We’ve discussed over the last few days the music of Back to the Future and how iconic and brilliant it is. We’ve seen how the music connects with the inner workings of the film and how music is an integral part of the film’s identity. So what about music in BTTF, outside of the original films?
Well, they made a BTTF musical.
I mean, it makes sense, right? A film in which music is so important to its identity and to telling the story, where the main character himself is a musician, and that is extremely iconic would make a fantastic musical! As a huge fan of both Back to the Future and musical theatre, this is just everything I’ve ever wanted.
The idea of a Back to the Future Musical was first announced in February 2012, with it being slated for a premiere in 2015 on the West End. However, this never happened. Creative differences between the chosen director, Jamie Lloyd, and the film’s original creators, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, meant that the production was pushed forward to 2016. After years of no news, in 2019 it was announced that the musical would finally have its premiere in Manchester, UK in 2020, with plans to move to the West End after this run.
So, on March 11, 2020, after two weeks of previews, Back to the Future The Musical opened to rave reviews from fans and critics alke. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has meant that shows were cancelled, and now there are rumours that it may not reopen in Manchester. It’s sad to see that the future of this show is now in doubt.
Even though we now can’t see the production, at least until Britain allows theatres to reopen, we can listen to the songs from the musical that have been released to the public. So, today I am going to talk about the 4 cast recordings we have been given, to get some kind of idea of what we can expect from the rest of the music in the production.
- The Power of Love – Olly Dobson (Marty McFly)
The iconic Back to the Future song, from arguably the best scene in the original film. Of course this had to be included in the stage musical (although it appears to be near the end of the show and not at the beginning like the movie – don’t know how I feel about this!), it wouldn’t be BTTF without it. This version is sung by actor Olly Dobson, who plays Marty McFly in the stage show. I really like the power (ha) in his voice, it brings a new feel to the song. I do think it’s interesting that they decided to remove the guitar solo from the musical version, but it does make sense. Listening to this version confirms to me that there is definitely something special about the original Huey Lewis version, the instrumentals just don’t have the same 1980s feeling that the 1985 version does. That being said, I do think this is a solid version of this very important song, and got a lot of people excited for the stage show.
2. Put Your Mind to It – Olly Dobson (Marty McFly)
The first original song released to the public, “Put Your Mind To It” has a real Huey Lewis feel. Sung again by Olly Dobson, this song is catchy and fits in the genre of ‘BTTF’ music. It definitely channels the 80s, with its horn section and electric guitar based instrumentation. From the lyrics, I’m assuming that this song will take place when Marty is trying to convince George to ask Lorraine out to the dance, and later when he tells George the plan to save Lorraine at the dance. I like the lyrics, and how 1980s things are embedded into them, like “Try to swagger like Mick Jagger or the Stones”. I can only again what George’s response to that will be. My main worry with this song is that I feel it is a bit bland for one of the lead songs in a musical theatre show. Think about songs like “Defying Gravity” and “The Wizard and I” in Wicked or “Waving Through a Window” and “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen, and how powerful those songs are. I’m not getting that same feeling from this song, but then again seeing this performed in the context of the show might change my opinion of this. Overall, a solid song that is catchy and has quirky lyrics, however I’m not sure how it will fit in the actual show.
3. Back in Time – Olly Dobson (Marty McFly)
This has always been one of my favourite songs from the film, so I’m glad that it is also in the musical! Similarly with “The Power of Love”, the instrumentation just doesn’t sound right, but I still really like it. I don’t know maybe I’m just so used to the originals. Again, Olly’s voice is great and I am starting to really like it. I think vocally he is a great choice for Marty McFly and he seems to have the right amount of charisma to pull the role off. My biggest issue with this version of the song is the changing of the lyrics. It just seems unnecessary to me, I mean the original lyrics are excellent (“Is this the 50s, or 1999?”). And this song is supposed to be the finale, so why is he singing “Help me doctor, and get me out of this time” when theoretically Marty should already be back in 1985? I just feel it was a really weird choice to make. I love the inclusion of harmonies and the backing vocals at the very end of the song. This version of this song needs to grow on me more I think 🙂
4. Gotta Start Somewhere – Cedric Neal (Goldie Wilson)
The final song released to the public is “Gotta Start Somewhere”, performed by American Idol alumni Cedric Neal, playing Goldie Wilson. This is a jazzy, happy song, meant to get people dancing I think. I like the positive messages of the lyrics, as well as the catchiness of the song. Cedric Neal has a phenomenal voice and I look forward to hearing more of him in the future. Not my favourite song from the show so far, but I think it has the potential to be awesome on stage.
Of course, we will never get a real idea of whether the songs are good until we see them in context, during a full performance of the show. Before COVID-19 shut down the world, the cast of Back to the Future: The Musical did a short live performance of some of the songs from the show (“Gotta Start Somewhere” and “The Power of Love”) on BBC’s Sport Relief. Check it out:
That was the released songs from Back to the Future: The Musical. I think my favourite is probably the version of “The Power Of Love”, with “Put Your Mind To It’ as a close second.
Honestly, if anything, listening to these songs just gets me excited for the other songs that this musical has in store. It is a shame that the show has been cancelled, but I sincerely hope that it reopens after the pandemic passes. From what I’ve seen, this show is awesome and I think it deserves the opportunity to at least have a full run of shows on the West End.
Let me know in the comments what you think of BTTF: The Musical so far, and what you expect from the rest of the soundtrack. I’d love to see your opinions!
Please join me tomorrow for Day 4 of BTTF Week. It’s gonna be a fun one!
See you in the future gypsies,
BACK TO THE FUTURE WEEK
Day 3:’ Back to the Future The Musical’: Are the Songs Any Good?