"It's like the story of the priest who decided to take Sunday off and play golf, and he shot a hole in one and he couldn't tell anybody," jokes Bob Gale of Back to the Future: The Musical's long-awaited West End run.
After a lengthy development period of more than 15 years, the musical premiered at the Manchester Opera House in February 2020. It was set to run for 12 weeks before transferring to London's West End, but then you-know-what happened and the remaining Manchester dates were cancelled in March 2020.
Finally though, Back to the Future: The Musical has arrived at the Adelphi Theatre in London and Gale – who co-wrote the movie with Robert Zemeckis and wrote the book for the musical – believes it's as close as fans are ever going to get to a new movie.
"People, of course, had been clamouring for more Back to the Future forever and we had steadfastly said, 'No, we're not going to do a Part IV, and we don't want to reboot it'. We set a really high bar for ourselves with those three movies, and we don't want people coming out of a remake saying, 'Man, they messed it up'," he tells Digital Spy.
"[The musical] was a way to revisit it without tampering with the lore of the movie. Nobody who sees the musical is ever going to get it confused with the movie and that has worked really well to our advantage.
"When people say, 'I want to see Back to the Future Part IV', what they're really saying is, 'I want to see a Back to the Future movie that makes me feel the same way I felt when I saw that first movie'. That's a tall order, but I think that the musical fulfils that."
With Olly Dobson and Roger Bart stepping into the formidable shoes of Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd as Marty and Doc Brown, respectively, the musical retells the story of the original movie. The idea to adapt the beloved movie into a musical started back in 2005 when Zemeckis's wife Leslie Harter suggested it after seeing The Producers.
Gale and Zemeckis got together with Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri, who both provide the music and lyrics. They realised the fact that Marty was a musician made it the perfect fit, along with Doc Brown being a "larger-than-life" character who would work as a stage role.
Revisiting the original movie gave Gale a new perspective and allowed him to add certain elements to reflect on the time that's passed since it was released in 1985.
"We're now looking back at the '80s in the way that Bob Zemeckis and I looked back at the '50s when we wrote the movie. So there are little bits of social comment about the '80s and the 21st century in there," he explains.
"Just as a small example, one of the benches in the town square in 1985 is promoting a video store with video rentals. Today, people are like, 'What are video rentals? What does that mean?'. It's a nice little period detail that we would never have thought about in 1985."
Back to the Future fans might still notice some differences from the movie though, both because 1985 was a different time and because there are certain things in a movie that wouldn't work on stage.
That means for things like the terrorist chase and skateboard pursuit are out, but in their place are new tweaks that "dramatically work exactly as they did" and callouts to movie moments they couldn't do on stage. It's all part of trying to make the musical different enough to the movie, yet still quintessentially Back to the Future.
Of course, there's still the DeLorean and that iconic clock tower, among other Back to the Future staples, that fans can look forward to. "The stagecraft is absolutely incredible," Gale enthuses.
"What was really gratifying for me is that, of course, everybody associated with the production, they're big fans of the movie. And so their love for the property, their love for the movie, got translated into them saying, 'You know what? This is Back to the Future. I really have to step up my game here.'
"The movie's well-known for all the little Easter eggs and details that permeate through them. That idea of just coming up with every little possible detail that you can, and trying to figure out how do we weave that in, that's going through every department.
"It works wonderfully with the music, because in the movie, we have motifs from 1985 that get repeated in 1955. That's a perfect thing to be able to do in a musical. It gives you a total, perfect reason to have a reprise of a song, with different lyrics that fit the time period and fit the character."
Whether long-term fans of the series or newcomers, it feels as though Back to the Future: The Musical will have something for everyone.
Even those who saw it during its all-too brief Manchester run will notice "little tweaks" from that version. The unintentional extended break has allowed the producers to realise things they didn't have time to do in Manchester, as well as make lyric revisions to the songs (which otherwise remain the same).
And although Gale has ruled out ever doing another Back to the Future movie, he's already prepared for there to be calls to go full-circle and turn the musical into a movie.
"Studios don't want to make original stuff. They want sequels, spinoffs, stuff based on other mediums, whatever. Now they'll start saying, 'Well, how about you guys making a movie out of the musical?'. Well, no," he says with a laugh.
"When you see it in a theatre, you'll understand why I say that. Because being there with the characters there on stage, with all the stagecraft that we do, it is really an experience unto itself. That's the case with all great live theatre, so we want people to see this on stage.
"And trust me, you will get your money's worth."
Back to the Future: The Musical is now playing at London's Adelphi Theatre until February 13, 2022.
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