On June 19, 2015, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts presented National Symphony Orchestra– Back to the Future. Music Director Christoph Eschenbach and Conductor Emil De Cou work with a 96-piece ensemble to deliver an outstanding night of entertainment that I won’t forget anytime soon.
The NSO took up the entire Wolf Trap stage, with a large screen looming above them for the movie itself, and another screen placed above the lawn seating. Full-length feature films with live orchestral accompaniment is a long-running hit for Wolf Trap, and they kicked off the summer season with the 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future, a Robert Zemeckis film with music by Alan Silvestri. Believe it or not, I had never actually seen the movie (I know right, where have I been?), but the packed audience was so full of loyal, excited fans that the atmosphere was thrilling before the show even began.
The venue had three parked DeLoreans for people to explore and photograph before taking their seats, and as the movie started, the crowd cheered as their favorite characters appeared onscreen (especially for Lea Thompson, who was seated in the audience alongside original composer Alan Silvestri).
As for the movie itself, I absolutely loved it. Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox were perfectly cast in the rousing tale of the friendship between a small-town boy and a wacky scientist, who must find a way to reconstruct the compromised space-time continuum after a series of mishaps leaves Marty McFly stranded in the past. It was a perfect, fun-loving choice for a summer evening, and seeing it on the gigantic screen itself was awesome enough in itself (and yes, I ordered the movie for myself on Amazon before I even got home that night).
However, what rocketed this already great night into overdrive was the NSO’s accompaniment. Rich and masterful, the score flew between each end of the spectrum, from highly technical and professional to a whimsical playfulness; Bernard Herrman’s Psycho, Don Ellis’ The French Connection, and John Williams’ Raiders of the Lost Ark were just a few included pieces. The music was spectacular, and the audio was crafted such that the live music never drowned out the dialogue of the movie itself. Watching the musicians and conductor work together onstage was just as exciting as the movie on the screen. Every element worked together seamlessly, resulting in a night of entertainment at its very best.
At creative productions such as this one, it becomes clear that even the most refined artistry and a great National Symphony can be, well, fun. I can’t wait to see what else they come up with!
I had a fantastic time at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’ National Symphony Orchestra– Back to the Future. More movies night like this one are coming up, so grab your tickets fast!
Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
National Symphony Orchestra– Back to the Future was performed on Friday, June 19, 2015 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts 1635 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. To see a list of upcoming events at Wolf Trap and to purchase tickets, go to their calendar of events.