Daily Press (Sunday)

Lewis rom-com has Broadway stage

- By Mark Kennedy

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 announced recently that the jukebox musical “The Heart of Rock & Roll” — constructe­d from Lewis’ songs — will play the

James Earl Jones Theatre starting March, 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. 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’s 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.”

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.

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.”

 ?? BRIAN ACH/INVISION 2019 ?? Huey Lewis is taking his music to Broadway with “The Heart of Rock & Roll” in March.
BRIAN ACH/INVISION 2019 Huey Lewis is taking his music to Broadway with “The Heart of Rock & Roll” in March.

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