Back to the Future: making history

Great Scott! Actor Olly Dobson talks about the pressure and pure excitement of bringing Marty McFly and his famous DeLorean to life on stage 

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“I was such a big fan of the movie that when I turned up to rehearsals I already knew my lines,” smiles Olly Dobson, star of hot ticket show Back to the Future: The Musical. As Marty McFly, stepping into Michael J Fox’s famous Nikes and the DeLorean was not only a huge career step for the actor, who has played smaller roles in Bat Out Of Hell, The Selfish Giant and Matilda in his native London, but the realisation of a childhood dream.

“It’s been with me for such a long time – my entire life really,” the 29 year old says of director Robert Zemeckis’s classic 1985 sci-fi. “Now I’m living and breathing it. It’s crazy.”

Developed by Zemeckis and screenwriter Bob Gale, this new adaptation sees Dobson star opposite Roger Bart as Doctor Emmet Brown, a role inherited from screen legend Christopher Lloyd. Together the duo must tamper with time to return Marty back to 1985 following an accidental trip back to the 1950s and a few awkward run-ins with his teenage parents.

With new music from original composer Alan Silvestri and songwriter Glen Ballad, some eye-popping visuals from a Tony Award-winning production team and the inclusion of Huey Lewis’s original movie anthem The Power of Love, this stage take on a cinema classic is proving to be a time-travel treat for both diehard fans and newcomers alike.

“It was a big moment for me,” admits Dobson, taking us back to when he first heard he’d landed the role. “I immediately hung up on the producer and instantly called my girlfriend and my mum. After about 10 minutes of pure elation I eventually rang him back and had a more civil conversation.”

Like many young adults, his ties to the three-part movie series run deep.

“The first time I watched it I must have been about three or four. I was at my grandparents’ house and they’d lost sight of me. I was a really frantic child and for the first time ever they noticed me sitting quietly in the living room, swinging my feet off the edge of the sofa. They looked at the telly and it was Back To The Future,” he laughs. “My parents told me that story when I got the job.”

Does he feel any pressure in reinventing Marty McFly for a new generation?

“There’s a certain hype but I’m just having so much fun. You sort of forget about the expectations that come with the gig,” he says. “I’m trying to sew in some intertextuality between the movie and bring that to the stage, because I know any diehard fan would appreciate those tiny details.”

As for the technical execution of the Hollywood spectacle, Dobson remains tightlipped. “It’s mind blowing,” he teases. “I’m totally restricted about what I can tell you. It’s an illusion-heavy trick fantasy. People are in for a hell of a ride.”

Back to the Future is on at Manchester Opera House until 17 May ( 

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