“The Heart of Rock and Roll,” a musical featuring the songs of Huey Lewis and the News, begins developmental work Monday as one of the first shows to do so under the new contract with Actors’ Equity.
Lead producer Tyler Mitchell and the team behind the musical had held onto the dates of their February lab, amid the Actors’ Equity strike against developmental work produced by members of the Broadway League. The strike ended on Feb. 8, with a new contract for developmental work that includes profit-sharing for participants in work sessions that last from two to eight weeks and an increased weekly minimum salary.
“I just basically planned on being ready to go when and if the strike ended,” Mitchell said.
The musical comes to the work session after a run at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in the fall of 2018. The four-week session is meant to “sharpen and clarify” the show, ahead of three presentations for Broadway theater owners and investors, with the end goal of bringing it to Broadway.
This is the second show to use a new developmental contract, following the Michael Jackson musical, “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough,” which began its session on Feb.11, according to Equity. Under Tier III of the developmental contract, the agreements include a share of 1 percent of a show’s profits, after it reaches 110% recoupment, for all actors who participate in the work session.
”I believe in sharing of the profits, and I believe that the actors and artists contribute a lot to these shows,” Mitchell said.
“The Heart of Rock and Roll” was able to keep the dates for its developmental work session — in addition to Mitchell, a non-League producer, the show had a League producer attached, which meant that the lab could not have gone forward during the strike, according to Equity. The largest impact from the strike was the uncertainty it created for investors about the timeline of the lab and the show itself, according to Mitchell.
However, he said his investors have remained fairly steadfast and passionate about the project, even though their returns may be affected.
“In terms of the return, I think it has a small impact, but not one that I think that would discourage anyone from wanting to be an investor,” he said.
Mitchell also co-wrote the story to the musical, alongside Jonathan Abrams, who is listed as the book writer. The musical is directed by Gordon Greenberg, with choreography by Lorin Latarro and music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Brian Usifer.
The work session will feature cast members from the show’s previous engagement at the Old Globe Theatre including Matt Doyle, Katie Rose Clarke, John Dossett, F. Michael Haynie, Lucas Papaelias and Orville Mendoza.
During the strike, Doyle, who played the lead role of Bobby in the show at the Old Globe, said he felt torn about wanting to start the lab to keep the momentum of the show going, and wanting to support Equity’s efforts to update a contract that he felt needed to be “retooled and reworked.”
With the strike behind them, Doyle, who has participated in a handful of labs in the past, said he feels that the actors will be more willing to contribute and to work with the creative team during developmental sessions.
“I think it’s just going to create an even better work environment,” Doyle said.