More than three decades after the chandelier first plunged at Phantom of the Opera and a helicopter flew out of Miss Saigon, a souped-up DeLorean will star in a planned Broadway transfer of the Olivier Award-winning musical Back to the Future.
Producer Colin Ingram is in talks to bring a big-budget adaptation of the 1985 Michael J. Fox blockbuster to a Shubert house next summer, people familiar with the London hit said. Last week, Ingram filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise $23.5 million for the Broadway production. Co-producers of the show on the West End, which has been running for nine months and recently extended to February 2023, include the Frankel-Baruch-Viertel-Routh group, Hunter Arnold and Gavin Kalin — all familiar names around the Main Stem.
U.K. critics mostly hailed the new show as a crowd-pleaser that’s faithful to the iconic film, which spawned two sequels, an animated TV series and an attraction at Universal Studios Florida theme park. Bob Gale, who collaborated with director Robert Zemeckis on the original screenplay, wrote the musical’s book. It’s about a teenager who goes back in time 30 years to 1955, where he coaches his teenage dad on how to woo his mom (and gives a tutorial on rock ‘n’ roll).
Roger Bart, a Tony Award winner best known on Broadway for The Producers and Young Frankenstein, plays the wild-eyed inventor of the DeLorean-slash-time machine, a role Christopher Lloyd originated in the movie. Prospective backers have been told that Bart will perform the part in New York.
The proposed offering includes $5.8 million to be held in reserve as a cushion for slow weeks, according to a budget circulated to investors. With its high brand recognition, the show should be catnip for tourists, who comprise the majority of ticket buyers, and eventually tour in the U.S. and beyond.
The show is said to be selling well in London, but the running costs on Broadway have given some backers pause. The production will have to gross about $1 million a week just to cover operating expenses. (That’s “gross gross,” the figure the Broadway League publishes each week, which includes fees the production doesn’t keep, such as credit card commissions.) Even with box office averaging $1.5 million a week, which is 75 percent of its potential, it would take at least 63 weeks to recoup $23.5 million, according to a production estimate.
Back to the Future, which was directed by John Rando (Mr. Saturday Night), beat Moulin Rouge! and Disney’s Frozen for the best new musical Olivier Award. Ingram’s previous Broadway musical was Ghost, a video-heavy spectacle that flopped in New York but spawned productions in 18 countries. “The ‘mega-musicals’ of the 1980s were why I got into theatre,” the producer said in a 2020 interview with London Theatre Direct. “Cats, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera — all big special effects. I love the thrill that it gives audiences — pure escapism and joy.”
Ingram, who developed Back to the Future over eight years, declined to comment as of midday Friday via a production spokesman.
Reviewing the London production in Variety, David Benedict expressed reservations about the “dogged exposition” and Glen Ballard’s songs that supplemented the hits from the film, Huey Lewis and the News’ “The Power of Love” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” But he was wowed by the effects. “John Rando’s production harnesses every element and, as it hits the crucial 88 mph, zaps the audience between the eyes and ears to a roar of delight,” Benedict wrote. “Is it a great musical? Absolutely not. Is it a great night out? Oh yes. You’ll believe a car can fly.”
Looking to arrive early in the 2023-24 season, Future may compete for audience share against several high-profile Broadway-bound movie adaptations, depending on when they open. Almost Famous is slated to begin previews this coming Sept 13. Some Like it Hot arrives Nov. 1. The Devil Wears Prada and The Notebook are both expected in New York following Chicago tryouts.
Accepting the Olivier on April 10, Ingram encouraged audiences to return to the West End as it struggles to recover from the shutdown caused by the pandemic. “Where we’re going, we may not need roads,” he said, likely referring to the multi-tasking DeLorean, “but we need tourists.”