Roger Bart on reimagining Doc Brown in Back to the Future The Musical
Many actors would shudder at the idea of recreating one of the most-beloved film roles of all time onstage. The kind of role that has become so synonymous with the actor who originated it, that it seems impossible to separate the two.
Well, the was the challenge Roger Bart faced when he took on the role of Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future The Musical, a character made so memorable by Christopher Lloyd in the film trilogy.
“How does one fill the shoes of the iconic and amazing Christopher Lloyd in this beloved role? The simple answer is, you can’t,” Bart said. “But what a crazy dream true to give it my best shot.”
Bart will be starring as the eccentric Doc in Back to the Future The Musical, which is scheduled to hit the West End in May 2021. And according to the movie’s screenwriter/musical’s book writer and co-creator Bob Gale, Bart brings something new to the role.
“Roger is a wonderful talented veteran of musical theatre and a comedian in his own right,” Gale said. “He took some of the aspects of Doc Brown from the movie, but he really added another dimension Doc that we don't really get to see, because the relationship between Marty and Doc in the musical is a lot warmer.”
London Theatre chatted with Bart about tackling this role, his favorite moments onstage, and the burning questions he had for Christopher Lloyd.
Were you a fan of the movie before joining this project? If so, how does your knowledge of and love for the film inform how you approach the role?
I saw Back to the Future with a couple of buddies of mine when it first hit the cinemas and thought it was such a unique, funny, and touching story full of super-fun geeky science stuff. Fresh from acting school, I recall thinking, “Yeah, I could be a good Marty one day." Thirty-five years later, it turns out Doc Brown was really my role.
Have you gotten to speak to Christopher Lloyd about the role? Did he give you any thoughts on playing the character?
I did get to speak to Chris Lloyd and had two very important questions for him: Why didn't he give Einstein a treat after putting him in the Delorean for the first time-travel trip? And why is Scott so great??
What’s something that’s different about Doc in the musical that might not be there in the films?
In Back To The Future The Musical, the biggest difference from the movie is THIS Doc sings. And yes, I dance a little too, but with a tool belt.
How did you find Doc’s singing voice, and how does the musical storytelling add to the character?
The songs in the show are a lot like long close-ups in a film. It gives the audience and the actors the opportunity to really reveal many things you may not see otherwise.
The film has so many iconic moments, chief among them Doc Brown on the clock tower in the climactic scene. What is it like performing that moment onstage every night? Do you have any other favorite moments?
The clock tower sequence is one of the most thrilling and amazing technical feats ever seen onstage, and it is a complete and total thrill to be in it. I cannot wait to do it all again. The other moments I love are the quieter ones with Marty — the ones that are about our friendship.
Doc also has so many memorable lines. What’s one of your favorite Doc Brown lines, and do you get to perform it onstage?
Oh, Doc Brown has so many delicious and wonderful lines I can't say I have an absolute favorite. I'm amazed how faceted the phrase "Great Scott" ended up being. I think audiences will love hearing their favorite lines again and discover the many wonderful additions [screenwriter and book writer] Bob Gale has come up with for our show.
In this uncertain time, people are really looking to nostalgia for comfort, and Back to the Future is an incredibly nostalgic story. How do you hope the musical delights fans of the movie and newcomers to the story alike?
Back to the Future The Musical is mostly a story about love — between friends and family. It is also about pursuing dreams and the limitless possibilities of science. Life, and the universe, and I think we can really use that about now.
Photo credit: Roger Bart in Back to the Future The Musical (Photo by Sean Ebsworth Barnes)