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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? 
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