Huey Lewis Tears Up at Closing Performance of Broadway Musical “The Heart of Rock and Roll”: 'A Very Sad Thing for Me'

"I'm still looking for the 'sweet' in 'bittersweet' because that's what this is, bittersweet," the Grammy winner said

<p>Manny Carabel/Getty</p> Huey Lewis at

Manny Carabel/Getty

Huey Lewis at 'The Heart of Rock and Roll'

Huey Lewis knows the power of Broadway.

The '80s rock legend got emotional on Sunday, June 23, as he took the stage after the closing performance of The Heart of Rock and Roll, the musical he produced inspired by the songs of his band, Huey Lewis and The News.

PEOPLE was in the audience at the James Earl Jones Theatre in New York City for the occasion. Greeting the crowd, and the cast and crew gathered around him, Lewis admitted that he was sad to see the show leave the boards.

"I'm still looking for the 'sweet' in 'bittersweet,' " the Grammy winner, 73, said, "because that's what this is: bittersweet."

"I have thought about this show every day, almost constantly ... for almost 8 months now. And tomorrow, that's going to stop. And that's a very sad thing for me," he admitted, holding back tears.

The Heart of Rock and Roll opened to rave reviews back in April, but struggled to find box office success with no awards season love. Set in the '80s, the musical uses Huey Lewis and The News hits like "Do You Believe in Love," "Hip to Be Square," "The Power of Love" and "If This Is It" to tell an original story of a wannabe rocker who gets a second chance at his dreams.

Lewis, who acted on Broadway in Chicago. has seen his music on stage before in the theatrical adaptations of both American Psycho and Back to the Future. But The Heart of Rock and Roll was a particularly pivotal experience for him, its development coming around the time he was diagnosed in 2018 with Meniere’s disease.

The condition, a disorder of the inner ear, has caused Lewis to experience hearing loss so bad, he's had to walk away from his career. "I can't sing or perform anymore, but I can do this," he told PEOPLE on Sunday. "So it's been a salvation for me in so many ways. And I'm going to miss it. I've got to find a way to get back to Broadway in some way because it's really been so gratifying."

Related: Huey Lewis and Cyndi Lauper Have 'We Are the World' Reunion at Bash for His New Broadway Musical

<p>Matthew Murphy </p> Corey Cott in 'The Heart of Rock and Roll'

Matthew Murphy

Corey Cott in 'The Heart of Rock and Roll'

Related: Huey Lewis Says Upcoming Broadway Show Is His 'Salvation' Following Hearing Loss (Exclusive)

In his comments at closing, Lewis mentioned his hearing issues as he addressed the The Heart of Rock and Roll company, led by principal stars 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.

"I can't perform and sing anymore, but I love the stage," Lewis said. "That kind of explains why I hang out in the dressing rooms, why I watch rehearsal when I have nothing to offer, all the high-fives backstage — I'm really just trying to get on the stage again."

He extended his thanks to everyone, including the full ensemble: Mike Baerga, TyNia René Brandon, Olivia Cece, Taylor Marie Daniel, Autumn Guzzardi, Lindsay JoanRoss Lekites, Robin Masella, Joe Moeller, Jennifer Noble, Fredric Rodriguez Odgaard, Michael Olaribigbe, Kevin Pariseau, Robert Pendilla, Leah Read and Big Brother star Tommy Bracco.

"It's been so amazing to watch you guys do your thing," remarked Lewis. "I've always said, 'It's not enough to be good in a show; you have to be good and make others better.' Every one of you actors up here are not only great, you make others great. The company is just a happy ship that way. And we are so proud of this show and it is all due to you guys."

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lewis praised director Gordon Greenberg for "captaining our ship" and expressed his gratitude towards Jonathan A. Abrams, who penned the musical's book from a story he crafted with Tyler Mitchell.

"John wrote an amazing book here," Lewis said about Abrams, who was on stage along with Greenberg. "It's funny and it's fun and it wouldn't work if it wasn't meaningful and heartfelt and there's a real story there. The Heart of Rock and Roll is really about the power of love, and John captured that so beautifully."

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Other kind words were shared towards choreographer Lorin Latarro, orchestrator Brian Usifer, other members of the creative team, as well as every musician in the band, whom Lewis thanked by name from heart.

"I'm not going to say goodbye, Broadway," Lewis said at the end. "I'm just going to say like we say in musical theatre: 'til we meet next time."

The Heart of Rock and Roll's original cast album is out now. A National tour and a London production are in the works.

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