Fasten your seatbelts for a high-speed fun-filled trip in ‘Back to the Future: The Musical’ at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre

Adapted for the stage from the 1985 hit sci-fi movie by its creators Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future: The Musical, with new music by Grammy winners Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, along with vintage songs from the soundtrack of the film (including “Earth Angel,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “The Power of Love” – the 1985 chart-topper by Huey Lewis, who was in attendance on opening night), is now playing an open-ended run at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre after winning London’s 2022 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It’s an exhilarating ride for all ages that closely follows the original but is now a period-piece times two, with hilarious nostalgia from both the ‘50s and the ‘80s, and some clever references to the future – that is our present era of the 2020s.

Roger Bart and Casey Likes. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

Fans of the movie (I am one) and newbies alike (my husband never saw it but also had a fabulous time at the show) can easily follow along with the plot and enjoy the non-stop humor, songs, and dance, delivered by a terrific cast under the high-voltage direction of John Rando. For those not familiar with the story, it’s set in 1985, and revolves around teenager Marty McFly, lead singer and guitarist of an aspiring high-school rock band, and his friendship with the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, who has invented a time-traveling DeLorean fueled with radioactive plutonium, which, at 88 mph, transports its driver to another year.

When Doc becomes fatally irradiated as he’s prepping the time machine for a test-drive take-off, Marty speeds away in the car to get help, reaches the triggering number of 88, and is inadvertently taken to the year 1955. There, in his hometown, he must be sure that his young parents meet and fall in love, to guarantee his own future existence. Then he and the 30-years-younger Doc must figure out a way to get him back to the future on time, or the entire course of history will be changed, Doc will die from the plutonium exposure, and Marty and his siblings will never be, as the result of a disruption in the time-space continuum, as advanced by Einstein (whose framed portrait is prominently displayed, along with those of other iconic scientists, on Doc’s wall), in this witty and wacky adventure with a heart, designed to make everyone’s life better through the power of love. And time travel.

Jelani Remy and company. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

Casey Likes and Roger Bart make for a perfect side-splitting pairing as Marty and Doc, engaging in fervently accelerated back-and-forth banter (“What?” “What?” “What?” “What” “What? . . .), delivering their quirky personalities with total commitment and full-out gusto, displaying their top-notch comedic chops along with the more tender and serious sides of their characters, in such affecting songs as “Got No Future” (Marty) and “For the Dreamers” (Doc). They are supported by the always outstanding Jelani Remy in the roles of the industrious busboy-turned-mayor Goldie Watson and rock-and-roll star Marvin Berry, bringing his masterful vocal, dance, and acting skills to the showstoppers “Gotta Start Somewhere” and “Deep Diving.”

As Marty’s dysfunctional parents George and Lorraine, Hugh Coles uproariously nails the dorky demeanor, moves, voice, and insecurity of his bullied future Dad (by bad boys Biff, played with intimidating venom by Nathaniel Hackmann, and his cohorts Slick and 3D, portrayed respectively by Daryl Tofa and Will Branner), and Liana Hunt embraces his Mom’s love of drink and her unabashed attraction to the new boy in town, Calvin Klein – laughably assuming that’s Marty’s name, based on the designer brand on his clothing, as yet unknown in the ‘50s – until they are both set on the right path for a better future by their son-to-be.

Daryl Tofa, Nathaniel Hackmann, Will Branner, Casey Likes, and Hugh Coles. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

Along with the featured cast, the full ensemble (Merritt David Janes, Mikaela Secada, Amber Ardolino, Victoria Byrd, Brendon Chan, Kevin Curtis, Nick Drake, Marc Heitzman, Kimberly Immanuel, Joshua Kenneth Allen Johnson, Hannah Kevitt, JJ Niemann, Becca Petersen, Emma Pittman, and Jonalyn Saxer) never fails to capture the familiar stylings of the two decades and the futuristic imaginings, in their scenes, songs (music supervision, vocal, and additional arrangements by Nick Finlow; orchestrations Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook; and music direction Ted Arthur, who conducts the live nineteen-piece band), and dance (with vibrant choreography by Chris Bailey and dance arrangements by David Chase).

Casey Likes. Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman.

What also plays a major role in bringing the movie to life on the Broadway stage and immersing the audience in the story is the thoroughly dazzling artistic design. Tim Hatley’s set and costumes recreate the authentic looks of the different decades, and the futuristic sci-fi elements are enhanced by Tim Lutkin and Hugh Vanstone’s active neon lighting and spotlights, Finn Ross’s digital video design, transporting sound by Gareth Owen, and illusions by Chris Fisher, which reach the heights of the stratosphere and culminate in a breath-taking finale that leaves the house gasping and amazed.

Whether you’re a long-time aficionado of the popular film and know every single line (as many members of the opening-night audience did), a theatergoer who can’t get enough of the magic of Broadway, or are someone in the mood for an astonishing escapist experience filled with fun, be sure not to miss this electrifying musical adaptation of Back to the Future; the time will fly by.

Running Time: Approximately two hours and 40 minutes, including an intermission.

Back to the Future: The Musical plays an open-ended run at the Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway, NYC. For tickets (priced at $58-418, including fees), call (212) 239-6200, or go online. Masks are not required.



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