Magazine article Newsweek

Movin' to Broadway: Twyla Tharp Heads Uptown with Billy Joel

Magazine article Newsweek

Movin' to Broadway: Twyla Tharp Heads Uptown with Billy Joel

Article excerpt

Byline: Cathleen McGuigan

In Twyla Tharp's very first public performance, back in 1965, she danced briefly to Petula Clark's pop hit "Downtown." No one covered the event. "I was really pissed," Tharp recalled over breakfast last week, still sounding a little irritated. "I would've taken a really foul review." Since then, Tharp has continued to blast the boundaries between high and low art. She put ballerinas in tennis shoes, and choreographed for American Ballet Theater. She made dances for movies and her own company, using music by Mozart or the Beach Boys with equal flair. No one ignores her now. This week Tharp faces the critics again when she opens "Movin' Out," a hugely ambitious $8 million Broadway show she conceived, choreographed and directed to the music of Mr. "Uptown Girl," Billy Joel.

Both Tharp and Joel are quick to say that "Movin' Out" is not a musical in the conventional sense. "We can't come up with a name for what this is," says Tharp. "This is not a book musical; we do not have book scenes." Or dialogue. But the show has characters and a narrative line, expressed in dance, that Tharp has pieced together from Joel's songs. "Movin' Out" follows a group of working-class baby boomers from New York's Long Island, who couple and uncouple, and endure the destructive forces of Vietnam and the counterculture. Joel's songs--from the more innocent "Uptown Girl" to the darker "Angry Young Man" and "Goodnight Saigon"--are played by a live rock band, as Tharp's crew dances the action in her famously eclectic style, from the sweet and balletic to the violently kinetic. "I always felt Billy could do a Broadway show, and a Broadway show was something that always interested me," says Tharp. Two years ago she called him and proposed the idea. "I didn't want to do something like this before," said Joel, on the phone from his boat off Long Island. …

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