By David Walters
You’ll be transported back, back to 1985, back to 1955, back to when you first saw the movie, back to when you didn’t have the problems you have today.
The experience, and it is a theatrical experience more than a theater production, is a nostalgic trip even if you’ve never seen the 1985 first movie in the franchise (as had not one ten-year-old near me who was having the time of her life).
The story in a nutshell (sing along with me as we all know the tune): Marty McFly, a teenager with a love for rock ‘n’ roll, finds himself in an unexpected situation when he is transported back to the year 1955 in a DeLorean car/time machine created by his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown. However, he cannot return to his own time in 1985 until he ensures that his parents, who are still in high school, fall in love to secure his own existence.
The production closely follows the screenplay, line for line at times, with minor adjustments, as writer, music director, and the original film’s creative team are the same. The songs interjected in the storyline are passable, though not memorable (no one is going to be playing the cast album over and over again), save for Doc’s (the appealingly Roger Bart) “For the Dreamers” which brought the production some, almost a little too late, thematic depth.
In the 1920s and 30s, lavish theatrical productions featured bigger-than-life technical extravaganzas on stage to entice the crowds, such as full-size burning pirate ships, train wrecks that busted through walls, full-fledged earthquakes, and sinking ships that were there one minute and gone to Davey Jones the next, reminiscent of Rome’s staged ship battles and small wars fought in the Colosseum to bring in the crowds.
I share this because the main topic of conversation about Back to the Future: The Musical, in media and on the street, is the technicality of the car in the production. Led by set designer Tim Hatley and followed close on his heels by the lighting of Tim Lutkin and Hugh Vanstone, illusion design by Chris Fisher, and video design by Finn Ross, this team has created a car that goes 88 miles per hour, not once but twice, and then folds its wheels and flies, all on the relatively short width of a Broadway stage (for a car going 88 miles per hour anyway).
Though most of the cast plays their roles with a nod to their movie counterparts, Hugh Coles as George McFly (Marty’s father) channels actor Crispin Glover, George McFly in the movie. And the audience eats it up, expressing their extreme pleasure in the comfort of something that is part of their collective consciousness and defined the movie. It works.
It’s a safe fun evening, as you’ll know what you’re going to get, with just a little more razzle-dazzles thrown in. It reminds me of going to Disney World.
2 hours and 35 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. TICKETS HERE
Opened August 3rd at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre (1634 Broadway).
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.