The musical left Chicago's Shubert Theatre, after a summer-long stay that began June 25.
The show follows the story of Brenda and Eddie, the characters at the center of Joel's anthemic song "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." As the lyric goes, "Brenda and Eddie/Were the Popular Steadies/And the King and the Queen of the Prom/Riding Around with the Car Top Down/And the Radio On." In the tune, the couple gets married, hits the skids and breaks up. The musical also drafts the character of Tony from "Movin' Out," as in "Anthony Works in a Grocery Store/Saving His Pennies for Someday/Mamma Leone Left a Note on the Door/Saying "Sonny, Move Out to the Country/Working Too Hard Can Give You a Heart Attack." Brenda and Tony get involved.
The other characters are also taken from Joel songs. They are Sgt. O'Leary from "Movin' Out," Judy from "Why, Judy, Why" and James from, yes, "James."
The bookless, dance-and-music heavy entertainment runs at 45 minutes for the first act, 50 minutes for the second act, with a 20 minute intermission. There is no dialogue and all the songs are performed by pianist, singer and Joel sound-alike Michael Cavanaugh, who heads an on stage band during the show. The musical's songlist is a collection of pre-existing Joel songs which make up the narrative's score. Among the selected tunes are such monster Joel hits as "We Didn't Start the Fire," "Big Shot," "Uptown Girl" and "Just the Way You Are," as well as more obscure early work such as "James," "Summer, Highland Falls," and "Miami 2017 (The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway)."
The Chicago tryout was greeted with mixed to negative reviews from the Windy City papers, with critics applauding the production numbers of the second act, while saying the first needed narrative clarity. The notices resulted in a mini-scandal where New York Newsday reprinted the Chicago Tribune's sour notice in full. Producers claimed the move was a low blow and scuttled the traditional purpose of an out-of-town bow—that is, to work out kinks away from the glare of the New York press. Newsday defended itself by citing Joel's huge appeal to it readership on Long Island.
The Tribune critic, Michael Phillips, was invited back in last August and published a sort of re-review on Aug. 22, which included comments by Tharp. "The guiding principle was this, " said Tharp. "If it's confusing, cut it out." According to the article (which a show spokesman confirmed was accurate), the number "I Go to Extremes," which had followed "Movin' Out" in the opening sequence, has been cut. The latter number, which once featured Keith Roberts and a bevy of females, now involves the male leads.
In other changes, the main characters, including Brenda (Elizabeth Parkinson), Eddie (John Selya) and Tony (Keith Roberts), are more clearly introduced in the opening number, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." Eddie is not partly responsible for the death of another character, James (Benjamin G. Bowman), as he was earlier in the run. And the role of the character Judy (Ashely Tuttle), a war widow, has increased in importance. The cast of 27 is completed by Andrew Allagree, Mark Arvin, Aliane Baquerot, Alexander Brady, Holly Cruikshank, Ron De Jesus, Melissa Downey, Pascale Faye, Scott Fowler, David Gomez, Meg Paul, Laurie Kanyok, William Marrié, Rod McCune, Jill Nicklaus, Rika Okamoto, Karine Plantadit Bageot, Lawrence Rabson, Dana Stackpole and John J. Todd.
The principals are a group highly steeped in dance, as opposed to theatre. Parkinson and Wise were both featured dancers in the Broadway revue, Fosse. Wise first made his mark in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, winning a Tony for his work. The two hoofers are husband and wife.
Roberts was also in Fosse as well as Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. Selya is a veteran of many seasons at American Ballet Theatre. Tuttle also has dozens of ABT ballets to her credit. Much of Bowman's work has been at the New York City Ballet.
All are members of Tharp's own dance group, Twyla Tharp Dance.
Designers are Santo Loquasto (sets), Suzy Benzinger (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Brian Ruggles and Peter Fitzgerald (sound).
Stuart Malina is the music director on the venture.
Matinees of Movin' Out will feature different leads and a different singer than will the evening performances.
Night shows of the dance-heavy piece will star Elizabeth Parkinson and John Selya as Brenda and Eddie, Keith Roberts as Tony, Ashley Tuttle as Judy and Michael Cavanaugh as the vocalist belting out Joel's songbook.
On Wednesday and Saturday matinees, Brenda and Eddie will be played by Holly Cruikshank and William Marrié, while David Gomez will be Tony, Dana Stackpole is Judy and Wade Preston is on vocals.
At all performances, Scott Wise will play Sergeant O'Leary and the Drill Sergeant, and Benjamin G. Bowman will portray James.
The shifting line-up, which is detailed in the show's program, was no doubt devised to afford the lead performers a break from the physical workout provided by Twyla Tharp's choreography.
During evening shows, Cruikshank and Gomez are part of the ensemble. Marrié and Stackpole are swings.
Tickets to Movin' Out may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or www.ticketmaster.com.