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Broadway Actor Who Grew Up Down the Street From Huey Lewis Comes Full Circle Starring in Musical Based off His Music

Broadway star Matt Doyle grew up right down the street from rock icon Huey Lewis, listening to all his records. Now, he's starring in a musical inspired by the music of Huey Lewis and The News.

When actor Matt Doyle and his family first moved to Ross, California, a small community in Marin County in the Bay Area, his mom pointed to a home down the street. 

That's where Huey Lewis lives, she said. 

"And I said, 'Who's Huey Lewis?'" Doyle recalled. "And she said, 'Back to the Future, Matty!'" 

All of a sudden, it clicked for him. 

Doyle, best known for his work in "Sweeney Todd," "Spring Awakening" and "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway, grew up just down the block from the rockstar in the small town of about 2,000  residents. He would see Lewis at the grocery store in town. He would play Huey Lewis and the News music in his car as he drove. 

"I grew up on his music because, you know, when you find out a rockstar is living next door, you want to know everything about them and all of their songs and everything," Doyle said. 

So when the email about "The Heart of Rock and Roll," a new world-premiere musical comedy inspired by Lewis' songs, came into his inbox, he just laughed. 

"For whatever reason, Huey Lewis seems to follow me in my life a little bit," Doyle said in a phone interview with NBC 7 San Diego. The actor had also almost been involved in a "Back to the Future" musical and almost sang Lewis' songs on stage. 

When his agent asked him if he would want to be involved with "The Heart of Rock and Roll," he said he had to at least try. After all, he already knew all the songs and all the b-sides. 

"I knew his music really, really well and I think, honestly, that probably influenced me in a lot of ways over the years and was in my bones a little bit when I was auditioning for the piece," Doyle said. "I know how he sings, I loved the music for so long, and I'm sure that probably helped."

Broadway star Matt Doyle tells NBC 7 San Diego about the world premiere musical "The Heart of Rock and Roll" and explains his unlikely connection to Huey Lewis.

He was cast as the lead in the musical, Bobby, without anyone knowing of his ties to the Bay Area. 

"On the first day of rehearsal, I was able to tell Huey, 'I grew up just literally down the block from you and used to see you at the grocery store all the time,'" Doyle said. "I mean, this is a small, small town, so it's pretty amazing that we're from the same area."

But as Doyle first signed onto the project, he said, he was a little anxious about the concept. "The Heart of Rock and Roll" is a jukebox musical, or, a musical that uses songs from a popular artist instead of original music. In recent years, there has been an influx of jukebox musicals on Broadway. Several of those have opened to negative reviews and closed within the same year. 

"Then I read the book," Doyle said. "And it's got a feel about it that's very modern and really accessible, but also has a bit of a modern take on how to succeed, and these classic Broadway musicals, and the characters are so lovable, and really endearing and really human, even though it's a very silly and funny show."

The Broadway star was impressed with how well the songs fit into the musical, which tells the story of how his character, Bobby, trades in his guitar for an office job. 

He also felt a unique connection to the themes the production explores: how to find your place in the world and understanding what matters to you in life. It was a journey Doyle himself went through several years back after he closed a show on Broadway. 

Matt Doyle, Katie Rose Clarke and the cast of The Old Globe's "The Heart of Rock and Roll" perform "Hip to Be Square," one of the many Huey Lewis and the News songs fans and theatergoers can see in the musical this fall.

The actor realized he had been working on Broadway since he was nineteen and began to question whether he was making all the right choices in his life. Both Doyle and his character had to decide what's actually important to them, and how they define success.  

"The most important thing to me are my family and the people that I'm with, and that's what actually gets you through everything. In the end, that's your constant," Doyle said. "That's what needs to be there. I think that's a really important and universal story to tell."

"Success isn't necessarily stardom and fame and fortune or being the number one at your company," Doyle added. "That you can actually find it in people and your relationships and the family around you."

Part of what the Broadway star loves about the show is the way it tackles deeper issues, while still keeping it fun.

The show never takes itself too seriously, he said. For example, once dance break involves shipping materials. 

"It's honest, it's heartfelt, and I think there's a humanity to all the characters," Doyle said. "There's a silliness that allows us to do something like that - perform 'Workin for a Living' with cardboard boxes and bubble wrap."

Even if audiences don't necessarily recognize the songs titles from 'The Heart of Rock and Roll' right off the bat, Doyle said, they will still know the songs. 

"You couldn't get away from them at one point, whether they were on the radio or in movies," Doyle said. "They're the soundtracks to something that you love, and that's really exciting."

Some of his favorite songs include 'If This Is It,' 'Do You Believe in Love' and 'Back in Time.'

As songs are reworked for the stage by Brian Usifer, the music supervisor, Doyle has found a new love for other Lewis songs. Usifer has updated the arrangements for the material in a way that is both nostalgic and contemporary, Doyle said. 

Get a preview at some of the Huey Lewis and the News music featured in "The Heart of Rock and Roll," a new, world-premiere musical opening this September at The Old Globe in San Diego.

"There's something about the beat and the intro to the song, 'Tell me, Doctor, where are we going this time,' that I love so much," Doyle explained.

Plus, audiences can expect two new songs in the show: a song from Lewis' new album coming out this winter, and a song written exclusively for the musical. 

All along the way, Lewis has been in the rehearsal room, working with the creative team to give advice and watch his music come to life on stage. 

"He comes by, and we started doing our warm-ups yesterday, in rehearsal, and he started warming up with us, doing the stretches - I mean, he wants to be involved, he wants to experience it," Doyle said. "He loves the piece; he can't believe what we've done with it."

It's been a journey in the works for over eight years for the creative team, and even longer, some may say, for Doyle, who started singing Lewis' music as a teenager driving around the Bay Area. 

The cast and creative team have been collaborating to build a story and musical that audiences can relate to, Doyle said. He hopes the audiences walk away from the musical with a new understanding of what is important to them in their lives. 

"That it's okay to choose love and life over success and rock stardom," Doyle said. "That that can be the greatest success in life. You can find the greatest happiness in life in love."

"The Heart of Rock and Roll" starts performances at The Old Globe on Sept. 6 and runs through Oct. 21. The musical is inspired by the music of Huey Lewis and the News. Book by Jonathan Abrams; Story by Tyler Mitchell and Jonathan Abrams; Directed by Gordon Greenberg; Choreography by Lorin Latarro; Music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Brian Usifer. To buy tickets, click here.

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