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Huey Lewis Brings The 'Heart Of Rock & Roll' To The Old Globe

A 2018 photo of the cast of "The Heart of Rock & Roll," (from left) F. Michael Haynie as Glenn, Lucas Papaelias as JJ, Matt Doyle as Bobby, and Zachary Noah Piser as Eli.
Jim Cox
A 2018 photo of the cast of "The Heart of Rock & Roll," (from left) F. Michael Haynie as Glenn, Lucas Papaelias as JJ, Matt Doyle as Bobby, and Zachary Noah Piser as Eli.

The world-premiere musical is inspired by Lewis radio hits

Huey Lewis Brings The 'Heart Of Rock & Roll' To The Old Globe
San Diego's Top Weekend Events: From Latin Art To Ruby Slippers GUEST: Huey Lewis, musician and songwriter

I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Back in the 80s musician Huey Lewis was knocking out hit after hit like clockwork. Because I'm working. But the hit songs didn't actually have any common theme or did they. A new musical at the Old Globe builds its story around hits from Huey Lewis and the news. Hey PBS arts calendar editor Nina Garran explains how the show was created and why Huey Lewis is happy to see its premier in San Diego. So many people think of you as the nicest man in showbusiness. I am very nice. What are we going to learn about you from this musical. The Heart of Rock and Roll. Wow. Well you're going to learn that that I'm I'm that I'm open minded. OK. Because we have you know we've turned several of the songs that were sort of our grittiest simple songs into a huge production numbers that I still can't believe we've done them you know can you which song in particular is that. Well Hip to Be Square. Working for a living. Are. Are pretty pretty large are pretty large. The. Process like this it's not really a question for you but what has it been like to see your songs evolve into songs that now are on a theater stage. Well it's been fascinating. I mean the process. And unfortunately because my name is on the marquee. I can I can contribute to all errors all areas of the production and they kind of have to listen to me which is fun because I have a bit I fell in love with musical theater you know when I did Billy Flynn on Broadway and I love the collaboration of it. I love the talent. I love everything about it. And so I've had a lot of fun you know dabbling and so on in the process has been very very interesting. So can I ask what are some of the suggestions you've made. Well yeah we're changing the lyrics somewhat to fit the fit the show and I have everything to do with that. And we also have plot ideas. What if this what if that what we've been doing this for eight years now so it's you know now we're finally just tied it all up and it's funny because it our show opens real soon and yet we're still got stuff there's still balls in the air you know. So why did you want to open your show here at the Old Globe. Well it's not because I have a condo one hour away. No. The Old Web has a wonderful cache. Barry Edelstein does such a great job here. And you know Tyler my coproducer and John and I we when we first screen this thing this was our dream was that we'd open here in San Diego with the globe and it's happened so so far so good. Oh it's great. So how closely does this musical resemble your own life. Not at all. Not at all. This is. This is a completely original story based on our music. You really should ask Tyler and John Abers John. John wrote the book and titers a producer. And the way they described it to me which is interesting is because I've found it amazing that they can actually weave this story and find a common thread with all these songs because I'm trying to write about completely different subjects all the time I don't want one song to have anything to do with another. And yet they manage to find a thread and the way that they explain it to me is that they just immersed ourself in our music. Heaven help them wasn't do it day and night jog together. And this personality emerged that became the personality of this band. And I know somehow I think I see that somehow. Yeah but but it's not about Huey Lewis and the news or me or any of that. But you were also a struggling musician and did you ever have to I know you went to Cornell right trip. Did you have to make that choice of music or this other life. I never did that. I never made that choice. I wanted to be a musician no matter what. And I always tell people today when they ask you know what. How did you make it or what should I do. Do you have any advice. I always tell them unless it's the only thing you want to do go back to school or try something else because odds are you're going to be playing in a club 20 years from now. But the thing is I'd be happy playing in a club. You know that's I decided that that's really the only thing I wanted to do. And so I can't you know I have a lot of baggage now because I've been successful but if I wasn't I'd be playing in a club somewhere and I'd be just as happy. And you mentioned you're making an album right now. We are making it out we're just we're done with our album we're going to actually be released. We're making a deal for it so it should come out if not this year early next year. Wonderful. So are you expecting a whole new kind of set of fans from this show. No. Should I like Abba. Mamma Mia. Kind of Abba. The new thing. Wouldn't that be great. Not to be great. I just you know we're having a lot of fun. It's it's it's it's not meant to be a life changing event it's meant to be entertainment. But as far as entertainment goes I didn't get a lot better than than a Broadway musical. I mean the actual talent on the stage is tremendous and you know just in terms of skills they dance they sing they act and they also have tons of humility and that's really refreshing you know and it's just a fun process to be a part of. It's very collaborative. They're great people to work with. And and I guarantee that anybody who comes to the show will be amazed by the talent on stage. I know that you've had some issues with your hearing is this maybe fortuitous that you're not touring but you're going and doing all this Broadway has it. How has that worked out for you. Well the the the show has been therapy for me because I can't sing I can't hear pitch enough I have I've been diagnosed as what they call Meniere's disease which is actually a syndrome based on symptoms they really don't know what it is. And I hear he distorts a low frequency so that music is impossible for me to listen to because I can't find pitch so I can't sing which is very depressing when I contemplate it. But this has been kind of therapeutic for me because it's something I can do and think about and work on you know. Yeah. Well thank you so much for sitting down with me. Thank you. Didn't hurt a bit. The Heart of Rock and Roll runs through October 21st at the Old Globe.

San Diego’s launched some pretty famous jukebox musicals, shows like "Jersey Boys" and "Escape to Margaritaville" that use existing pop songs to tell a story.

Now The Old Globe is hoping for a Broadway hit with its latest project, "The Heart of Rock & Roll," featuring songs by 80s band Huey Lewis and the News.

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Back in those days, Lewis was knocking out hit after hit like clockwork, but those songs didn’t actually have any common theme ... or did they?

"I found it amazing they could weave this story and find a common thread with all these songs. I’m trying to write about completely different subjects all the time. I don’t want one song to have to do with another. And yet they managed to find a thread," Lewis said in a recent interview.

Unlike many jukebox musicals, "The Heart of Rock & Roll" is not about Lewis' life. But it does use songs like "The Power of Love" and "Hip to Be Square" to tell the story of a musician who quits Chicago's dive bar scene to join corporate America.

On Midday Edition Monday, Lewis talks about how this musical evolved, and why it's helped him deal with recent issues of hearing loss.

"My hearing distorts at low frequencies so music is impossible for me to listen to because I can’t find pitch and I can’t sing, which is very depressing when I contemplate it," he said. "But this has been kind of therapeutic for me."