Will Broadway soon be feeling “The Power of Love?”
That 1985 hit written for the Back to the Future soundtrack is one of a string of songs made popular by Huey Lewis and The News in the 1980s and early ‘90s that will form the spine of the new stage musical Heart of Rock and Roll.
With a book by Jonathan Abrams based on an original story by Tyler Mitchell and Abrams, the show will feature chart hits by the San Francisco band including “Stuck With You,” “Hip to Be Square” and “If This Is It,” as well as “The Power of Love.” Gordon Greenberg (Holiday Inn) will direct, with choreography by Lorin Latarro (Waitress).
Lewis himself revealed news of the project in a Rolling Stone video announcement Thursday with Jimmy Kimmel, specifying that the show will not be biographical but instead will tell a fictional story inspired by the band’s songs.
San Diego’s Old Globe followed Friday with news that the show will have its world premiere this fall as the opening production of the theater’s 2018-19 season, running Sept. 6-Oct. 21. Official opening night is Sept. 14.
While no subsequent plans for New York have been announced, The Old Globe has a long history as a pre-Broadway tryout venue, most recently with Tony winner A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder and Steve Martin’s Bright Star.
The new musical follows former rock singer Bobby, who has traded in his guitar for more stable employment in corporate America. But as he’s about to close a major business deal and find the love of his dreams with the CEO’s daughter, the chance to give it another shot with his band jeopardizes everything.
Huey Lewis and The News broke through as one of the defining bands of the MTV era with their 1983 album Sports, which spawned four top 10 hits. Their five albums released between 1982 and 1991 generated 19 Billboard top 10 singles.
“Hip to Be Square” was memorably featured on Broadway in the 2016 musical American Psycho, as serial killer Patrick Bateman waxed lyrical about the band’s craftsmanship while mutilating a Wall Street associate with an ax.
Heart of Rock and Roll is the latest in a growing roster of stage musicals built around the back catalogs of popular music artists, following in the footsteps of shows like Jersey Boys, a bio-treatment of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; On Your Feet!, about Gloria and Emilio Estefan; and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
Donna Summer, Jimmy Buffett, Tina Turner, Cher, The Go-Go’s, The Temptations, The Bee Gees and Foreigner are among acts with musicals currently in the pipeline, including both biographical and non-biographical shows.
Whether the market can sustain such a deluge of jukebox musicals remains to be seen. Or to quote another Lewis hit, will oversaturated theatergoers start saying, “I Want a New Drug?”
Updated Feb. 9 with details of The Old Globe world premiere.