'This is the new standard for spectacle': fans react to the Back to the Future musical

Audience members give their verdict on the musical version of the 1985 hit movie, which has premiered in Manchester ahead of a West End transfer

Fans of 1985 pop culture phenomenon Back to the Future strapped themselves in for one of the first performances of the new musical version in Manchester this week. Brought to the stage by the film’s original creative team of Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, and directed by Tony award-winner John Rando, the musical features a new score from combined eight-time Grammy-winning duo Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, alongside the movie’s original soundtrack hits.

Standing in the queue that stretched all the way up to Deansgate was Back to the Future superfan Steve Foster, 52, who said that he didn’t care how true it was to the film, he would probably cry regardless. Having grown up with the film and watched it “hundreds” of times, to the point where he knew all the words, this proud owner of Back to the Future memorabilia including lego and a holographic replica of the McFlys’ family photo could hardly contain his excitement.

Sporting Marty McFly’s trademark blue and red get-up, the professional craftsman had come armed with props, pulling out a letter like the one Marty (played by Michael J Fox in the film) has from 1885 in Back to the Future Part III. “I’m obviously going to ask Christopher Lloyd [who played Doc Brown in the film] to sign it.” Steve’s wife, Maria, 49, came dressed to the nines in a 1950s style black and white polka dot dress with white socks and black ballet pumps, topped off with a centrepiece black bow in her hair.

The pair had driven to Manchester from their home in Tavistock, Devon, to stay the night to see the musical, which Maria had secretly booked in July and given to Steve for Christmas. “I had to keep it secret all that time. He cried when he opened it!” Steve proclaimed, “We’ll be going to see it again in London too!”

Michael J Fox as Marty in the 1985 film.
Michael J Fox as Marty in the 1985 film. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library

Also in the queue was Charlie Senter, 29, who watched the movie as a kid and said that, because he loved the film so much, he was determined to go into the musical with an open mind. “I’m most excited to see how they’re going to do all the special effects. Like [the DeLorean car travelling at] 88mph – how are they going to realise that on stage?”

Outside the opera house after the show, twin brothers James and Warren Johnson, 42, were still singing songs from the show and fighting to finish each other’s sentences. “I was sceptical, I thought, ‘I hope they don’t cock it up.’ But it was absolutely fantastic. The way they introduced Doc Brown! And George McFly was great! And the end is just – wow.” The highlight? “Who knew Doc Brown could sing?”

Also there, with her husband and friends, was 34-year-old superfan Kim Sanders, who called the musical “a wonderful tribute to the film”. Grace Thornton, who had treated herself to the show as an early 25th birthday present, said that, while not everything from the movie could realistically be reenacted on stage, and some parts had to be omitted or changed, fans of the movie would love it. Father and son Gavin and Steven Price, who had driven to Manchester from Shropshire, agreed that, despite it being difficult to replicate every scene from the film, the stage production was “absolutely excellent”.

Kasia Majewski, a curatorial assistant at Manchester Museum, and her friend who had flown over from New York to go to the opening night, were taking turns to pose for pictures in front of the poster. “We both went into this feeling like: ‘This is a movie that should have never been made into a musical.’ My biggest question going in was ‘How are they going to do the DeLorean?’ It starts fires, it flies – how was that going to translate? But they pulled it off. The final action sequence alone was worth the price of admission. This is the new standard of spectacle, I feel like people are going to be talking about this for a long time.”


Lucy Campbell

The GuardianTramp

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