'Back to the Future: The Musical' opens tonight, with understudy performing for Roger Bart
Understudy Mark Oxtoby will step into the role of Doc Brown tonight, as star Roger Bart must quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.
If any show might be expected to engage in a spot of dramatic time-hopping, it’s Back to the Future: The Musical. The production is having its highly anticipated West End opening tonight, but with a change of personnel: leading man Roger Bart will have to wait a bit longer to give us his Doc Brown after testing positive for Covid.
Fear not, though. The show will go on, with understudy Mark Oxtoby stepping into the role of the eccentric scientist for the first time this evening, while Bart will return to the production in the not-too-distant future. Plutonium permitting.
The rest of the company is still raring to go, led by Olly Dobson as Marty McFly, Hugh Coles as George McFly, Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine Baines, and Cedric Neal as Martin Berry and Goldie Wilson.
And the musical has the blessing of the iconic 1985 movie’s original team. Michael J Fox, who starred as Marty McFly, wasn’t able to travel to London, but watched a recorded version of the show and enthused that it captures “the entire BTTF experience,” praising the actors, special effects and “freaking great” music. He summed up: “It looks like a hit to me!”
Fox’s co-star, Christopher Lloyd — the original Doc Brown — will be in attendance for tonight’s opening, along with Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote (with Bob Gale) and directed the film, and co-created and produced this new musical version alongside Gale. The latter has supplied the book for the show, and Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard the score, plus there are hit songs from the movie like “The Power of Love” and “Johnny B Goode.”
You have to reach back into the mists of time (although not quite all the way to 1955) for the origins of the Back to the Future musical. Workshops began in 2014, after a long development period, and it was planned to open in the West End in 2015 — the 30th anniversary of the film. In fact, it was March 2020 when the show had its world premiere at Manchester Opera House, and, due to Covid, the West End transfer was delayed until August 2021.
So dedicated fans have definitely learned to be patient, and, although of course Bart’s absence tonight is a sad loss for the production, Back to the Future: The Musical is still packed with all the elements that movie-watchers loved, including sci-fi adventures, complicated romantic hijinks, and of course the legendary DeLorean. Grab your flux capacitor and head down to the Adelphi Theatre.
Photo credit: Olly Dobson and Roger Bart in Back to the Future: The Musical (Photo by Sean Ebsworth Barnes)