That 80's Time Travel Movie: A Back to the Future Musical Production

Jacob Richardson| 12/02/2018

Innovative and original, A Back to the Future Musical Parody ultimately falls short of the mark.

Taking the incredibly well-known tale of 1985’s Zemeckis helmed Back to the Future, but turning it on it’s head to investigate some of the fraught plot holes and threads, this adaptation seeks to examine the nature of suspension of disbelief. A Back to the Future Musical Parody throws a more self-aware, cognisant Marty McFly into the fray of time travel, exploring the inconsistencies and illogicality of the original story while also delivering more and more meta-humour.


The great thing about A Back to the Future Musical Parody is that, when it works, it works. There are a handful of really good, really smart and really well-executed jokes that have the audience in stitches. One of which is Liam Hartley’s consistently good performance as Principal Strickland; delivering his famed line over and over with increasing levels of shouting and pathos.


The problem, however, with this low-budget parody is that it thinks it is funnier than it is. This is a script problem more than anything, and director Row Blackshaw steers into these pitfalls, leaving space open for audience laughter after each and every joke that repeatedly fails to fall. That’s not to mention the plot, which, when bastardized and critiqued so frequently by the characters themselves, seems to disintegrate into something resembling disinterest.


With a weak script, one needs the cast to step up, and unfortunately in this play not many do. As mentioned above, Liam Hartley is excellent, as is Lara Boyle as the only member of the troupe with the capacity to actually sing. As the main character, Aidan Hodder really excels, bringing a level of enthusiasm and talent to his first show at Brisbane Arts Theatre that is refreshing to say the least. Alas, he is not matched for skill by his counterpart in Doc Brown, Alex Lanham, whose repeated attempts at rap grate on the ears more than can be endured. Lanham is joined by the majority of the rest of the cast who fail to make an impression, let alone a positive one.


It’s a shame, because there is some really interesting stuff here. The incredible innovation from set designer Steve Beeston is amazing; bringing to life this larger than life movie with seemingly a shoestring. Further, the central conceit of the plot is solid. Explorations around the ability to get plutonium, about the oddness of watching your mother fall in love with you, and about discovering your father is a pervert are all great launching off points. Unfortunately (as in the incredibly racist portrayal of ‘Arab terrorists’), director Row Blackshaw doesn’t seem able to (a) deliver them as capsule sketches to delight the audience, or (b) weave them into an engaging and interesting plot.


There’s a lot to like here, but a lot to dislike too. Buy a ticket for the vocal stylings of Boyle and the scene-stealing Hartley, but remember that you’ll have to endure a number of poor vocal performances, awkwardly drawn out sketches and borderline racial stereotyping to get your McFly fix.