April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

‘Back to the Future: The Musical’ Review

Greenberg family post-show with Aunt Aliza.

What happens when you take one of the most bizarre, cult-classic ‘80s science fiction films and turn it into a Broadway musical? Apparently, you get one of the greatest shows ever created. At least, that’s how I felt after watching Broadway’s latest sensation, “Back to the Future: The Musical,” with my family a few Sundays ago. Whether you’re a “Back to the Future” (BTTF) fan or not, in my eyes, this show has redefined the bar for a great Broadway experience. It masterfully blends storytelling, inspiring music, hysterical comedy, and a set design that puts most Hollywood movies to shame.

The plot of BTTF is one of the strangest ones I have ever seen. Marty McFly, a high school teenager, whose best friend is an eccentric scientist named Dr. Emmet Brown (nicknamed “Doc”), accidentally gets sent back 30 years in the past to 1955. To get back to the future (title alert!) Marty teams up with younger Doc to fix his time machine. Marty needs to use the power of a lightning bolt striking the town’s clock tower at a precise time, which Marty knows about because he conveniently had a flyer on hand from the future stating the time that the lightning bolt hit the tower.

Biff and his bully friends at the diner.

However, that is all really context for the main story, which is a love story between Marty’s parents. Unfortunately, when Marty arrives in 1955, he inadvertently disrupts his parents’ first meeting, preventing them from falling in love. Because they never met and fell in love, Marty risks disappearing forever if he can’t get them to do so again.

I won’t spoil it all, but the lessons learned are incredibly powerful: the importance of not repeating past mistakes, earning and maintaining true love, taking control of your own destiny, and standing up to bullies. Certain scenes in the movie never fail to bring a tear to my eye, filled with pure ecstasy. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s an absolute must-watch.

And the Broadway show is a must-watch too. But for many other reasons.

Doc and Marty by the time machine.

Going into the show, my family and I had prepared by watching the trailer for the performance nearly every week. We would all crack up at how preposterous the idea was. BTTF is by no means a musical; there are a couple of classic ‘80s songs performed by Huey Lewis and the News such as the “Power of Love” and “Back in Time,” but otherwise it’s just a sci-fi film. Yet in the trailer, they wrote original scores that would be incorporated into the plot, and we were eager to see it play out live. Our expectations were realistic and we were mostly expecting the show to be a good laugh rather than a serious performance.

When we entered the theater, we immediately saw stands selling merchandise themed to BTTF. My brother Gabe brought a cool pair of socks with the famous DeLorean time machine on them. The show began just like the movie with Marty sneaking into Doc’s lab and turning the speaker system to max volume. When he connected to the speaker and played his electric guitar, the machine exploded causing sparks to fly out of it and Marty was thrown backward by the blast.

Greenberg family post-show with friend David.

Then, realizing he’s late for school, Marty skateboards into Hill Valley Square, which was recreated and looked exactly like the movie. The show’s opening song, “It’s Only a Matter of Time,” performed by Casey Likes, who played Marty, was fantastic and subverted my expectations for the rest of the show. His voice was smooth like butter, and he was able to hit every high note effortlessly. The backup singers, all appropriately dressed in ‘80s outfits and acting like pedestrians around town, helped add to the symphony.

Later, at Twin Pines Mall, Marty meets up with Doc, who reveals himself by emerging from the DeLorean machine with the full futuristic fog effect included. Doc was portrayed by Roger Bart, whom Gabe later pointed out was the same singer who sang “Go the Distance” in “Hercules.” Doc and Marty were by far my favorite two characters in the show. I won’t delve into the rest of the story, but the musical pretty much covered the entire plot of the movie with accompanying songs. My favorite song was “Gotta Start Somewhere,” sung by Jelani Remi, who played Mayor Goldie Wilson. It was a modern gospel-style song and was very moving.

The highlight of the show was the incredibly impressive set designs. “Back to the Future” is a movie that takes place in a lot of different locations throughout Hill Valley, including the town square, diner, school, Doc’s house, Lauraine’s house, the mall, Peabody’s farm, and more.

Mary McFly and the Pinheads.

Somehow, the show managed to recreate perfect backgrounds and props for each setting, seamlessly switching them between scenes. The special effects were outstanding. When Marty traveled through time in his DeLorean, the room pulsed with bright lights, creating the sensation that we were on a simulated ride accompanying Marty. Despite the fact that the seats didn’t move at all, it was an illusion that astounded everyone.

What truly carried the bulk of the show was the chemistry between the dynamic duo of Doc and Marty. Whenever they appeared on screen together, their dialogue and banter were on point, leaving me rolling on the floor with laughter. They embodied their respective roles so well that I believed I was watching Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, who portrayed the original Doc and Marty, with their iconic charisma brought to life on stage.

There were also great running bits that the show featured. For instance, whenever Doc sang, a group of girl backup singers always appeared out of nowhere, enhancing the absurdity of the scene. Several chase scenes, in which the villain, Biff, pursued our heroes, felt akin to watching a live episode of “Scooby-Doo” due to their reminiscent nature.

For the most part, I loved most of the characters and the actors playing them. Doc and Marty truly stole the show. I adored Liana Hunt as Lauraine Baines. It’s a challenging role as she has to play both Marty’s mom and uh … cough, cough … love interest and mother from the ‘50s. Nathaniel Hackmann, who played the antagonist Biff, nailed it as well, coming off as dimwitted yet menacing at the same time. However, I found some characters a bit over-the-top. Marty’s love interest Jennifer (Mikaela Secada), was a bit too lovey-dovey. George, played by Hugh Coles, came off as excessively nerdy and, in my opinion, missed the essence of George’s character. George wasn’t solely a complete nerd; he was a misunderstood and unconfident teenager who never stood up for himself. Consequently, as an adult, he was utterly helpless and pathetic (which was captured well). But his teenage self shouldn’t have been as lame and the actor leaned too much into the complete nerd stereotype for the character, which I didn’t appreciate.

Original cast and the musical cast meet in New York.

“Back to the Future: The Musical” is nothing short of a masterpiece. It was clean and enjoyable for the whole family (recommended for children ages 6 and up, according to Broadway Shows reviews). The acting, effects, and songs were top-notch, and the show did justice to my favorite movie of all time. Just when I thought the show couldn’t get any better, the finale (which I won’t spoil) left me and the rest of the audience in awe, resulting in a thunderous ovation for the wonderful cast as we rose to our feet.

This show needs to be on your bucket list if you are a Broadway or “Back to the Future” fan. I saw on Groupon they were selling discounted tickets, so be sure to check out that app before making a purchase. See you all there in the future!:)


Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. This summer, Zack went to an Ed Sheeran concert at Metlife Stadium. He also recently watched the new Disney film “Wish.” If you have any recommendations of fun places for him to cover, email [email protected].

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