Movin' Out will open at the Richard Rodgers in New York on Oct. 24, after previews from Sept. 30.
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 (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, as he was earlier in the run. And the role of the character Judy, a war widow, played by Ashley Tuttle, has increased in importance. Other leads are played by Scott Wise, Benjamin G. Bowman and Michael Cavanaugh.
Tthe 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 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 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, which may change prior to the New York run, 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 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 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 may be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or www.ticketmaster.com.