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Huey Lewis, musical “Heart of Rock and Roll”

Huey Lewis, musical “Heart of Rock and Roll”


In the 1980's, Huey Lewis and the news were sometimes compared to The Cars and even Elvis Costello. But their string of catchy hit singles also sounded distinctively all over the place, coming from a group of regular dudes who might as well have been the headliners at your local tavern.

That's probably why writer Jonathan A. Abrams (working from a story co-written with Tyler Mitchell) brought the new jukebox musical to the stage. The heart of rock and roll in Milwaukee and Chicago, although Lewis was born in New York and raised in California. His many hits like This is It, Stuck With You, Giving It All Up for Love and Power of Love seem to fit the Midwestern gestalt.

Over time, these earworms often became disassociated from their creators; almost everyone knows The Heart of Rock and Roll, but Huey Lewis and the News are rarely a priority.

Ideal fodder, then, for a modestly scaled and hearty jukebox spectacle that could prove to be one of the season's sleeper hits. That's thanks to an inestimably witty book with plenty of tough laughs and a suite of winning lead performances under the director's watch. Gordon Greenberg.

With the help of a killer ensemble decked out in '80s glitter trash, Lorin Latarro's choreographic tour de force begins on an industrial assembly line and then leaves young bodies moving energetically and unpretentiously through time and space. The show captures much of Road House or even Dirty Dancing, as well as drawings from the Broadway world of Rock of Ages and School of rock.

It's kind of gritty Midwest Oh mom”, with paper pushers and inhabitants of the basement of Lake Michigan taking the place of the beautiful Greeks straddling the Ionian Sea.

Corey Cott in

Matthew Murphy

Corey Cott in “The Heart of Rock and Roll” on Broadway. (Matthew Murphy)

The premise here is that working-class Bobby (Corey Cott) gave up his dream of being in a successful band and went to work for a cardboard box company in Wisconsin (an industry that continues to give in in the gag department But you can't keep an ambitious guy down as Bobby sets up a sales convention at Chicago's Drake Hotel, simultaneously trying to prove himself to company owner Stone (John Dossett). ) and his daughter and Bobby's love interest, Cassandra (McKenzie Kurtz), that he can strike a deal with an IKEA like magnate, Fjord (Orville Mendoza), for more boxes than Milwaukee has Miller. Lites.

Obstacles stand in her way: Cassandra has a Pez dispenser from Princeton (Billy Harrigan Tighe) courting her, and Bobby has former bandmates (F. Michael Haynie, Raymond J. Lee, and John-Michael Lyles) who want him to come back. Then there's HR manager Roz (Tamika Lawrence), who has dreams of her own.

None of this should be taken too seriously, and there are no reinventions or pretentious attempts at awards and rave reviews. The Heart of Rock and Roll, which doesn't look like it cost $30 million and that's a good thing, feels happy playing to its target audience of Huey fans who prefer a good beer to Moet & Chandon every evening of the week. .

Corey Cott, Raymond J. Lee, John-Michael Lyles and F. Michael Haynie in “The Heart of Rock and Roll” on Broadway.

Matthew Murphy

Corey Cott, Raymond J. Lee, John-Michael Lyles and F. Michael Haynie in “The Heart of Rock and Roll” on Broadway. (Matthew Murphy)

Aside from a very fine central performance from Cott, all beautiful heart and full of commitment to the optimism of his losers, the biggest surprise of this show is how funny it turns out. There's a series of mean lines that reminded me of both Tina Fey and The Office, given how often HR and paper factor into the plot.

The show is never crude and does not exaggerate the genuinely warm welcome from the work-weary. It's really hip to be square.




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