Jukebox Hero – The Musical, a brand-new stage show based on the timeless hits of Foreigner had its press launch at London’s Gore Hotel in Kensington.
The show receives its world premiere in Alberta, Canada in August 2018, with plans for the show to be staged on Broadway, followed by an international tour including the UK and Europe.
Calgary-based Annerin Theatricals and Foreigner have joined forces with the prolific British writing duo Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who have written the book of this new rock and roll musical. The artistic team is led by Foreigner founder, songwriter and lead guitarist Mick Jones and Foreigner’s managers Phil Carson and Stewart Young, whose career track record includes AC/DC; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Yes; and Led Zeppelin.
Jukebox Hero features all 16 of Foreigner’s iconic Top Thirty hit songs including I Want To Know What Love Is, Cold As Ice, Waiting For A Girl Like You, and the show’s title song, Jukebox Hero.
Londontheatre1.com was invited to the press launch for Jukebox Hero – read about it below!
Exciting! So when and where is this musical coming to the UK? Who knows! However, the creative team do have plans to bring it to the UK at some point in the coming year or two, but for now, their press launch is about gauging interest and announcing its self to the world.
Jukebox Hero is set to open in North America in Feb 2019, but for now, it is not a finished project.
The band Foreigner, who are currently on a 40th-anniversary tour, were playing at the Royal Albert Hall the night of the London press call so the creative team wanted to utilise the opportunity to promote their new show alongside the band’s sell-out London date.
The event was curated by their tour de force creative team including; Producer Jeff Parry from Annerin Theatricals, Dick Clement part of the writing duo who are writing the book and Phil Carson and Stewart Young who are managers of the band Foreigner. Mick Jones founding member of Foreigner, unfortunately, could not attend as planned.
After a quick photo call outside the hotel, the creative team take their seats and introduce themselves to us. Phil Carson, who is the manager of Foreigner, leads the conversation and tells us how the project came about came about.
The story goes, Mick Jones by chance met Diana Ross at an airport and it was actually her that suggested Mick used his songs in a musical… and so the project began. It didn’t take long for Mick and his managers to put together an impressive creative team, whilst Jeff, their producer was left to find the money!
Jeff tells us that he went back to Phil & Stewart saying they needed to raise 1.4 million Canadian dollars to do this thing. In an underrepresented move, it was suggested that Foreigner could do 10 concert dates to raise the funds, and that is exactly what has happened.
Phil and Jeff joke that the band are probably still wondering where their fees went from these shows and how it’s probably a first that a band funds their own musical.
I asked Jeff if he was nervous as they are currently selling a show that is not finished.
Jeff told me “No not at all, we have a legitimate team of people who have done this before in shows such as We Will Rock You, and Rock of Ages, so we have enlisted the right people and I feel really comfortable having them on board. The bottom line is the songs speak for themselves, so I feel good and hopefully, we have a hit. Until the day an audience actually sees the show you just don’t know but I’m not nervous at all – I’m excited and positive. Also with Dick and Ian writing it, it gives us instant credibility. The fact that we can come over here today do a press conference and get you all to attend and interested in something that is not even happening yet is exciting. We have sold over $300.000 in advance ticket sales in Canada and we don’t yet even have a finished show.”
I asked how they were going to then tie in the promo of the new musical to the concert tonight – would there be an announcement? Was Jeff going to get up on stage? Jeff laughed and said: no he would probably be lynched if he got up on stage and that nothing big was going to happen, it is just getting the word out.
Jeff then said “The coolest thing about this is people don’t really know Foreigner but they know the songs, one reason we are starting this off in North America is I always get told by people in the industry that Foreigner are not a big deal over here – but they have just sold out the Royal Albert Hall so who knows, it just didn’t seem as obvious to start the show off in the UK. I love London and I want to open this here, you have the industry here, we only have oil and cows in Canada!! I come to London and this is where it’s all happening it. I watch all the shows I can while I’m here.”
I asked him to elaborate on his role as show producer because he had said that he doesn’t get involved with casting and such and he replied “My wife wants to know the same“, he also told me that it’s all about an instinct and he has it about this show and has now become a fan of Foreigner’s music.
It was lovely to chat to Jeff – he is a funny guy with lots of ambition and drive.
I haven’t yet told you anything about the story/ book of this musical. But what I can say is that all the creatives are very committed to making Jukebox Hero a really good story not just a hit after hit kind of show.
I then chatted with Dick Clement. It was a total honour to talk to a man with such an amazing list of ongoing credits in writing for film, TV and stage.
Q: How did you get involved?
Dick: I was asked if I wanted to make a musical featuring Foreigner‘s music and could I come up with something. Ian, my writing partner, then said, semi-facetiously but it was true “you finish Act 1 with ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ and end the show with ‘I’ve Been Waiting For a Girl Like You’. And that’s what we’ve done. It was then a question of listening to the music and going through each song picking the ones we thought we had to have.
Q: Did you give Mick Jones a say in the songs that would be used?
Dick: No, he left us carte blanche. I mean obviously if he had not liked what we came up with he would have squawked but he didn’t. And in fact, everybody seemed to think the story worked. So, that was very reassuring.
That was the first job we had to do. We then came up with plot, characters and then balance because the story really is about two brothers who have fallen out. We became very aware as we went across the second and third drafts that we had shortchanged one of the brothers. So we then went back and gave the other brother the opening song in Act 2 because that helps to balance it all out.
I always think any show needs some humour and we’ve got that. There’s one song called ‘Women’ and it is a male chauvinist fantasy about different kinds of women and how we’re going to have them all. So we thought this could be really funny if we give the song to three teenagers who have never been laid in their life. This also then defuses the inherent sexism. Then, we wanted to make sure there was also some female voices that basically deflate the male ego. But then you can have the fun out of the song. It’s like in officer ‘Kruttkey’ in West Side Story, it’s got a satirical kind of twist to it.
Now obviously that was not Mick’s intention when he wrote the song but that’s ok.
Q: So he’s happy?
Dick: Oh sure. Another example is the song ‘Blue Monday’ which is, as are so many of the Foreigner songs about love going wrong, and we said we can’t have too many songs about that. So with a few lyric changes, it becomes a company number about the town, the plot that’s closed and that they are all out of work. So everybody is depressed about that, not about love.
We asked Mick if he could change a few lyrics and he said “yeah, yeah, sure fine” and obviously all the songs they sing on stage tonight are all sung by fellers. Several of our songs need to be sung by the opposite sex so you have to change up the attitude. But that’s fine we have done it before.
In our movie, which I’m nuts about, called ‘Across the Universe’ which is about the Beatles, we needed to choose songs that would further the plot and that is the same with this show. The songs have to keep the show moving along. You can have a performance song or two but you can’t do too many of those so the others for example ‘Say You Will, Say You Won’t’ is a great song between a couple which has echoes of ‘Adelaide’ in ‘Guys and Dolls’.
So ‘Say You Will, Say You Won’t’ really works for that, and again it’s poignant but it’s funny and has an edge to it and works like a dream in terms of a song really moving the story along.
I find it very stimulating trying to work with music. We have done a few of the musicals and we really love working with the music because it gives you such a lift.
Q: So, you love doing it, you were part of the screenwriters’ team for ‘The Commitments’, so when they did ‘The Commitments’ the musical, why were you not involved or is that a touchy subject?
Dick: It is, but I won’t duck the question! It was kind of sad because we had lots of calls to say, do you want to do ‘The Commitments’ as a musical, and we always said yes and it was Roddy Doyle who always said: “no I don’t want to do it”. Then we suddenly heard he was doing it but he didn’t use the screenplay.
I didn’t go and see the show. I didn’t want to, to be honest, because it was very dear to us and I loved the movie. I mean I absolutely revered his novel and still do, and Alan Parker, Ian and I were all trying to be really loyal to the spirit of the book as it was great. And what happened was we did give a shape and a sense of something moving forward and then suddenly that was jettisoned.
I read the critics of it and a lot of people said it could have done with more of a plot and I thought well yes we did have a plot. So I’m a bit sad about it all to be honest, as I would have liked to be involved in it. But there you go, you win a few, you lose a few.
Q: Moving back to now, I hear you are busy working on other shows alongside this one.
Dick: Yes, a couple of others. One called ‘Victoria Secrets’, which we have been working on for a while with music by ‘Dave Stewart’. This is a comedy set in Jamaica about Queen Victoria ten years after becoming a widow, going on a holiday to Jamaica under the pseudonym of Mrs King leaving John Brown in drag to take over her essential appointments.
Q: Do you have plans to put that on here in London?
Dick: Well, we’re still in the process of talking about it but I’m very much hoping to. The other one we’re working on is just a gleam in our eye so we’ve not written it yet, but we have a treatment for it. It is about Alice Cooper and will include his music and our take on it is, it’s almost like Jekyll and Hyde. We would have two actors playing, where the stage persona begins to take over and send him crazy. So that one is far more embryonic. We may work on it more this summer as we already have some interest in that one too.
Q: You obviously have a real passion for music.
Dick: Well, I have a real passion for work actually. Things don’t always work out but you have to ride with the punches. You have to have more projects on the go that you can imagine and at the moment we have about ten. All in difference fields, movies, TV and stage. You don’t know what’s going to hatch but you hope they all will.
Q: Back to Jukebox Hero, what are you most looking forward to about it?
Dick: Giving people a great time. There is nothing like it. When we did ‘Billy’ years ago with Michael Crawford, I used to just go along to the theatre before dinner, stand at the back and watch, just to feel the vibe of the audience. It’s something you don’t get with TV or film. It’s a real sense of magic you get, and I saw it with ‘Tina‘, the live feedback of an audience really having a good time.
Dick was such a gentleman to talk to and we could have happily been there for ages more discussing all his work plans but tonight he was a guest of Foreigner at their sell-out Royal Albert Hall show. I was so excited from all this talk of the music of Foreigner than when I was asked if I would like to come along and be a guest too, I jumped at it. What a fabulous show! I may be younger than some of the songs written by the band but to me, they are timeless classics that I look forward to watching in Jukebox Hero when it hopefully arrives in the UK.