To this day, the Back to the Future trilogy remains one of the most beloved series of films in Hollywood history. And while there are zero plans for a fourth installment reuniting stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, or even a reboot (thankfully), franchise co-creator Bob Gale is hard at work turning the first movie into Back to the Future: The Musical, which will be premiering on the London stage before arriving in the U.S. at a later date.
Hollywood on Broadway is certainly nothing new, the New York stages filled with films turned to musicals such as Mean Girls, Pretty Woman, Waitress and Tootsie, not to mention the numerous productions out there based on Disney animated films. While many of these productions allow things to play out pretty much as they did on film, with the addition of music, Bob is promising something a little bit more when it comes to Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
“It’s the story of the first movie,” says Bob, who co-created the concept with director Robert Zemeckis, “and we’re obviously changing to do things on stage that you otherwise couldn’t do. You know, we can’t do a terrorist van chase or a skateboard chase on stage. We have to condense things so that it fits in the right amount of time — songs take time. While we’re doing a lot of things that are going to be very familiar to people, there are going to be some things that are new, but still in service of the original story.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen Billy Elliot,” he continues, “but for my money it was too literal to the movie and I didn’t enjoy it. We’ve been saying to people, ‘Look, if all you want to do is see the movie on stage, go rent the movie instead and watch it again. But if you want to celebrate Back to the Future, and see a new side of Back to the Future, or if you want more Back to the Future, our promise to you is that we’re not going to screw up your childhood. The musical is going to entertain you and you’re going to have a great time.’”
The same could be said for Bob — reuniting with Robert Zemeckis to write the book/script — who says the experience of bringing the musical to life is exceeding all expectations. “I’ve got my fingers deep into it,” he says. “It opens February 20 in Manchester, England. We expect to get into a theatre on the West End within six or eight months after we finish our run in May. We’ve already got a German company that wants to take on the road in Europe and success in the U.K. means that we’ll bring it over here.”
Though proof should come from the fact that Christopher Lloyd has certainly given his blessing to the project, the question is whether or not actors are going to be able to embody Marty and Doc Brown in the way that he and Michael did, which would seem to be a large component on whether or not this show can work.
“We did it,” Bob proclaims proudly. “Olly Dobson playing Marty and Roger Bart playing Doc are great together. They really are. For our last complete workshop, which was back in February, we invited some Back to the Future fans to attend, because we all collectively said, ‘If the fans don’t like this, we’re screwed. We want to make sure they’re happy.’ At the intermission, two women came up to me and identified themselves saying that they’d started the London chapter of the Michael J. Fox fan club after Back to the Future came out. They said, ‘We were so skeptical that anybody could be Marty McFly other than Michael J. Fox, but you don’t have to worry about us. Six or seven minutes in, we were totally sold on Olly.’”
For more information, head over to BacktotheFutureMusical.com.