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“Back To The Future The Musical” In Previews At Winter Garden Theatre, July 7th, 2023, Reviewed

Oh, dear. “Back To The Future” is a form of karaoke, performing the 1985 Robert Zemeckis like ventriloquism, like an overlong impressionist convention of who the fucks. The only name you might know is Roger Bart, who was Carmen Ghia in “The Producers” (and took over the lead from Nathan Lane when he left), and numerous other performances all of which are superior to his weird off the mark Dr. Brown where he seems to be dying to make it his own; as Marty McFly, Casey Likes fails to make up for his turn on the short lived “Almost Famous” with a performance that amounts to tics and catechisms a la Michael J. Fox.

So it goes for the entire production, with first in class going to Hugh Coles as Marty’s father George McFly and a spot on impression of the king of cringe Crispin Glover. Nobody else much stands out. But at least it is better than the remarkably shoddy songs by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard with Glen, responsible for the brilliance that was “Jagged little Pill” on Broadway (here), a truly missed opportunity; despite an occasionally, “Something About That Boy” is a winner as well as “Pretty Baby” and “Future Boy” but that’s it. All the best songs are oldies, “Johnny B. Goode” (without the shameful “Hey, Chuck, I’ve found your new sound”), and Huey Lewis’s “The Power Of Love” and “Back In Time” and the iconic fanfare a la BTF101.

Not much, right? Yeah, but the production is an eye popping scenic design that’ll thrill. Done with production screens and lighting the effect is really fabulous. Kudos to Tim Lutkin and Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design, sound design Gareth Owen, and illusions by Chris Fisher who worked with “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child”, the only show on Broadway (wait: maybe “Here Lies Love”) to match a Delorean travelling on the stage at 88 MPH, and, just like the end of the movie, flying through the orchestra.

The story is well known, loser High School senior Marty McFly has a loser father and a strict, alcoholic mom, and a best friend who is a scientist Doc Brown who has invented a (wait for it) time machine that has Marty travel back in time thirty years to 1955, to his high school back when his parents first met.The rest is a very original idea from Robert Zemeckis, it makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. Original, yes though not original on Broadway. The movie grossed $380M -about a billion today, that’s a lotta people and BTF is so busy servicing them they’ve failed to add anything except some excellent FSX . With that many fans over so many years, Bob Gale (Robert Zemeckis’s long time collaborator) needed to twist it (also, couldn’t he have done more with the skateboarding?) and he does nothing much, it is static and almost a tableaux: where Gale need to explode his story, he does nothing to it.

Theatre has been around since the Greek era, but has it even been so resolutely terrible? Death to movie musicals on Broadway…

Grade: C-

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