Friday, April 12, 2024

From Back to the Future to Heathers: America takes over UK stage

America has taken over the London stage.

On a recent trip to catch musicals on London’s West End, I noticed that there are many that have American characters – so I certainly felt at home and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

The biggest and grandest of them all is Back to the Future: The Musical. Yes, a musical on that classic Michael J. Fox film. This show not only packs all of the same fun into a live show – but does so with songs AND it just won the Olivier Awards (London Tony Award equivalent) for Best Musical!

I caught it with Will Haswell in the lead of Marty McFly. He was fun, energetic and cool – you’d never know the Tony-nominated lead actor Olly Dobson had the day off as Haswell was outstanding. Roger Bart, a Broadway favorite, takes on the role of Doc. Bart was his usual wonderful self and it is surprising that he wasn’t award-nominated as well.

That was until Hugh Coles enters the stage as George McFly. Coles was Olivier nominated and really should have won. He takes over every scene he’s in with his awkward voice afflictions and true physical comedy. This man is amazing and is comedic gold!

Back to the Future

The songs were good and fun and really kept things snappy but the other big star of this show is the effects and production design. Designer Tim Hatley and his teams in lighting, sound and visual design are amazing technicians. The set opens up into the audience and automatically makes us feel part of it. Then his designs either make things look real or take comic effect when they obviously a stage trick – like when Doc climbs the “stairs” to the clock tower.

There’s also a “how did they do that” moment at the end which I won’t spoil. Just know I will hear your “wow” back in States when you see this show and that moment. See and learn about this show here.

America is also represented in Heathers – a show that I have loved ever since the 1989 movie. I also was among the first ever to see its first stage production in Los Angeles and then again Off-Broadway and then regionally in San Francisco. OMG – am I obsessed with Heathers.


The timing of the production might be a bit off as it does involve killings at high school. That really didn’t hit me until I sat in the seat and thought about tragedies with school shootings.

Even though this is a satire and parody and focuses more on the caste system among high school clicks, I couldn’t shake what’s going on in the real world while I am what is supposed to be escapism. Of course, we can’t blame theatres and writers for cresting things that happen in the world. This could actually help bring attention to these matters. Anyway we can bring these crimes to an end, we should try.

Back to the show…there are no signs that these characters aren’t from Los Angeles. EVERY accent was perfect and flawless and the audience licked it up! The cult following obviously has hit the UK as many audience members were dressed as Heathers.

Song-wise, Heathers is a home run. THANK YOU to writers Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy for being theatre geniuses! Their clever lyrics and fun beats make you sing these tunes (later! not in the show). Afterward, I downloaded “Candy Store,” “Seventeen” and “Our Love is God.”
If in London, go:

I didn’t have time to see every show with U.S. roots but looking at marquees and programs, the West End has Pretty WomanTina: The MusicalLegally BlondeJersey BoysGreaseBonnie & ClydeThe Drifters’ Girl and Dear Evan Hansen. So apparently, if people can’t travel to America right now, we will bring America to them.

Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 156 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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