Talent: Casey Likes @justcaseylikes
Production: Back to the Future @bttfbway
Press: Polk & Company @polkpr, ImPrint @imprintpr
Photographer: Austin Ruffer – @austinyourface
Photographer Assistant: Sequoyah Wildwyn-Dechter @sequoyah.images
YEM Producer: Mordechai Laub – @Moocto26
Hair & Makeup: Taylor Levitan @tayonmyface
Styled by Jake Sokoloff – @jakesokoloff
Wardrobe By: Atelier Cillian (@ateliercillian) // AllSaints (@allsaints) // KYLE’LYK (@kylelyk_newyork) // Dr. Martens (@drmartensofficial) // Vince Camuto (@vincecamuto) // Calvin Klein (@calvinklein)
B-Roll: Jack Dwyer – @itsjackdwyer
Casey Likes is a name you’re going to start hearing a lot of within the coming year, especially come Tony season. Casey is in the title role, which is an iconic one, playing Marty McFly in the Broadway production of Back to the Future, which is also a musical. Casey started acting when he was only three years old and then went on to be discovered at the Jimmy Awards (awards given annually to recognize musical theatre performances by high school students in the United States) and starred as the male lead in the Broadway production of Almost Famous. Once Famous was in the rear-view mirror, Back to the Future: The Musical called and the rest is history.
YEM had the opportunity to photograph Casey at a studio here in NYC with some of the most talented Hair, Makeup and Stylists. It was a special day for YEM and we couldn’t be more excited to share these futuristic photos, along with Casey’s interview on what really happens behind the scenes on Broadway.
Young Entertainment Mag: At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to do live theater? And what do you think helped the most get you to Broadway?
Casey Likes: I never really had that “discovery” moment. There were certainly many moments that reassured my love for it. I started acting professionally when I was 3 years old, and it was one of those rare occurrences where the thing you’ve always done also happens to be the thing you want to do and you’re good at. I credit so much of why I am here doing what I’m doing to having a supportive family that let me follow my dream for the past 18 years.
“Having great energy for the show and a good mental space is everything right now”
YEM: I’ve been watching the Jimmy Awards over the last few years, and when I was doing my research I noticed that you had been in one. What was that experience like?
CL: That experience is truly a whirlwind of magic. In high school everything about Broadway seemed so unobtainable, and suddenly I’m at the Jimmy’s, a dream of mine, and my favorite Broadway pros are in front of me, and they are coaching me and giving me compliments. The experience of the week itself is beautiful and really, really special.
YEM: The Jimmy Awards is such a great way to get exposure, what would you say is one thing you wish you knew before you got picked to be a part of it?
“It’s so fun, it’s such a ride, and kids come up to me at the stage door every day with a love for theatre or for acting they never had before”
CL: Like I said, the week itself is special and magical, but what happens after that week is over can get stressful and real. Especially in recent years, I feel like the focus has become a lot about “winning” and “what is the Jimmy’s going to do for my career,” and really, it’s about the kids and the experience of that week! And while yes, I’m in a handful of people who benefitted career-wise from the Jimmy’s, for which I will always be thankful, I wish more people talked about the week itself and how beneficial it is to your work ethic.
Also, I lost the Jimmy’s! Haha! and I proudly went to this year’s after-party and greeted 94 losers of the Jimmy’s with a smile and said, “you’re gonna be alright.” Everyone has their own path to career success, no one path is the right one.
YEM: What would you say is the one thing you learned from being a part of the Almost Famous production that you brought with you to the Back to the Future stage?
CL: SO much. I mean, I learned so much that I can’t pick just one thing. Overall, I learned what the job is. I learned the diet you have to be on to lead a show, the training required, and the discipline. Almost Famous and that family raised me, I see it as like my childhood, and Back to the Future is like my teen years; I learned my ABC’s so now I know how to spell. Nothing quite prepares you for the job like DOING the job.
YEM: What was the audition process like for Back to the Future?
CL: Well, they saw me in Almost Famous very early on in the run and asked me to come in, but I was busy with performing, so when we closed the very next day, they contacted me, and I came in. I learned a bunch of material and came in for a total of one audition with all the producers present, along with Roger Bart. I guess our chemistry and my work was enough in that one night in December. They called me three days before I closed Almost Famous.
“I met Christopher [Lloyd] in the middle of rehearsal and just fell to my knees and started bowing to him”
YEM: Did you get to see Back to the Future in London on the West End before taking on the role? Did you speak with Olly Dobson about the experience he had with the role? Did he give you any pointers?
CL: I did get to see Back to the Future in London, and I was completely blown away. I just thought it was magical. I did send a message to Olly thanking him for his work on the role because I know what it’s like to build a role for that long and how personal it is. But I actually saw Ben Joyce in London, and he was fantastic. I was just blown away and thinking, “Man, not only do I have to attempt to stand with Michael’s performance, but now Ben’s too!” Ben is great. He’s been a helpful shoulder to lean on.
YEM: What history do you have with Back to the Future, when were you first introduced to the film?
CL: My mom always compared me to Michael J Fox growing up, and she just loved him, so we watched it a lot together. It’s special getting to share the musical with her now.
YEM: I saw you met Christopher Lloyd, what did he have to say about the entire production? Did you also get to meet with any of the original creators Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg, and or the original Marty McFly, aka Michael J. Fox? And what were those experiences like?
“Everyone has their own path to career success, no one path is the right one”
CL: I met Christopher [Lloyd] in the middle of rehearsal and just fell to my knees and started bowing to him. I talked to him again on the carpet, and he just seemed to be very quietly and emotionally taking in his and the film’s legacy as I was thanking him for his work. I met Bob Gale, and he’s been a huge part of this process for me, a new member of the family. I met Bob Z and he specifically loved my dynamic with Roger on the gala night. And then there’s Michael…he got pulled away after we did our pictures. “Man, I didn’t get to ask him what I wanted to ask him,” I think before running over and talking to him one last time before he gets ushered into the theatre. “Michael, what advice do you have for me before I go out there?” he grabs my shoulder “Kick ass. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” A minute later, I open the door on stage, and the show begins.
YEM: The film and this character mean so much to so many, what does that mean to you, and does that change how you bring to the stage?
CL: I’ve been lucky in my theatre and film career already that I’ve had the privilege of embodying iconic characters and people a few times, I love that it comes with its own group of passionate fans every time, and I also just love the balancing act of that. Michael IS Marty McFly, I’m not steering away from that. In my performances, I try to basically tell the audience that “I love what you love” from the beginning, and after they see that, they are willing to go on that ride with my version.
YEM: Who is stage Marty, and how does he differ from the one seen in the film?
CL: If I’m doing my job right, it’s just a happy marriage of me and Michael.
YEM: What are costumes and makeup like for this role?
CL: Iconic. Every single day getting into costume I feel like it’s illegal that I get to live out so many kids dreams. And yes, there’s a life preserver.
YEM: What is your “GRWM” (get ready with me) routine to get into Marty’s headspace, any rituals? Any playlists? Anything that you do before you get on stage, take us through a day?
CL: I usually warm up a few hours before the show, I like getting to the theatre early and waking up my body, and getting settled in the space. I just really live in the show right now, but as time goes on I’ll see friends for lunches or have very quiet activities in parks. Having great energy for the show and a good mental space is everything right now.
“Nothing quite prepares you for the job like DOING the job”
YEM: What’s it like knowing you’re performing on the same stage as Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, Zero Mostel, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Gilda Radner, Larry Kert, Richard Harris, Betty Buckley, and the list goes on?
CL: It’s a dream. I have Barbra Streisand’s and Hugh Jackman’s dressing room! It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of things and forget about things like that, so I take moments to appreciate it often. Little Casey would have only dreamed of this.
YEM: What has been the most challenging part about taking on this role, and what did you do (or still do) to overcome it?
CL: Besides the pressure of one of the most iconic characters of all time? Haha, I kid. But seriously It’s just a challenging musical theatre role without the fact that it’s Marty McFly. The vocal ask is enormous, the physical ask is even bigger, the perquisites of skateboarding and guitar are wild, and I never leave the stage, all while doing it 8 times a week. But that’s a gift, it’s a gift to be a leading man on Broadway. I just trained for months in the gym with instructors, and I feel very prepared now.
“I credit so much of why I am here doing what I’m doing to having a supportive family that let me follow my dream for the past 18 years”
YEM: What’s one thing you learned, whether it be in life or in your performance, that you plan to take with you on your career?
CL: Balance. It’s so important to have people, it’s so important to have a job, it’s so important to have those separate and sometimes together. It’s so important to have ups and downs. All of the things that make life full.
YEM: What do you hope people leave with after seeing the show?
CL: It sounds extremely cliche, but I hope they leave with a new definition of the magic of theatre. This show is magical. It makes me feel like I’m witnessing something that changes the game a little in the way some of the iconic Disney shows and like Wicked have. It’s so fun, it’s such a ride, and kids come up to me at the stage door every day with a love for theatre or for acting they never had before.
YEM: What’s your favorite Broadway show of all time?
CL: Les Misérables, it’s a show that’s deep in my history. My mom Stephanie Likes was in it on Broadway, my God Father Nick Cartel is Valjean on tour right now, several of my friends have been in it at one point or another and playing Valjean at my high school (directed by my mom) is what got me to the Jimmy Awards. So many people are a part of its legacy because it lasts. It’s a perfect show, and it never gets old. Love it.