Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL at Key Bank State-Cleveland

Special effects and quirky story pleases audience at BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL

By: Jun. 16, 2024
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Review: BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL at Key Bank State-Cleveland
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In 1985 “Back to the Future,” the feature film, opened.  It stared Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.  It quickly became a cult favorite and spun off two sequels edged on by those who like the bizarre, the farcical, the outlandish and the quirky! 

When a musical version of the tale opened on Broadway, the reviews all basically echoed the comment that, “It’s a terrifically fun and amusing story that works nearly as well on stage as it did on film.”

Yes, there was some carping that “the score [which contains such quickly forgettable songs as “Got No Future,” “Cake,” “Something About the Boy” and “For the Dreamers”] was mainly superfluous,” but audiences don’t seem to mind.  In fact, if the assemblage at the Key Bank State Theatre the night I saw the touring show is any indicator, the musical will also become a cult favorite as it tours the hinterlands.

Don’t go expecting the emotional power and story-lines of such musicals as DEAR EVAN HANSEN, HAMILTON or RENT.  This show isn’t intended for that type of experience.  This is for those who like fantasy and extreme effects such as a car levitating and flying, lots of blasting rock music, and visual gymnastics.

What’s the hullabaloo about?  “When Marty McFly finds himself transported back to 1955 in a time machine built by the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, he accidentally changes the course of history as he inadvertently prevents his future parents from falling in love – threatening his own existence.  Now he's in a race against time to fix the present, escape the past and send himself... back to the future.”

The musical originally premiered in Manchester and transferred to London's West End.  It received positive reviews and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2022.

The show opened on Broadway in August, 2023.

The production is billed as “appropriate for those 6 and up.” At a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes it may be a little long for the young ones, but there are enough spectacular effects that that may not be a problem.

The tour’s cast features Caden Brauch, in his national tour debut, as Marty McFly.  He sings and dances well, and is totally involved in the role.  He is a delight to watch.  (Side note:  wisely he does not do an imitation of Michael J. Fox, who played Marty in the film.)

Long time Broadway and television star, Don Stephenson (Broadway: THE PRODUCERS, BY JEEVES, ROCK OF AGES, WONDERFUL TOWN; Television: “Law and Order,” “The Blacklist ,” “The Good Wife,” “Glee” and “Ugly Betty) is properly eccentric as Doc Brown.

Locals may recognize Ina Black, a member of the ensemble, who was cast in the tour during her last semester at Kent State University, as well as Ethan Rogers, a 2021 Baldwin Wallace grad, who plays Biff.

The small band does credit to the pop to do-wop to rock-centric score.  Chris Fisher’s illusion designs, Tim Hatley’s designs and Tim Lutkin’s lighting, are the co-stars of the production, along with Chris Bailey’s choreography and John Rando’s creative directing.

Capsule judgment:  BACK TO THE FUTURE:  THE MUSICAL will delight anyone who loves farcical, outlandish and quirky stories and who has a special liking for special effects.  Don’t expect a deep thought-provoking tale or sublime music.  This isn’t a show for that.  Go!  Sit back and enjoy the overdone hijinks! Escape from reality!  Laugh, clap and jump up at the end for the required standing ovation!

Tickets for the show, which runs through July 7, 2024, can be purchased by calling 216-241-6000 or online at

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman


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