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A CurtainUp Review
The Times They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
and admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone

—From the title song that inspired Twyla Tharp's concept for transforming several dozen Bob Dylan's songbook into a Broadway musical.

The  Times  They Are a-Changin'
Michael Arden (top) and Thom Sesma
(Photo: Bruce Glikas)
Never were truer words sung. If your time to you is worth savin', then you'd best not dip into your theater budget to watch Twyla Tharp's concept for a Broadway show based Bob Dylan's songbook sink like a stone. It's not that Tharp hasn't created enough of a visual spectacle and assembled an ensemble whose acrobatic feats with pilate balls, ropes, stilts and other eye popping props can at times make your jaws drop But the corny carny story in with its metaphoric pretentiousness in which all this is wrapped is embarassingly silly and unworthy of Dylan's songs and the talented cast.

Tharp's Movin' Out (review) was a brilliantly original concept that used Billy Joel's words and music to tell a simple story of six young Long Islanders much like the ones Joel grew up with, whose experiences parallelled the traumas of Vietnam hang out together, fall in love, experience the traumas of Vietnam and its sex drugs and rock'n'roll aftermath. The songs were kept on the bandstand, and the ballet trained dancers, while expressive actors, were not required to sing. In The Times They Are A-Changin' the band is again on stage but strictly as instrumentalists. Consequently the dancers must do double duty as actors wich makes for dancing that tends to be repetitious and not top-drawer Tharp.

I don't feel sorry for Bob Dylan for having his songs harnessed to this misconceived fable. His newest album, Modern Times, has already moved to the top of the charts and this Broadway circus (that's a literal as well as descriptive noun) will be forgotten long after Dylan's music continues to be heard and loved. Besides, he has only himself to blame for it was he who, thinking Tharp could open up an as yet unexplored arena for him as she did for Joel, approached her and agreed to give her carte blanche.

But I do feel sorry for are the ensemble members who bring their incredible energy to this production and, if you can just ignore the story, make the circus scenes exciting to watch. The clowns are quite wonderful, as is Jason McDole's delightful dog. Michael Arden is excellent as Coyote the story's hero who gets to sing the most and best Dylan songs and doesn't disgrace himself when called upon to dance. Thom Sesma is the villainous Ahrab and Lisa Brescia, as Cleo, the runaway waif do the best they can with the other main acting-plus-dancing roles.

I also feel sorry for the Dylan fans who come to the Brooks Atkinso expecting to see their idol's music honored only to find much of it mangled in this frantic and frenzied show. To conclude with a paraphrase of another timeless Dylan song:

How many somesaults and gymnastic feats does it take
To admit that this musical is a bust?
The answer my friend
Is that this metaphoric conceit
Isn't enough of a treat
To keep it from blowin' away in the wind.

The Times They Are A-Changin'
Conceived by Twyla Tharp
Music and Lyrics by Bob Dylan
Directed and Choreographed by Twyla Tharp
Cast: Michael Arden, Thom Sesma, and Lisa Brescia, Lisa Gajda, Neil Haskell, Jason McDole, Charlie Hesyba-Hodges, Jonathan Nosan, John Selya, Ron Todorowski, Alexander Brady, John Herrera, Alaine Kashian, Katie Klaus, Keith Kühl, Marty Lawson, Joseph Putignano, Cary Tedder, Jason Wooten.Music Arranged, Adapted and Supervised by Michael Dansicker
Scenic and costume design: Santo Loquasto
Lighting design: Donald Holder
Sound design: Peter Hylenski
Orchestrations: Michael Dansicker and Bob Dylan
Running Time: 90 minutes without intermission
Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm, Sunday at 3pm
Tickets: $111.25, Mezzanine $111.25 to $71.25
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on November 2nd performance
Closing 11/19/06 after28 performances and 35 previews.
Musical Numbers
  • The Times They Are A-Changin' Coyote
  • Highway 61 Revisited Capt. Ahrab
  • Don't Think Twice, It's All Right Cleo
  • Just Like A Woman Ahrab and Coyote
  • Like A Rolling Stone Coyote
  • Everything Is Broken/ Cleo
  • Desolation Row/ Ahrab
  • Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 / Coyote and Clowns
  • Mr. Tambourine Man/ Coyote
  • Man Gave Names To All The Animals/ Capt. Ahrab and Cleo
  • Masters Of War/ Coyote
  • Blowin' In The Wind/ Coyote, Cleo and Clowns
  • Please, Mrs. Henry/ Coyote, Cleo and Clowns
  • On A Night Like This / Coyote, Cleo and Clowns
  • Lay Lady Lay /Coyote
  • I'll Be Your Baby Tonight/ Coyote and Cleo
  • Simple Twist Of Fate / Capt. Ahrab
  • Summer Days/ Capt. Ahrab
  • Gotta Serve Somebody / Coyote and Clowns
  • Not Dark Yet (Part 1)/ Capt. Ahrab
  • Knockin' On Heaven's Door / Capt. Ahrab
  • Maggie's Farm/ Clowns and Cleo
  • Not Dark Yet - Part 2 Coyote
  • I Believe In You/ Cleo and Coyote
  • Dignity / Coyote
  • Forever Young / Coyote, Cleo and Clowns
  • Playout: Country Pie Medley / Band
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