Movin' Out Is a Big Shot in Chicago, as Joel-Tharp Show Opens

By Robert Simonson
July 19, 2002

Movin' Out is the Big Show on State Street on July 19 when the new musical collaboration between pop legend Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp officially opens at Chicago's Shubert Theatre. Previews began June 25.

Movin' Out is the Big Show on State Street on July 19 when the new musical collaboration between pop legend Billy Joel and choreographer Twyla Tharp officially opens at Chicago's Shubert Theatre. Previews began June 25.

The leads will be played by John Selya, Elizabeth Parkinson, Keith Roberts, Ashley Tuttle, Scott Wise, Benjamin G. Bowman and Michael Cavanaugh.

Reports have the bookless, dance-and-music heavy entertainment running at 95 minutes with intermission. There is no dialogue and all the songs are performed by pianist, signer and Joel sound-alike Cavanaugh, who heads an on-stage band during the show.

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 Chicago run will last through Sept. 1 (representing an extension). Movin' Out will open at the Richard Rodgers in New York on Oct. 24, after previews from Sept. 30.

The musical's songlist — that is, the collection of pre existing Joel songs which will make up the narrative's score — was recently released.

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 latter, a rocking apocalyptic vision of the destruction of New York City, made a big impression when Joel played it at a charity event shortly after Sept. 11. The albums "The Stranger" and "An Innocent Man" were culled for five tunes apiece.

The songlist follows (in alphabetical order):

"2000 Years" (from the album "2000 Years")
"Air (Dublinesque)" (from the album "Fantasies and Delusions")
"Big Man on Mulberry Street" (from the album "The Bridge")
"Big Shot" (from the album "52nd Street")
"Captain Jack" (from the album "Piano Man")
"For the Longest Time" (from the album "An Innocent Man")
"Goodnight Saigon" (from the album "The Nylon Curtain")
"Innocent Man" (from the album "An Innocent Man")
"Invention in C Minor" (from the album "Fantasies and Delusions")
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" (from the album "The Stranger")
"I've Loved These Days" (from the album "Turnstiles")
"James" (from the album "Turnstiles")
"Just the Way You Are" (from the album "The Stranger")
"Keeping the Faith" (from the album "An Innocent Man")
"Miami 2017 (The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway)" (from the album "Turnstiles")
"Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (from the album "The Stranger")
"New York State of Mind" (from the album "Turnstiles")
"Only the Good Die Young" (from the album "The Stranger")
"Pressure" (from the album "The Nylon Curtain")
"Reverie (Villa D'Este)" (from the album "The Essential Billy Joel")
"River of Dreams" (from the album "River of Dreams")
"Running on Ice" (from the album "The Bridge")
"Shameless" (from the album "Storm Front")
"She's Got a Way" (from the album "Cold Spring Harbor")
"Summer, Highland Falls" (from the album "Turnstiles")
"The Stranger" (from the album "The Stranger")
"This Night" (from the album "An Innocent Man")
"Uptown Girl" (from the album "An Innocent Man")
"Waltz #1 (Nunley's Carousel)" (from the album "Fantasies and Delusions")
"We Didn't Start the Fire" (from the album "Storm Front")


The casting of seasoned performers who are nonetheless not marquee names in the lead roles would seem to indicate the producers' and creative team's wish to make the unique teaming of the talents of Joel and Tharp the star attraction.

The cast of 27 is completed by Andrew Allagree, Mark Arvin, Aliane Baquerot, Alexander Brady, Holly Cruikshank, Ron De Jesus, Melissa Downey, Scott Fowler, David Gomez, Meg Gurin-Paul, Laurie Kanyok, William Marrie, Rod McCune, Jill Nicklaus, Rika Okamoto, Karine Plantadit Bageot, Lawrence Rabson, Katya Shelkanova, Dana Stackpole and John 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.

The Chicago-to-Broadway route is the same one used by The Producers and, with less fortunate results, Sweet Smell of Success.

The musical, previously called The Thoel Project, had a workshop over the Oct. 6-7, 2001, weekend. According to press materials, the story concerns "six lifelong friends, told over two turbulent decades. This new musical takes us back to a time we all remember - to the days when almost anything could happen, and the nights when almost everything did."

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.

Tickets to Movin' Out range from $40 to $95, and will go on sale Sunday, June 2 and may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or