Proving that time-travel is indeed possible, one of the 1980s most beloved movies has soared onto the Main Stem. The Olivier-winning production of Back to the Future: the Musical officially opened on Broadway August 3 after beginning previews June 30 at the Winter Garden Theatre. Read the reviews here.
The cast and creative team of the new musical walked the red carpet July 25 at a gala performance benefitting the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson, stars of the original 1985 film, were in attendance on that special gala night along with several other original cast members. Even filmmakers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg and the soundtrack's star musician Huey Lewis stopped for photos with the famous time-traveling DeLorean. Check out red carpet photos in the gallery below.
Playbill was on the red carpet for the gala performance to chat with the cast and creators about the new musical and what makes Back to the Future so timeless.
“The most important thing in a great musical is to have a great story, a great mountain to climb. And Marty McFly has that,” says director John Rando, who has been with the production since 2018. “His family's in disarray because somebody's bullying his father, and has bullied his father all of his father's life. Mom's a drunk. His sister's unhappy. His brother works at McDonald's. His family's a mess. And then he goes back in time through the help of this brilliant friend, and he sees his parents and he has to help them help themselves. It's a beautiful story.”
Marty McFly, made famous by Michael J. Fox, is played by Casey Likes on Broadway. Back to the Future is Likes's second Main Stem show, following last season's Almost Famous. “I've been a part of to two stories that have really, really resonated with so many people throughout time,” says Likes. “There's not a lot of people we know that have an older friend who's a mad scientist that invents a time machine. But I think what's timeless about that is is the story of friendship, the story of family and what that means to us, and what we're willing to fight to get back to.”
That mad scientist is, of course, Doc Brown. The character, originated in the film by Christopher Lloyd, is being brought to life on stage by Roger Bart. He says of the show, “It's such an extraordinary and unique story that I've never seen before, and I don't think I've ever seen really since. I always remember as a kid, I found a clarinet in my house. And I didn't know who it belonged to. It turned out that my father played clarinet. And had I gone back in time and met him, I would have seen him practicing clarinet and realized, ‘oh, you know, he's a musician, and I never knew that about him.' That's just one of the multitude of facets that I think wakes the imagination for families when they watch this musical.”
“Going back in time” was fun for the songwriters. They were tasked with creating a modern musical for a 2020s audience, based on a 1980s movie, with a plot that travels back to the 1950s. But they insist it was an easy task. “We had his iconic score from the movie. That was always the glue,” says Glen Ballard, who wrote music and lyrics with the film's composer Alan Silvestri. The musical's book is by Bob Gale, who co-wrote the film with Zemeckis.
The movie's special effects have been a large part of the buzz surrounding the stage musical. How will the DeLorean fly? Is there a flux capacitor? Producer Colin Ingram made sure of it. “I love working on high tech shows. I was brought up with all these Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Macintosh musicals. I love the big pieces,” he says. And even though he's seen the show hundreds of times, there is still a moment that blows his mind. “The clocktower scene. What we do there is incredible. It's never been done before. And it's so technical and so complicated, that my heart starts beating at that point, until it's over. It's really wonderful.”
The cast also includes Olivier nominee Hugh Coles as George McFly, Liana Hunt as Lorraine Baines, Jelani Remy as Goldie Wilson and Marvin Berry, Nathaniel Hackmann as Biff Tannen, Merritt David Janes as Strickland, and Mikaela Secada as Jennifer Parker.
The ensemble includes Amber Ardolino, Will Branner, Victoria Byrd, Brendon Chan, Kevin Curtis, Nick Drake, Samuel Gerber, Marc Heitzman, Kimberly Immanuel, Joshua Kenneth Allen Johnson, Hannah Kevitt, JJ Niemann, Becca Petersen, Emma Pittman, Jonalyn Saxer, Blakely Slaybaugh, Gabi Stapula, and Daryl Tofa. Rounding out the company as swings are Samuel Gerber, Kimberly Immanuel, Joshua Kenneth Allen Johnson, Blakely Slaybaugh, and Gabi Stapula.
The production features set and costume design by Tim Hatley, lighting design by Tim Lutkin and Hugh Vanstone, sound design by Gareth Owen, video design by Finn Ross, choreography by Chris Bailey, musical supervision and arrangements by Nick Finlow, music direction by Ted Arthur, illusions by Chris Fisher, orchestrations by Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook, and dance arrangements by David Chase.