Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway

This bright new jukebox musical brings the songs of rock icons Huey Lewis and the News to life on the Broadway stage!

By: Apr. 22, 2024
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Th-th-th-th-they say The Heart of Rock and Roll is still beating on Broadway as the bright new jukebox musical of the same name is now running at the James Earl Jones Theatre! The show brings the songs of rock icons Huey Lewis and the News to life in a rom-com about two dreamers who reclaim their showbiz aspirations while finding love in the process.

Read the reviews below as the critics react! The principal cast features Corey Cott, McKenzie Kurtz, Josh Breckenridge, F. Michael Haynie, Zoe Jensen, Tamika Lawrence, Raymond J. Lee, John-Michael Lyles, Orville Mendoza, Billy Harrigan Tighe and John Dossett.

The cast also includes Mike Baerga, Tommy Bracco, TyNia René Brandon, Olivia Cece, Taylor Marie Daniel, Autumn Guzzardi, Lindsay Joan, Ross Lekites, Robin Masella, JoeMoeller, Jennifer Noble, Fredric Rodriguez Odgaard, Michael Olaribigbe, Kevin Pariseau, Robert Pendilla and Leah Read.

Set in 1987 and jam-packed with Huey Lewis megahits like “Do You Believe in Love”, “Hip to Be Square” , and “If This Is It,” The Heart of Rock and Roll centers on a couple of twenty-somethings on the cusp of their futures—Bobby, a rock and roller who’s traded his guitar for the corporate ladder and his boss Cassandra who’s always put the family business first. When they both get a second shot at their dreams, it’ll take “The Power of Love” and a little help from their friends — to figure out what kind of life they really want. 

The production features a book by Jonathan A. Abrams and story by Tyler Mitchell and Jonathan A. Abrams. Music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations is by Brian Usifer, musical direction by Will Van Dyke, choreography by Lorin Latarro and The Heart of Rock and Roll is directed by Gordon Greenberg.

The additional creative team is Derek McLane (Scenic Designer), Jen Caprio (Costume Designer), Japhy Weideman (Lighting Designer), John Shivers (Sound Designer), Nikiya Mathis (Hair, Wig, and Makeup Designer), Tara Rubin Casting / Peter Van Dam CSA (Casting Director) and Justin Scribner (Production Stage Manager).

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Times: “The Heart of Rock and Roll” is not going to be the subject of think pieces and graduate theses, but its easygoing good spirits are bolstered by solid craftsmanship, and it’d be silly to turn up our noses at that. “Have a good time,” Huey Lewis once sang, wisely quoting Curtis Mayfield. “’Cause it’s all right.”

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Jackson McHenry, Vulture: To its credit, The Heart of Rock and Roll tries to get out before the buzz wears off. The second act lags and then accelerates around the point where Bobby’s choice between rock and cardboard gets obvious. While Abrams delights in adding new complications to the book, he seems to get bored of its circumstances about three quarters of the way through, and the show slams into its denouement at 90 miles per hour. There are a few lines of tossed-off explanation, right before the big finale, about why various threats to our heroes’ well-being are no longer an issue. You can pursue your dreams and also settle down! You can avoid the risk of a hostile takeover if you are … pure of heart and have some investment money from a Swede! The heart of rock and roll is still beating … as long as you don’t think too hard about it.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Chris Jones, The New York Daily News: Ideal fodder, then, for a modestly scaled and warm-hearted jukebox show that might prove to be one of the sleeper hits of the season. That’s thanks to an inestimably witty book with plenty of hard laughs and a suite of winning lead performances under director Gordon Greenberg.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Johnny Oleksinki, The New York Post: Rolled out modestly, little “Heart” is also a lot more fun and proudly frivolous than any of its sober-minded neighbors. It’s perhaps the first time in my life that I’ve been happy to see a confetti cannon at curtain call.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Elysa Gardner, The New York Sun: Strangely, these shortcomings become assets of a sort in “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” the new show now bringing the group’s repertoire to Broadway. Jukebox musicals, for all their contemptible elements, can be most irritating when they try too hard either to deify an artist or to find fresh wit and relevance in a popular repertoire. One of the reasons “Mamma Mia” became an enduring hit is that it steered clear of both these strategies, choosing instead to have giddy fun with what happens to be one of the most inviting catalogs in pop music.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Gordon Greenberg directs and Lorin Latarro choreographs, achieving some kind of immortality with all that bubble wrap. Around the edges of this production are a few inspired performances. Raymond J. Lee’s wacky rocker, Tamika Lawrence’s un-PC HR director and Billy Harrigan Tighe’s bleach-blond ukulele-playing male bimbo invariably deliver laughs despite the paper-thin material.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Gillian Russo, New York Theatre Guide: Then again, I didn't attend The Heart of Rock and Roll for its politics and I'd wager most people aren't, either. Nor does the show want you to. Your willingness to overlook this and the show's many plot contrivances will likely be proportional to your interest in either or both of the crowd-pleasers named at the start of this review. But I must say, your level of fun likely won’t. I am neither an ‘80s kid nor a person with any outsized interest in Cott’s rugged good looks, but I had a good, old-fashioned great time for 2.5 hours. Director Gordon Greenberg’s production is eager to sweep you up in its bright lights, even brighter costumes, and heart-thumping sound. Why not let it? The Heart of Rock and Roll is still going to be beating around you regardless.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Joey Sims, Theatrely: To distract from this baffling tale, director Gordon Greenberg’s high-energy production throws a ton of pure adrenaline at the audience. At times, it works. An exuberantly silly bubble-wrap based dance number is a delight, and Tucker’s terrifying a cappella group “The Undertones'' delivers an impressive rendition of “Give Me The Keys.” (Tucker cues up that number with the opener, “5…6…Sweater vest!”). When it truly pops off, Lorin Latarro’s lunatic choreography is actually some of the sharpest on Broadway this season.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: As with his recent Broadway success, “Gutenberg!,” director Gordon Greenberg takes his job seriously, keeping the show moving as a fleet pace. Better still, he also never makes the show too serious, ensuring that its tongue remains firmly planted in one cheek or another almost the whole time.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: So, ok, I won’t call “The Heart of Rock and Roll” poppy. If not poppy, it’s certainly predictable, a dose of 1980s nostalgia with a by-the-numbers plot that would not be out of place in a conventional 1950s musical comedy. But for what it is, the show has its moments. Cott gives another reliable central performance, surrounded by stand-out supporting players. Lorin Latarro’s choreography rocks, and hops, and sometimes completely flips (there are acrobatic dancers in the ensemble.) In between the catchy tunes, eye-rolling contrivance battles it out with cleverness; sometimes, clever wins.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Regina Robbins, Time Out New York: The saving grace of The Heart of Rock and Roll—aside from Lewis and company’s appealing songs (though my personal favorite, “Heart and Soul,” is conspicuously missing!)–is the talent of its cast, which is chock-full of pros. Tamika Lawrence, as Bobby’s confidante, and the grievously underused Zoe Jensen, as Cassandra’s college bestie, provide big laughs; so does Mendoza as the sauna-obsessed, meatball-loving Swede. For some members of Generation X, what this show offers will be more than enough. Squeeze your memories into spandex and get ready to turn back the clock. Who needs a DeLorean?

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway David Finkle, New York Stage Review: So, give a round of applause to Jonathan A. Abrams, who (from a story by producer Tyler Mitchell and himself) dreamed up a plot in which to lodge the Huey Lewis and the News songs so’s a talented gaggle of singers and dancers can give Great White Way life to them. For added stage heat, choreographer Lorin Latarro grabs every opportunity for her multi-talented troupe to maximize the excitement with inexhaustible energy.

Review Roundup: THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL Opens On Broadway Frank Rizzo, ‘The Heart of Rock and Roll’ Review: Huey Lewis and the News Jukebox Musical Is Easy to Like, Harder to Love: Cott, who was impressive as the lead in “Bandstand,” sings the hell out of the songs. But his striking good looks, not to mention his well-displayed biceps and abs, makes him perhaps too much of a slick outsider to be thoroughly credible in Huey’s working-for-a-living world. Still, since the show keeps its ambitions in check with its sensibly-scaled production and low-stakes book, it doesn’t really matter that it thinks inside the box. After all, cardboard has its uses.

Average Rating: 69.2%

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