Thursday, April 25

BFI at Home presents Back to the Future: From Screen to Stage

After 36 years, classic sci-fi adventure and 1985’s highest grossing film, BACK TO THE FUTURE has become a hi-tech stage musical, led by a creative team that includes the co-writer of the original trilogy Bob Gale, and the Oscar-nominated composer behind the iconic score for the film Alan Silvestri. Ahead of BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical opening in the Adelphi Theatre from 20th August, the BFI present an online discussion with members of the cast and crew, broadcasting globally, for free, on BFI YouTube at 19:00 on Thursday 29th April.

The panel comprises Bob Gale, who, as well as co-writing the original trilogy, has written the book for the musical, and multi award winning composer Alan Silverstri, who has written new music and lyrics for the show alongside six-time Grammy award winner Glen Ballard, who has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. Also on the panel are key cast and creatives from the show including producer Colin Ingram, director John Rando and actors Olly Dobson (Marty McFly), Rosanna Hyland (Lorraine Baines), Cedric Neal (Goldie Wilson / Marvin Berry) and Courtney-Mae Briggs (Jennifer Parker).

During the online event, the panel discusses how they went about adapting the hit film for the musical stage, what they did to make the story relevant to a new audience and what one studio exec wanted the film to be called before Steven Spielberg stepped in. Selected quotes are available for publication in promotion of the event:

Bob Gale reveals what Doc and Marty were originally going to time travel in: “It was a time chamber made from an old refrigerator and that was the way it was in the first two drafts and when we finally got the green light to go into pre-production… Bob Zemeckis is putting on his director’s hat and he says to me… wouldn’t Doc have been smart enough to build this thing into a car. Then he said the greatest thing, what if it was a DeLorean.”

Glen Ballard on coming on board with Alan Silvestri for music and lyrics and how they developed it: “With something like Back to the Future, for me the first thing I have to do is take the Hippocratic Oath, first do no harm. You’re looking at something that is a mountain of accomplishment.”

Bob Gale on the process of converting the movie into a musical and how important it was not to copy and paste the movie for stage: “It was critical to not do a slavish adaptation of the movie. This is a different medium and it was important to address the strengths of this medium. We do things in the show that you could never do in a movie and there’s things in the movie that you could never do on stage.”

John Rando and lead producer Colin Ingram on how they worked together to make the production happen: “One of the mandates I said to the brilliant set team, Tim Hatley and his associates, was that one of the things we need to make sure of is that the only real car we have is a DeLorean, everything else we’re going to do theatrically… the DeLorean must be the real thing.” – John Rando                                                                                                              

“It has all these great special effects but they all serve the book. They’re not magic tricks that are just there for the sake of it.” – Colin Ingram

John Rando and Alan Silvestri on turning a movie into a musical: “The great thing about…taking a movie and turning it into a musical is you can learn more about the characters through song. Glen and Alan do an incredible job of revealing their internal workings, their emotions, their dreams, their fears and hopes through these songs.” – John Rando        

“I never would have dreamed this could work, yet on stage as opposed to cinema this just works magnificently.” – Alan Silvestri

Courtney-Mae Briggs on her character Jennifer Parker: “I feel like I could be considered a bold casting choice. Claudia Wells who played Jennifer Parker in the film, she and I really don’t look anything alike. I’m a completely different ethnicity and it was never an issue with the creative team. It’s so wonderful to be working with people so inclusive and progressive and casting people that they feel are right for the role rather than who looks right.”

Cedric Neal on one of his characters, Goldie Wilson: “I think Goldie Wilson is the truest form of the American Dream. I take pride in presenting this character to the world through this musical.”

Rosanna Hyland on her character Lorraine Baines: “For Lorraine, almost every time you see her in the film and the musical, she’s breaking from conventions – she does a lot of rebellious stuff… She spends a lot of time resisting expectations, so there’s always been something inherently modern about her.”

Olly Dobson on his character, Marty McFly: “Marty ends up being a lot of the time the eyes of the audience… you always had to have them understand the journey that this underdog is going through… Plus, like John said years ago, the story is such gas that it just keeps you going and you fight for Marty the entire time.”

Bob Gale reveals what Sidney Sheinberg (President and Chief Operating Officer of MCA, Inc. and Universal Studios at the time) tried to get the film’s name changed to: “He was the one guy at Universal who hated the title… everyone else said ‘Sid, it’s a great title’ and we just dismissed it, until one day he actually sent us a memo and he said ‘I’ve come up with the perfect title: Space Man From Pluto. Here’s some changes you can make on the script to reflect that.’ Steven (Spielberg) went to his secretary, he says ‘Gale, memo to Sid – Dear Sid, thank you for your humorous memo on November 14th. We all got a big laugh out of it, keep them coming’… and that was the last we heard of it.”

BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical is set to begin its run at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End on 20th August 2021.

BFI at Home: BACK TO THE FUTURE: FROM SCREEN TO STAGE premieres on BFI YouTube on Thursday 29th April at 19:00, and will be available to watch for free: