck Berry's Johnny B Goode.

Back to the Future tells the story of Marty McFly who gets sent back in a time machine DeLorean from 1985 to 1955 by his mad scientist friend Doc Emmett Brown. Once there he becomes embroiled in the lives of his real parents, including his mother, who develops a crush on him.

It was a phenomenal hit, taking $360m ($783m now or £476m) at the box office, while the takings for it and its two sequels totalled more than $936m.

The West End version will have producers that also include Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and the London-based producer Colin Ingram, who was behind Ghost the Musical.

Casting has yet to be announced but it has been confirmed that Andrew Willis, who built a skatepark in Hackney Wick using reclaimed materials from the Olympics, will be the production's skateboard consultant.

The production continues a long established trend of taking popular movies and adapting them as musicals for the stage – with mixed results.

The list includes Carrie, which is often ranked among the worst-ever musicals, to Little Shop of Horrors, La Cage Aux Folles, The Producers, Ghost, Legally Blonde, Flashdance, The Full Monty, Lord of the Rings, The Bodyguard, Dirty Dancing and Billy Elliot.

The next one coming down the line is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound.

There has also been a glut of films adapted into dramas, including the National Theatre of Scotland's Let The Right One In, The Ladykillers, Rain Man and the soon to open Fatal Attraction.

One theatre industry expert, Terri Paddock, said the project was helped by having Lloyd – "the hottest director of any age at the moment" – on board.

She said there was a reason producers often turned to film. "Musicals are such a risk and such an expensive proposition so of course producers are looking to de-risk it as much as possible so if you have a familiar name, be it a movie name or a back catalogue of songs, then the idea is audiences have something to hook in to.

"But it brings another challenge in that audiences have pre-conceived ideas of what to expect."

Paddock was optimistic about Back to the Future. "They have a smart director and they have a lot of time, and if they cast well and have good music, it could be a lot of fun."

On song and off key

The good

Billy Elliot the Musical The director Stephen Daldry and writer Lee Hall teamed up with Elton John for a musical that has now been seen by 9.5 million people worldwide.

Michael Billington's verdict: "A model of fluidity and intelligence."

Legally Blonde Adapted from the 2001 romcom with Reese Witherspoon, the West End version won three Oliviers, with Sheridan Smith revealing herself as a major theatrical talent.

MB: "For all its absurdity I found this Broadway musical much more enjoyable than the Hollywood movie."

The average

Ghost the Musical Dave Stewart was brought in to co-write the songs for a show based on the 1990 film. You'd be hard pushed to remember any.

MB: "The people were largely secondary to the optical pyrotechnics."

The Bodyguard Some critics loathed this adaptation of the 1990 film, which starred Whitney Houston but audiences love it. It opened in December 2012 and is booking until August this year, if not beyond.

MB: "One more example of the necrophiliac musical morbidly attracted to a cinematic corpse."

The terrible

Gone with the Wind Early pPreviews of this Trevor Nunn-directed 2008 flop were running at a "how the hell do I get home" four hours and 20 minutes. A cut to 3hr 40min did not prevent early closure.

MB: "Feels like a hectic, strip-cartoon account of a dated pop classic."

Carrie the Musical For four audience-scarring weeks in 1988, in the birthplace of Shakespeare, the RSC staged a musical based on the Stephen King horror story and Brian de Palma film. It closed after five non-preview performances.

Nicholas de Jongh's verdict: "A resounding mistake."


Mark Brown, Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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