NEW YORK (AP) — Huey Lewis, who with his band The News stormed radio in the 1980s with such rock-pop hits as “The Power of Love” and “I Want a New Drug,” is about to take his music to a Broadway stage.
Lewis and executive producer Hunter Arnold tell The Associated Press that the jukebox musical “The Heart of Rock & Roll” — constructed from Lewis’ songs — will play the James Earl Jones Theatre starting March 2024, capping more than 10 years of gestation.
“It’s been a long road, but it’s very gratifying,” Lewis said. “I’m pinching myself because it’s really going to happen now.”
The show, which has an original story unconnected to Lewis, broke the record for highest gross per performance at San Diego’s Old Globe theater in 2018.
“It’s smart, first of all, and funny. And it has a lot of heart and it’s about love, basically,” Lewis said. “People ask me, ’What’s it about, ”The Heart of Rock & Roll”? And it’s actually about the power of love.”
Lewis has tweaked some song lyrics to make them able to be sung by different people and in contexts he never initially anticipated. “The fun part of that is being able to hear these songs that we wrote tell a new story in a completely different way,” he said.
Music supervisor and orchestrator Brian Usifer has reworked the tunes for a word-driven show, and the production will feature a book by Jonathan A. Abrams. Alongside Hunter as producers are Tyler Mitchell, who initially proposed a show based on the band’s music, and Kayla Greenspan. Casting will be announced later.
The story centers on a blue-collar guy who used to be in a rock band in his 20s. He finds himself in his 30s prepared to take the leap to middle-class respectability when his bandmates return to take another stab at music. There’s also a love story when he falls for the boss’ daughter.
“It’s an everyman story,” said Arnold. “It’s really a story about what do we actually want in life, and how do we decide that for ourselves.”
Huey Lewis & The News had 12 top 10 Billboard hits on the Hot 100 and three that made No. 1. They won a Grammy Award, for best music video for “The Heart if Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and “The Power of Love” was nominated for an Academy Award.
Most of the band’s hits came from “Sports” — their sophomore album — released in 1983, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 160 weeks. It spun off such singles as “Heart and Soul,” “I Want a New Drug,” “If This Is It,” “Finally Found a Home,” “Walking on a Thin Line” and “The Heart of Rock & Roll.”
Lewis was an unlikely pop star, with earnest and sweet songs that verged on corny, delivered by a singer substantially older than his counterparts on the charts. “It’s the weirdest thing because the man who defied the ‘80s in many ways now also defines the ’80s,” said Arnold.
“I think more than ever, people are looking for something that makes them feel hopeful, happy. Nostalgia is in because it’s a comfort food for us as audiences, but not something that is without a lesson underneath.”
There’s irony that Lewis’ music is already on Broadway — in a musical take on “Back to the Future,” including the theme tune “The Power of Love” and “Back in Time.”
“It’s more about timing. It’s not about we’re the greatest songwriters who ever lived,” said Lewis, laughing. He appeared on Broadway in “Chicago” as Billy Flynn in the mid-2000s.
“I consider musical theater to be the most rewarding because it’s the most demanding of all artistic expression. You need to sing, dance and act. And it’s so collaborative that it’s not even enough to be good. You need to make everyone else good as well,” he added. “It’s wonderfully demanding and wonderfully rewarding, and we’re just happy to have a shot at it.”
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits