Even as Britain tries to recover from an economic crisis, ticket sales at London theaters continue to soar. In 2013, box office revenue rose by 11 percent to more than 585 million pounds ($969 million). Brits are tipping their hats to (and emptying their wallets for) newly opened American-style musicals like “The Book of Mormon,” “Once” and “American Psycho.” The latter is based on the 1991 novel by Bret Easton Ellis in which the homicidal main character, between slayings, critiques the career of the San Francisco band Huey Lewis and the News. So of course, like the movie, the musical includes their popular pop song “Hip to Be Square.”
Another classic American movie is getting the musical treatment in London: “Back to the Future,” Robert Zemecki’s timeless 1985 comedy starring Michael J. Fox. Zemeckis and Bob Gale, who wrote the film, will write a new book for the musical. Huey Lewis and the News are psyched. Their “Power of Love” ballad featured in the film will be included on stage. Seems like Huey and the News no longer have to be Workin’ for a Livin’. Just takin’ what they’re givin’.
Postscript: Britian’s admiration of American musicals isn’t new. In 1952, British drama critic Kenneth Tynan wrote the prophetic article “Why London Likes American Musicals” for The New York Times. Back then, American classics like “Oklahoma!” and “Annie Get Your Gun” were two of the longest running musicals in the English history.