Revisiting "Movin' Out"

February 17, 2009
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When you appreciate a musical or play a lot better the second time you see it, it's sometimes difficult to sort out why.

It could be that the piece just grows richer on repeat viewings. It could be that the change of venue impacts your experience. It could be that familiarity with the music makes a difference. And it could be that the relationship between the performers and the material is somehow more "right."

The first time I saw "Les Miserables"-- on Broadway about a year into the run (sans Colm Wilkinson)--it seemed to hit its emotional climax in the first act with "I Dreamed a Dream." I've seen it four different times on tour and each has brought pleasures richer than my Broadway experience. If it showed up next year yet again as a Broadway in Indianapolis extra, I wouldn't complain.

It happened with "The Who's Tommy," which, on Broadway, seemed overloaded with gimmicks. On tour, it toned down the flying and other nonsense and seemed to rock out more effectively.

And it happened with "Movin' Out, which moved in and out of the Murat Theatre this weekend.

The last time the show came through, at Clowes Hall, I admired it, appreciated the skill of the dancers, and enjoyed hearing the cover band doing the Billy Joel song catalogue. But I wasn't very engaged in the drama. This time out, the humanity of the characters seemed at the forefront. The dancing was still remarkable, the music still bounce-in-your-seat, and the Twyla Tharp choreography still thrilling, but the difference was that I cared about Brenda and Eddie and Tony and Judy and James.

Since the leads were double- and triple-cast (this is a brutal show on dancers), your experience may have been a bit different. But I was particularly drawn in by Lawrence Neuhauser, a founding member of DanceWorks Chicago, as the troubled Eddie. Rather than play a type, he played a person. And his journey from angry young man to a guy who can acknowledge that he loved these days made for a compelling evening of theater.

Did you see "Movin' Out" and care to share your experience? Or have you seen another show that improved on second viewing?

Your thoughts? 
  • I saw Movin' Out in Seattle a few years ago. Have to agree with your comments about the story and the choreography. Top notch! Wish I didn't have other plans last weekend and could have gone.
  • My wife and I saw both Crime & Punishment and Movin Out over Valentine weekend. I think both were terrific. I normally dislike dance, but the work done in Movin Out is the most entertaining I have ever seen. C & P was particularly interesting to me as I have just been reading about Darwin and Origin of Species. Dostoyevsky wrote C & P only a few decades after O of S and The Communist Manefesto came out. His repudiation of the line of thinking they inspired was at least 50 years ahead of its time. My wife was particularly happy with the staging of C & P. It flowed well and the actors were quite compelling.
  • We were surprised that there was no dialogue during the whole thing. We thought that it would follow the lines of a traditional musical with dialogue and music mixed in like Mamma Mia. Instead it was more like a rock ballet. It was overall good, but not sure if I would go see it again. Luckily it was fast paced so the time goes really fast and the dancers and singers are very good. Just wish there was more to the story.
  • We saw the Sunday afternoon performance. While we absolutely loved the performance (particularly Eddie's dancing), what was disturbing to us was a man in the balcony who, for some reason, was permitted to photograph and video the entire performance. Even when asked by an usher to put his camera away after several complaints so that others could enjoy the performance, this person smugly flashed a badge and continued to hold up his camera in front of his face to ensure everyone behind him would see it. Much to the dismay of all of these people (who actually paid for their tickets, as I am sure he did not), the stark white light during the performance was a huge distraction, and took away from the integrity of the performance. It's a shame that one rude, insensitve person was able to ruin the experience for so many.
  • Kat,
    I've forwarded your comment to the folks at the Broadway series asking who that person was. I'll post here if I get a response.

    The lack of dialogue was one of the things that made the show work for me. A challenge of any jukebox musical--one that uses existing songs--is that the lyrics don't always fit neatly into the show. Mamma Mia! pulls it off fairly well, but I don't think Joel's songs would lend themselves to that kind of treatment. Besides, when you've got Twyla Tharp, why let dialogue get in the way?
    I suppose it's a marketing question, though. Should the piece be called a musical? I like your rock ballet label.

  • Movin Out was a wonderful experience for me. And I am not even a Billy Joel fan. The band was superb. The dancers were beautiful and energetic as they performed Twyla Tharp's choreography. Most important was the surprise of a nonjudgemental age old story rich with love, sex, pain, ambivalence, confusion, acceptance--plus silliness and fun. And you could dance to it. Great stuff well done for me.
  • I saw Movin' Out on Broadway in New York about 5 years ago and absolutely loved it. I'm not a HUGE fan of musicals but you can't go to New York without seeing a couple Broadway shows. We had heard good things about the show and decided it was a must see! I loved the idea of having Billy Joel's music tell the story. I wish I would have been in town last weekend because I would love to see it again. I think its one of those shows where you can easily miss exciting parts. By going more than once, you are always able to find something new or maybe didnn't remember in the show.

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