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A CurtainUp Review
The Times They Are A-Changin'
By Elyse Sommer
Tharp's Movin' Out (review) was a brilliantly original concept that used Billy Joel's words and music to tell a simple story of six young Long Islanders much like the ones Joel grew up with, whose experiences parallelled the traumas of Vietnam hang out together, fall in love, experience the traumas of Vietnam and its sex drugs and rock'n'roll aftermath. The songs were kept on the bandstand, and the ballet trained dancers, while expressive actors, were not required to sing. In The Times They Are A-Changin' the band is again on stage but strictly as instrumentalists. Consequently the dancers must do double duty as actors wich makes for dancing that tends to be repetitious and not top-drawer Tharp.
I don't feel sorry for Bob Dylan for having his songs harnessed to this misconceived fable. His newest album, Modern Times, has already moved to the top of the charts and this Broadway circus (that's a literal as well as descriptive noun) will be forgotten long after Dylan's music continues to be heard and loved. Besides, he has only himself to blame for it was he who, thinking Tharp could open up an as yet unexplored arena for him as she did for Joel, approached her and agreed to give her carte blanche.
But I do feel sorry for are the ensemble members who bring their incredible energy to this production and, if you can just ignore the story, make the circus scenes exciting to watch. The clowns are quite wonderful, as is Jason McDole's delightful dog. Michael Arden is excellent as Coyote the story's hero who gets to sing the most and best Dylan songs and doesn't disgrace himself when called upon to dance. Thom Sesma is the villainous Ahrab and Lisa Brescia, as Cleo, the runaway waif do the best they can with the other main acting-plus-dancing roles.
I also feel sorry for the Dylan fans who come to the Brooks Atkinso expecting to see their idol's music honored only to find much of it mangled in this frantic and frenzied show. To conclude with a paraphrase of another timeless Dylan song:
How many somesaults and gymnastic feats does it take
To admit that this musical is a bust?
The answer my friend
Is that this metaphoric conceit
Isn't enough of a treat
To keep it from blowin' away in the wind.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide