Stuart Brown is the founder of the 24/7 online Broadway music radio station, Sounds of Broadway (http://www.SoundsofBroadway.com), which plays the best from the Off-Broadway, Broadway, and London stage. Thousands of songs from hundreds of cast albums are in rotation. He reviews NYC theater as a member of the Outer Critics Circle and reviews CT stage productions as a member of the CT Critics Circle. He is also a member of the Dramatist Guild.
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
The Flying DeLorean & Other Notable Automobiles on Broadway
Later this week I head to Broadway to catch the new musical Back to the Future. Its
been a big hit in London. The show opened last week in New York to
mixed reviews. However, everyone – from critics to audience members –
agrees that the star of the show is the flying DeLorean. Click here to
read an article in the September 2, 2021 issue of The New York Times
entitled “In ‘Back to The Future: The Musical,’ the Car Is the Star of the Show.” Can’t wait to see a bit of Broadway magic.
got me thinking about other shows where an automobile was one of the
stars. Here are a few. How many have you seen? Which musicals would you
Grease – opened on February 14, 1972
My first Broadway show without parental accompaniment. Grease
is still one of my all-time favorite shows and cast recordings. While
the entire body of souped-up Greaased Lightning doesn’t appear on stage –
just the grille, hood and headlights – it is an iconic part of the
show, along with one of the best numbers from the score. For a number of
years, it was the longest running musical in Broadway history, notching
Sunset Boulevard – opened on November 17, 1994
A March 19, 1995 article about the show’s
full-scale fiberglass copy of Norma Desmond's Isotta Fraschini
(pronounced ee-ZOH-tah frah-SKEE-nee) proclaimed “Driving Miss Desmond: The Car's a Scene-Stealer.” The
town car had an open chauffeur's compartment and a convertible top over
the rear seat. It is a faithful replica of the Isotta used in the
original "Sunset Boulevard," the 1950 Billy Wilder film starring Gloria
Swanson. The show ran for 977 performances.
Ragtime – opened on January 18, 1998
The replica of a working Model T appears
on stage and its desecration becomes a central plot point of the
show. Three songs about the automobile appear in the score – “Henry
Ford,” “Wheels of a Dream,” and “The Trashing of the Car.” Ragtime
ran for 834 performances and won four Tony Awards including Best Book,
Best Score and Best Featured Actress for Audra McDonald. It lost out to Lion King for Best Musical.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – opened April 28, 2005
The stage adaptation of the beloved film –
that starred Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes – was a big hit on the
London stage, running for 3 ½ years. On Broadway, just 285
performances. I personally loved the show and thought it should have run
much longer. I sat in the 10th row, center orchestra and when the car started flying, I was in awe. Never figured out how they did it.
Hands on a Hardbody – opened on March 21, 2013
The musical is based on the true
story of an endurance competition at a Texas dealership where
contestants try to keep their hands on a truck the longest to win it.
All the character’s personal stories, choreography, everything revolved
around the red pick-up sitting center stage. Crazy idea that didn’t
resonate with audiences. After 28 previews and 28 performances the
musical closed. The show had music by Trey Anastasio, the singer,
songwriter, and lead guitarist of the rock band Phish.