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"Lonely Billy Joel's Cry For Help"
After String of Broken Romances and Booze Binges, "Piano Man" Checks Into Rehab
(July 1st, 2002)
A terrifying brush with death was the wake-up call that finally got Billy Joel – a man haunted by booze addiction and failed love affairs – to enter rehab and seek treatment before it was too late, say sources.
On June 12th, 2002, two days before his ex-fiancée Trish Bergin tied the knot with another man, the troubled songwriter and singer of such hits as "Uptown Girl" and "Only The Good Die Young" slammed his 1999 Mercedes into a pole in East Hampton, LI.
According to the police report, Joel, 53, lost control of the car while trying to make a turn. The air bag went off, saving him from serious injury. Police said alcohol was not a factor in the accident. But a bloody gash to his head was enough to convince the star to check into the Silver Hill Hospital June 14th, 2002, say sources.
"That crash saved Billy's life," declares a close friend. "The accident scared him. It made him realize that his drinking was out of control and his life was a mess.
"He is a very sad character. He has everything, but no one to share it with. The only thing that makes him happy is his music, and that can be a very lonely life.
"He knew he had to go into rehab."
For the past two months, sources say Joel has been in turmoil, alternating between reclusive drinking bouts and desperate phone calls begging pregnant TV newsgal Bergin, 31, to cancel her wedding to attorney Randy Weichbrodt and marry him, instead.
Another friend confirms that Joel phoned her repeatedly and pleaded with her to take him back until she had no choice but to change her phone number.
"Billy couldn't bear the thought of her marrying another man," says a pal.
Joel, who is divorced from supermodel Christie Brinkley, turned to booze to ease his pain.
"Billy likes his sake," said the owner of an Asian eatery that the singer frequents. "And he's known for loving fine wine – bottles that cost $800 a bottle. Then he drinks a gallon.
"He presents a fun-loving side to the public, but behind the scenes, he's much darker and driven by obsessions."
Joel began pursuing Bergin in 1998 after the Long Island reporter interviewed him at his Amagansett mansion for a story.
She married someone else, but after her divorce, the "Piano Man" pulled out the stops.
"Suddenly he was flying her to London on the Concorde to have lunch with Elton John," says the friend. "The next six months were a whirlwind of attention and affection. She loved it and loved him."
But in late 2000, Bergin discovered that her famous beau was cheating with another woman in Arizona. As if that wasn't bad enough, after Joel returned to Long Island, she surprised him at home and found him in bed with another woman.
"That was the end of it," says the friend. "But Billy wouldn't give up. He lavished presents on her, including a $50,000 boat."
Last year, determined not to lose her, Joel asked her to marry him and gave her a $40,000, 3-carat diamond ring.
She kept the ring, but turned him down – and broke his heart.
A few months ago, Bergin announced her engagement to Weichbrodt. A week later she went to Joel's house to give back the ring.
"She found him holed up and a wreck. He'd been drinking non-stop that whole week," says the friend. "For weeks afterward, he called her countless times every day. And at one point he said he wanted to talk to her fiancée directly. He wanted to tell him to step aside."
Joel couldn't accept that it was over. He started to come apart at the seams.
He backed out of his concert tour with Elton John, claiming a lung infection and laryngitis. But a reviewer at a Madison Square Garden concert wrote that he "seemed to have ingested something quite a bit stronger than cough syrup."
Then in June came the fateful car wreck.
Bergin, who will become co-anchor of Inside Edition in September, went ahead with her wedding, and Joel was admitted to Silver Hill, where he is sharing a 10-bedroom house with other patients.
This isn't the first time a broken heart has sent him to the hospital. The songwriter admits wanting to kill himself after a girl dumped him when he was 21.
"I was into a real self-pity trip," he told Rolling Stone. "Isn't it easier to just cut your throat or slit your wrist? So I checked into a place where they wouldn't let me kill myself."
Several weeks ago on the "Today" show, Joel was asked if there was anything he'd love to do that he hadn't done.
He said: "I'd like to have a long-term successful relationship with a woman."
It's not likely he'll find that at Silver Hill, but friends are praying he'll beat his booze demons and find happiness.
Says a pal: "We're all pulling for Billy to get better."
"An Odd Couple As Perfect Pair"
By: Celia McGee
(July 2nd, 2002)
Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp need work. And now they've got it.
Joel, his last hit album almost a decade behind him, has been more in the news lately for what he is not doing - hanging on to a girlfriend, staying healthy enough to make all his concerts, controlling his drinking.
The Troubadour and the Dancing Queen: Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp are trying out a dance-musical based on his songs. Tharp, the celebrity choreographer who set Mikhail Baryshnikov pirouetting to pop tunes, collaborated with David Byrne on the 1981 "Catherine Wheel" spectacular and who has choreographed five Hollywood movies, in recent years has been out of the limelight except for her unsuccessful attempt to build a permanent home for her dance company in Brooklyn.
Yet last week's Entertainment Weekly called the unlikely pairing of the 53 year-old crooner and the 60 year-old dance diva the "IT song & dance team."
To see why, audiences have been filling the Shubert Theater here, where "Movin' Out," choreographed by Tharp to 24 Joel songs, started previews June 25th, 2002 for a 10-week Chicago run before a scheduled October 24th, 2002 opening on Broadway.
Nonetheless, the show's public relations firm gets nervous when questioned about the $8 million production, with sets by Woody Allen regular Santo Loquasto and backers ranging from the Nederlander Theater dynasty to Joel himself.
"I guess it's because it's still in tweaking mode," says a producer, James L. Nederlander. "Out-of-town tryouts are about striving for perfection."
'Reputations On The Line'
Indeed, "Movin' Out" is a high-stakes risk even for Broadway. Both Joel and Tharp are testing their reputations by venturing there - Joel for the first time - while the enterprise raises the question of whether a story told through a combination of sophisticated contemporary dance and Joel's LIE ballads can fill a Broadway house.
Nederlander insists it can because "I actually think there's a lot of electricity in the room when those two get together."
"Movin' Out" dancer Ron DeJesus, who has lived and worked in Chicago since he started college in the '80s, says the near-capacity crowds have "obviously been enjoying this a lot."
The cast and crew have been similarly upbeat, despite extensive, daily changes to the demanding choreography, the song mix performed by singer/pianist Michael Cavanaugh and an onstage band and the overarching story.
It follows six close friends from their young blue-collar days in 1960s Hicksville to Vietnam and back, drawing to a close 20 hard years after the doo-woppy start. The central players were suggested by names and personalities in Joel's songs.
"Most of the changes have been to simplify the characters to make them understandable for the audience, since Twyla is such a layered choreographer," says DeJesus.
But the challenge of changing story lines and dance moves has been far less unsettling to the performers - among them, former American Ballet Theater stars Ashley Tuttle, Keith Roberts and John Selya - than concern over Joel's recent stint in a Connecticut rehab center.
'Bad Timing or Good Publicity?'
"When we saw it on CNN," DeJesus says, "it was, 'Oh, no, this is bad timing.' We were nervous and apprehensive about repercussions that could be explosive right before the opening. Twyla's been pouring her whole career into this. We hoped [Joel's checking into rehab] would help rather than create bad karma."
Joel is "doing great" and hopes to attend the Chicago opening on July 19th, 2002, Nederlander says.
The company has missed Joel, who they say was a warm if fragile presence during the show's six-week rehearsal period in New York.
"He's so emotional," DeJesus says. "He told us, 'These songs are my babies, though you'd think I'd be sick of them by now. But to see them like this gives them a whole new life.' He got teary-eyed and choked up, and went around hugging everybody. He feels like one of us."
The biggest change so far during the Chicago tryout involves the show's ending. Tharp scrapped a final production number flaunting Armani evening wear and intricately mirrored scenery for a bare stage and a tender rendition of "New York State of Mind."
Tharp explained that "she wanted to give [something] back to New York after September 11th, 2001," DeJesus says, "and prove to New York State how much she loves and respects this country. I'd never been exposed to her sensitive side. She started crying. And it's been all to the good for the production."
By: George Rush & Joanna Molloy
(July 5th, 2002)
Rehabbed Billy Joel stuck to Perrier at Saracen in Wainscott the other night. His supportive friends also didn't let liquor touch their lips. The slimmed-down "Piano Man" did leave with a large doggy bag...
"Idle Musings On Great White Way"
By: Michael Reidel
(July 5th, 2002)
Some Chicagoans goin' to see Billy Joel's "Movin' Out" think Billy's in the show. He isn't, but the perception is helping ticket sales.. "Movin' Out" producers toying with the idea of pushing the heavy-on-dance, light-on-story show as Special Theatrical Event rather than New Musical at the Tonys next year...
Billy Joel Looking For Gotham Pad
By: Braden Keil
(July 18th, 2002)
After the endless stories about Billy Joel and his real estate maneuvering in the Hamptons comes word he is in a New York City state of mind, property-wise. The bearded balladeer is now combing Gotham for a pad on the Upper East Side and was spotted perusing a $10 million condo at The Westbury on Madison and 69th Street earlier this week.
"He's looking for a service-oriented building," says a broker familiar with Joel's requirements, "especially a hotel/residence building like the Pierre, Sherry-Netherland or the Carlyle."
On the other hand, those buildings - all stuffy co-ops - have their requirements, too. They aren't keen on letting in any musicians, save for the Yo-Yo Mas of the world, even aging rock icons who are more consumed with Broadway shows than hit family-style TV shows.
"He's definitely shopping for a city apartment," confirms Joel spokeswoman Claire Mercuri, "He's actually been looking for a while, but he hasn't made a decision about anything." She adds that Joel is not looking to leave the Hamptons, where he now owns two properties.
When he's not consumed with thoughts of movin' in, Joel is involved in the musical "Movin' Out," based on his songs, which will premiere tomorrow in Chicago before movin' to Broadway in October.
"Joel-Inspired 'Movin' Out' Fails To Move Much Else"
By: Damien Jaques
(July 21st, 2002)
Let's consider the new Billy Joel-inspired piece of Broadway-bound entertainment on display here, titled "Movin' Out," for what it is not.
It isn't "Mamma Mia!" Despite the fact that choreographer-director Twyla Tharp conceived of and built the show around 30 existing Billy Joel tunes, including such hits as "Uptown Girl" and "Big Shot," "Movin' Out" is nothing like the mass market "Mamma Mia!," which was constructed around 22 hits recorded by the Swedish pop group ABBA.
"Mamma Mia!" has a clear, albeit rather lame, plot and dialogue. "Movin' Out" has a fuzzy and confusing story line, and no dialogue.
It isn't "Contact." That brilliant musical, created by Susan Stroman, tells three different stories in three acts solely through dance, without any spoken words. The piece is captivating, and the audience easily forms emotional attachments to the characters.
"Movin' Out" begins with the Joel song "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," and characters from that tune continue through the 26 scenes. Dance substitutes for dialogue, and the characters are neither distinctive nor interesting. We don't care about them.
It isn't musical theater. "Movin' Out" is a Twyla Tharp dance concert that uses the Billy Joel canon of compositions, ranging from straightforward rock to classically influenced work. Calling it anything else is deceptive advertising.
The story line covers 1967 to 1987, and it follows Brenda and Eddie, of "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant," and three other kids from Hicksville, Long Island. I know this not from seeing the show, but from reading the program synopsis. On stage, the plot thread periodically disappears and suffers from vagueness.
Lovers' bliss and spats are replaced halfway through the first act by the Vietnam War, which hangs over "Movin' Out" like a toxic cloud for the rest of the concert. The arrival of the war also brings a jarring stylistic change to the show.
Most of "Movin' Out" sounds like a live jukebox, with a 10-piece band, including some of Joel's longtime sidemen and an outstanding piano-playing singer named Michael Cavanaugh, creating faithful reproductions of the composer's recordings. A generation younger than Joel, Cavanaugh sounds just enough like the star to meet our musical expectations without being a carbon copy. The band plays in view of the audience on a platform above the stage.
But the musicians, as well as the re-creation of Joel's recording style, temporarily disappear with a psychedelic version of "We Didn't Start The Fire." Audio distortion is used to portray the surreal sense of the Vietnam War and the home-front chaos that accompanied it.
Tharp's choreography and staging of the several war scenes reflect the disappointing lack of invention and imagination that runs throughout the show. Whether she is presenting battle scenes or the autoerotically themed "Captain Jack," she repeatedly shows us the obvious. This looks more like music videos than the work of a veteran, respected choreographer.
Positives in "Movin' Out" include Cavanaugh's singing, fast pacing, adrenaline-pumping energy and the work of two of the 27 dancers, Elizabeth Parkinson and Karine Bageot. Long and angular, Parkinson is especially expressive. The fiery and magnetic Bageot excites with the movement of just a few muscles.
"Good Music, Flashy Moves Can't Fill Emotional Void"
By: Hedy Weiss
(July 21st, 2002)
It begins with doo-wop-style dancing set against a chain link fence, as a long-limbed girl in a short skirt slithers over the hood of a convertible, and guys in jeans and varsity jackets try to keep up. It ends, two decades later, with everybody on track - jogging happily in casually stylish running gear, before falling into a reunion of kissing, hugging and making up. And, oh yes, somewhere in between there just happens to have been the life-changing war in Vietnam and the emotionally scarred and isolated veterans of that war - episodes played out in the kind of slow motion shoot-and-tumble moves and broadly alienated social behavior that are sure to be fodder for the satirical "Forbidden Broadway."
Where, oh where, is "Miss Saigon" when we need her most?
To be sure, no one would ever mistake "Movin' Out," the danced-through musical conceived, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, and set to the ever-seductive rock and roll songbook of Billy Joel, for being anything other than a quintessentially American story told in unmistakably cartoonish terms. Innocence is trampled by experience, yet there is a sunny ending in store as the pursuit of happiness knows no bounds.
That there is a massive assemblage of dance and musical talent on the stage of the Shubert Theatre, where "Movin' Out" received its pre-Broadway world premiere Friday night, is undeniable. But sadly it has been applied to a stupefyingly cliched and almost embarrassingly naive piece of nonverbal (and often confusing) storytelling that mixes melodrama and nostalgia, and condenses history to the point of meaninglessness. This is a pop ballet with a flamboyant but anachronistically classic dance vocabulary that has both the cool flash of MTV and the redeeming heat of live performance. It's a hybrid form that supplies plenty of sensory stimulation but leaves you strangely hungry for emotional involvement.
Think of it as a dance drama (as opposed to a "Fosse"-style dance revue) set to a live soundtrack. Perched upstage on a massive balcony is a dynamite nine-piece band, with the phenomenal Michael Cavanaugh singing and accompanying himself. The lyrics are the only "script" in the show, and in a marathon turn, Cavanaugh (all too often in darkness) performs two dozen Joel classics to powerhouse effect.
On the stage below him are the dancers - an elite group of soloists and a slick ensemble who enact a generic tale of youthful love, early marriage, disenchantment and the sudden deployment of three friends to Vietnam. In a crucial but confusing war scene, one of the men dies and another is saddled with the blame. The two who return home become outcasts, each filled with rage. Only many years later are they all reconciled to both themselves and each other.
Elizabeth Parkinson dances Brenda, the hot pre-Raphaelite beauty who leaves her first big love, the fiery Eddie (John Selya, a bravura, charismatic dancer), to go off with the boyish Tony (Keith Roberts). Ashley Tuttle is Judy, the sweet and innocent blonde (decked out in pointe shoes to emphasize these traits), who is madly in love with the sweet and clean-cut James (Benjamin G. Bowman), whose wartime death she, like Tony, blames on Eddie.
Classically trained dancers of the first rank - who have variously appeared with American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey and Tharp's own company - they are all brilliantly expressive technicians capable of bringing an almost superhuman perfection to everything from the most lyrical pas de deux to acrobatically ferocious Apache dancing, break-dancing and moon walks. Yet in watching them for nearly two hours a feeling of exhausting relentlessness sets in. Aside from a few quiet moments - Parkinson, alone and near tears as she reminisces, and Tuttle in stiff grief - Tharp seems wary of letting either her characters or her audiences feel anything much deeper than the numbing rush of adrenaline.
Set designer Santo Loquasto's industrial strength set evokes Joel's middle class Long Island roots, while Donald Holder's lighting is heavy on blinding laserlike blasts of color. Suzy Benzinger's costumes are Bloomingdales-like glosses on period looks.
For those enamored of the "Piano Man" the show will bring musical contentment. And for dance lovers, there are plenty of fireworks, if little subtlety. As for those in search of a heart-wrenching story, you had better be movin' on.
"Joel Savors Energy of Opening Night"
By: Bill Zwecker
(July 21st, 2002)
As Billy Joel stood sipping a Diet Coke at the post-opening party for "Movin' Out" at the Hotel Allegro late Friday, the songwriting legend seemed amazed by what he had just seen. Although Joel has been in Chicago much of the past week to check out previews (and then the official premiere) of Twyla Tharp's musical ballet based on his music, he still had "a hard time just sitting still in that theater. I'm not used to just doing nothing...but it was great watching all those kids up there doing all that work - and boy do they work!"
Joel revealed that while he did not know Tharp - prior to her approaching him with the idea of creating "Movin' Out" - "I of course was very familiar with her work and immediately said yes when she asked for my permission.
"Twyla was like St. Paul on the road to Tarsus," he quipped, making an intriguing Biblical reference. "She really had an epiphany about this.... She is so driven, so committed.... I've never seen anything like it!"
Tharp concurred that getting the hugely successful songwriter's blessing was the easy part. "He just said one word. 'Yes.' ...Then the real work had to begin."
Earlier in the evening, as the famous choreographer arrived at the Shubert Theatre for the premiere, she explained more fully her interest in building a show around the "Piano Man's" tunes.
"Not only are they beautiful, but his lyrics often tell a story.... He touches the soul with the emotions he writes about.... He speaks to real issues."
As Joel stepped from an enormous white SUV onto the red carpet at the Shubert, he admitted all his songs are like children, "but people might be surprised that the ones that are the most successful commercially are not necessarily my favorites. The popular songs are like those children who go on and become doctors and lawyers.... It's the more obscure songs - like kids who can't find jobs - that you tend to pay more attention to and know need more tender loving care."
At the end of the premiere performance Friday, Joel and Tharp joined their energetic cast on stage for the curtain calls, and rafter-rattling cheers and a standing ovation from the very friendly opening night audience. Along with the customary bouquets of red roses, both Joel and Tharp were presented with personalized high school letter jackets (labeled "Billy" and "Twyla") matching the ones worn by cast members in the show.
"I love it," Joel said afterward with a chuckle, "though I have no idea where I'll wear it."
As "Movin' Out" star Michael Cavanaugh arrived at the Hotel Allegro party, he admitted he still is intimidated about performing in Billy Joel's presence. The singer and pianist vocalizes all the Joel tunes in the show - acting, in a sense, as the narrator.
"It's gotten a lot better, but I still am very aware whenever Billy is in the room," said Cavanaugh, who was joined by his wife and son, Matthew, for the evening. The event was an early birthday present for the young boy, who celebrated his sixth birthday Saturday. Not surprisingly, he's already a big Joel fan. "He knows every song in the show and all the lyrics."
While Joel would not specifically name his favorites among the many songs he's penned, Cavanaugh did not hesitate. "I've probably sung and played it 5,000 times, but I don't think I'll ever get tired of 'Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,'" said Cavanaugh - an emotion likely shared by millions of Billy Joel fans around the world.
"'Movin' Out'? Maybe Not"
Broadway-Bound Tharp-Joel Show Has To Get Acts Together
By: Michael Phillips
(July 22nd, 2002)
If Oliver Stone did a Broadway dance musical - and truly, I'm not suggesting it - it might come out like the more risible passages of "Movin' Out," the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel collaboration that opened its Shubert Theatre pre-Broadway tryout Friday after several weeks of previews. It is a strenuous, chaotic, occasionally exhilarating dance-play, in which America's war in Vietnam gets blue-bagged for one more pop-cultural recycling.
"Don't worry, the second act's better - much better," said the waitress working the sidewalk tables at the Grillroom, across the street from the Shubert, during Friday's intermission. She was reassuring a couple of Playbill-wielding "Movin' Out" first-nighters. And she was right; it is. Yet with a first act so pile-driving and ill-conceived, the question remains: Is "better" better enough?
The dance quotient alone may be enough to alienate a lot of Joel fans, especially those who would've been content with a night of nostalgic karaoke, in the style of the ABBA-fueled "Mamma Mia!" Even when director/choreographer Tharp's 27-person cast throws itself into her sweatiest, most manic-depressive choreography, the engaging athleticism of Act 2 cannot erase the misjudgements of Act 1. There's a marijuana dream sequence that's at least as silly as anything in "Reefer Madness," and when "Movin' Out" takes three of its central characters to war, the resulting combat leaves half the audience asking the other half: So what just happened? Who died? Huh?
The story thread of "Movin' Out" covers 20 years in the lives of archetypes from the Joel catalog. It begins in Hicksville, Long Island, where the tune "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" (from "The Stranger") introduces Brenda (Elizabeth Parkinson) and Eddie (John Selya), married but already bickering their way into a split.
Brenda wants more of a life. She finds it with Tony (Keith Roberts), the kid with the Peter Frampton hair who works in the grocery store, savin' his pennies for someday. Meanwhile, Tony's clean-cut brother James (Benjamin G. Bowman) proposes to Judy (Ashley Tuttle), to the tune of "Just the Way You Are." Then Eddie, Tony and James go to Vietnam; James does not return; Tony suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; and Eddie descends into a vaguely S/M Greenwich Village milieu. The surviving characters emerge sadder, wiser and, in the end, still friends.
Tharp appears to have had a devil of a time determining how much, or little, to deal with in terms of linear narrative. The introduction scene, which brings Eddie onstage behind the wheel of a Mustang, degenerates into a muddle of "local color" and guess-the-principals. As the men march reluctantly into war - Scott Wise plays a drill instructor, as well as Sgt. O'Leary, everybody's favorite cop back home - the military maneuvers recall Tharp's work for the film version of "Hair," albeit far less effectively.
Act 2 improves, with the rageful "Prelude/Angry Young Man" trio, led by Selya, echoing Jerome Robbins' "West Side Story" anguish; "Big Shot," a shattered-nerves duet for Roberts and Parkinson; and a bookend duet "Shameless," full of flying, grasping leaps. In these sequences the show acquires some emotional lucidity, as well as storytelling clarity.
Ever-present "Piano Man" and Joel sound-alike Michael Cavanaugh handles lead vocals. He fronts a good 10-piece band, suspended above the frantic action onstage. The band gets a lot of visual competition from Donald Holder's annoying "interactive" lighting design, periodically blinding the audience with zap effects. A crazily uneven show is better than a relatively solid bore anytime, and "Movin' Out" is, in fact, crazily uneven. More story isn't really the answer. But the whole show needs to relax. Tharp and company are going for a more dance-oriented version of "The Who's Tommy," with its elegant assaultiveness, but they haven't shaped the key relationships very well. The production is often stunningly danced, with standout contributions from the menacingly gorgeous Parkinson (her curls were destined to meet up with Roberts'; when they pair up, it's like a curl-off) and the buoyant, anti-gravitational Selya. Yet there's a hard-sell quality to "Movin' Out," when it's not testing the audience's ability to track the often opaque action.
In "Nine Sinatra Songs," Tharp brought out the harsh beauty and violence in a great American conundrum. If the Vietnam war was a conundrum of a different sort, then "Movin' Out" is a spiritual cousin to the Sinatra project - Tharp's attempt, on a bigger canvas, to match a spiky dance vocabulary with popular song. There's probably enough stuff in "Movin' Out" for Tharp to extract "Nine Joel Songs" (well, six or seven, anyway).
But first things first. If the satisfactions of the second act are to add up to anything, the first-act quagmire must be addressed - in time for the October Broadway opening.
"Billy Joel's 'Red Wine Diet'"
By: Robert Kahn
(July 23rd, 2002)
Dicey buzz about his Twyla Tharp collaboration "Movin' Out" - "The dance quotient alone may be enough to alienate a lot of Joel fans," the Chicago Tribune said - wasn't enough to dampen Billy Joel's mood at the opening-night cast party in Chicago on Friday.
Commenting on his svelte appearance, Joel told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter: "I've lost 40 pounds, but most of that was before I went to rehab. I lost 34 pounds before and six pounds while I was there."
Joel, who spent a week last month in Connecticut's Silver Hill Hospital, also took a swipe at the world-famous clinic. "I kept reading about my being in the 'posh' Silver Hill. Boy, was that a crock! The place was a dump! And the food was terrible. That's why it was easy to lose another six pounds. I actually lost most of the weight on what I call my 'Red Wine Diet.' I've been telling people that's the way to do it. Drink nothing but red wine, and then go to rehab!"
"Review: Joel's Musical Can Say Goodbye To Broadway"
By: Chris Jones
(July 23rd, 2002)
The producers of Twyla Tharp's unusual and honorably ambitious attempt to fuse a bookless, but not storyless, Broadway show from the diverse Billy Joel backlist had better start rifling through their emergency Rolodexes under "W" for writer and "D" for director.
For despite top-notch dancers, a brilliant young vocalist fronting a sizzlin', boomer-friendly rock band and some occasionally gorgeous and even thrilling choreography, "Movin' Out" won't start any fires on Broadway unless several serious problems get a fast fix.
For starters, the music and dance need to be unified; the wildly uneven narrative requires immediate extrication from the world of cartoons and overblown archetypes; the main characters desperately need to be more empathetic; and the overly intense show could use a jot of humor and irony.
All that said, it's a mistake to underestimate the potential popularity of a Broadway show based around Joel's music. And especially when Tharp finally lets herself go in the last three numbers of the show, her classy yet accessible choreography is typically rich and tremendously invigorating.
It may be considered outmoded pop by some, but Joel's music actually is a remarkably diverse and stylistically complex body of work that's well suited to dance and theater. And, of course, Joel's work has a built-in audience of fans, all of whom will be greatly impressed by the quality of the live musical interpretation of his numbers (organized by Joel's people, the band goes well beyond a "Mamma Mia!"-style pit group).
Equally enjoyable for a mainstream crowd is the dancing of Tharp's illustrious group, which showcases the splendidly expressive likes of Elizabeth Parkinson and Keith Roberts. But those factors, in themselves, will not be enough for boffo B.O. without clearer storytelling.
The concept here takes some explaining. Tharp, a choreographer with a long-standing interest in iconic popular music, listened to Joel's body of work and decided to meld the songs into one long narrative. The songs are sung by Michael Cavanaugh (located, with the band, on a platform above the action), not by any of the characters.
Tharp pulled the premise of the show mainly from "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" (in which Brenda and Eddie, King and Queen of the Parkway Diner, marry and then hit the rocks) and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (in which Anthony works in a grocery store and one Sergeant O'Leary moonlights as a bartender). In Tharp's show, which employs some cross-Joel mating practices, Brenda dumps Eddie and hooks up with Tony from a different song.
After introducing this quartet of lower-middle-class Long Island children of the '60s, and then adding two other characters from more obscure Joel songs into the mix - James (from "James") and his wife, Judy - Tharp throws everyone into a Vietnam quagmire.
Dumped Eddie, who has a rough time all night, blames himself for James' death in 'Nam, and, late in the second act, finally gets Judy's (and his own) forgiveness. Meanwhile, Brenda and Tony fight off the demons of the early 1970s - war, drugs etc. - as they try to forge a relationship.
Although there are only a couple of words of dialogue, all of this stuff flows with varying levels of ease from Joel songs - the Vietnam sequences, for example, come from "Goodnight Saigon" and the post-war angst is expressed by "Pressure." Some of the numbers are used inventively (such as the brilliant treatments of "Big Shot" and "Just The Way You Are"); others feel awkward ("We Didn't Start The Fire").
"Movin' Out" does not need to be - indeed, it cannot be - a full-blown book musical. Audiences will accept its unusual style. And, even now, it's not hard to follow the basic elements of the narrative.
But in the need to get across what's going on, there's far too much resorting to staggering crudity - the married Brenda appearing in a shrew's hairnet; a terrible "Miss Saigon" wannabe number in which Tony interacts with a Saigon whore while his lover does an erotic dance in a strip joint back home. When the show's subtle and free, it works fine - the far stronger second act comes to a thrilling close, and there are some brilliant choreographic renditions of Eddie's inner pain. But all the cheap stuff has got to go.
Cavanaugh, on a platform that should down front near the audience more, also needs to know if he should be relating to the dancers or occupying his own little world, merely providing a score. Right now, his musically brilliant performance does neither fully. And when John Selya's Eddie finally does a moonwalk late in the show, the Chicago audience positively exploded with laughter - a fair indication of how much they wanted to laugh and relax far earlier in the might.
Joel, in attendance at the final previews, was singing cheerily along with his own work. But this show needs an outside eye to whip its story into shape. Since Joel's material goes only so deep, it would be better to exploit its cheerfully middle-brow sensibility and concentrate on forging an emotional, inventive entertainment for those who grew up with his records spinning for years on our stereos.
"Silver Hill Gets 0 Stars"
By: Neal Travis
(July 23rd, 2002)
It was good enough for rehabbing celebrities like Joan Kennedy, Elton John and Michael Jackson, but the world famous Silver Hill clinic in Connecticut was a real bummer for Billy Joel. "I kept reading about my being in the 'posh' Silver Hill," Joel says. "Boy, was that a crock!" Billy, who spent 10 days there last month, claims the place was a "dump" and that the food was quite "terrible."
The "Piano Man" was chatting with the Chicago Sun-Times the other night after the out-of-town opening of the show "Movin' Out," featuring more than two dozen of his songs and directed by Twyla Tharp on its way to Broadway.
Billy says he dropped 34 pounds before he checked in and 6 pounds while he was there. "It was easy to lose the weight," he said, referring to the diet they had him on. Joel finally gave a hint about what he was doing in rehab. He said he'd been on what he calls his "red wine diet," during which he claims he drinks nothing but red wine.
The show itself sounds like "Mamma Mia!" with better songs. Producer Terry Allen Kramer tells me the lead singer, Michael Cavanaugh, "does Billy Joel better than Billy does."
The "Piano Man" doesn't seem to mind having a voice-double out there, and it could be a marvelous career-extender for someone who has moved into classical music.
Maybe Joel's jokey explanation of being in Silver Hill has some truth to it. Two nights before he entered the clinic I bumped into him in Bridgehampton's World Pie and he seemed happy and relaxed if a trifle overweight. Whatever, he's now back in the Hamptons and ready to resume a full schedule of charity events.
"Dance Review, 'Movin' Out' at Shubert Theatre"
By: Sid Smith
(July 23rd, 2002)
A hallmark of Twyla
Tharp's genius is her ability to inject hints of theater into her short
works: the vaudeville of "Push Comes to Shove," for instance,
or the abstract drama of "The Fugue."
While flush with many of the foibles that inherently plague the full-length dance-theater effort, "Movin' Out," to the songs of Billy Joel, is nonetheless Tharp's personal best in this crusade so far. Choreographically, despite setbacks and mistakes, she does for Joel, at times brilliantly, what she has managed more consistently in the past for Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Philip Glass.
Throughout, "Movin' Out" lacks narrative clarity. But even Tharp's stumbling Act 1demonstrates she can react to Joel's vernacular with intricate, natural responses more respectful and layered than anything in the best music video. In a deft male trio (always a great form for Tharp), John Selya kicks an invisible football and apes a referee's touchdown signal. When Benjamin G. Bowman rests a momentary leg on Selya's shoulder, there's an instant snapshot of male bonding and naive Americana.
But much of the Act 1 dancing is luminous only in fits and starts: willowy Ashley Tuttle's balletic widow, for one. Tharp ends with a dud, freezing the dancers in an ineffective tableau. In Act 2, Tharp reacts more simply to Joel's work. The results rush forward like a Niagara cascade.
She unleashes the biggest guns in her balletic arsenal, Keith Roberts and Elizabeth Parkinson, for a series of duets, progressively angry and then lyrical, that brilliantly redrape classical pas de deux with Joel's contemporary cloth.
Though there are cheesy gestures, notably a few Bronx cheers, who but Tharp can take the word "spastic" in a lyric and tartly, tastefully inject it into the dance?
In a medley including "The River of Dreams" and "Keeping The Faith," Tharp revisits the energy of her best work, including "In The Upper Room."
Using the choral lift as a metaphor, with dancers rushing on and off in bewildering clusters, she manages an explosive, cathartic ode on the great paradox of dance and dancer: Solo rehabilitation transformed into communal joy.
Tharp always finds the best dancers and gets the best from them. (Blink and you'll miss Tony Award-winning Scott Wise.) Selya, who jumps and spins as if immune to gravity, combines delinquent street looks with satiny execution. At one point, he delivers a stunning series of whipping leg turns, known in the trade as tours en l'air, only to segue smoothly into a break-dancing somersault.
Gifted with long, shapely legs, Parkinson uses her extensions as weapons as well as engines of grace.
And Roberts, like so many under Tharp's spell, performs with a charisma heads above his ABT days, threatening to drill through the floor with his spins or tackling sinewy, jittery riffs as if using every muscle in his body.
"Movin' Out" is a glorious mess, but the Terpsichorean fireworks are the kind we get here every 10 years or so.
If the theatrical jury acquits, so be it. If not, let it live in memory as a magnificent failure.
"Billy Joel's Blues"
By: Michael Riedel
(July 24th, 2002)
Sobered-up songwriter Billy Joel may no longer need rehab, but his Broadway-bound show sure does.The $8-million "Movin' Out," a "Contact"-like dance play inspired by Joel's catalog of hit songs, received mixed to negative reviews here, and will have to undergo intensive retooling before opening in New York in October, production sources say.
Among the problems: The entire first act, which The Chicago Tribune called a "quagmire" riddled with "misjudgments."
The misjudgments, it should be noted, are not Joel's: Even such shop-worn songs as "Just The Way You Are" and "The Longest Time," newly orchestrated for the stage, sound fresh and vibrant. They are melodic and character-driven, and make you wish Joel had spent some time writing for the musical theater before becoming a pop star.
The problems rest squarely on the shoulders of Twyla Tharp, who conceived, directed and choreographed "Movin' Out."
She rifled through Joel's backlist to come up with a storyline on which to pin his songs.
The story, told almost entirely through dance, spans 20 years and follows a group of baby boomers from Hicksville, Long Island.
Their carefree teenage years are abruptly ended by the Vietnam war, which leaves one of them dead, one of them widowed and two of them in such emotional pain, they fall victim to the drug and sordid sex culture of the '70s.
The '80s are brighter, however: The characters give up their bad habits, take up jogging and repair their damaged friendships.
Chicago critics hammered the first act, complaining that the story is muddled and takes too long to get going.
This came as no surprise to the producers or to Tharp, who as early as yesterday was already working on a new opening number.
"She submitted a list of 12 major revisions this morning," producer Emanuel Azenberg told The Post.
"The goal is to have an opening number that hits you right away. If you have that, you can get away with some of the exposition you need to set up the story."
Azenberg added: "Our belief is that our second act is in good shape but our first act needs work. If we can make the first act entertaining and coherent, the second act will carry the audience."
Some critics suggested that the show needed a professional book writer and maybe even a new director.
But that is not going to happen.
Tharp is tough, driven and confident and will not, production sources say, stand for anyone else trying to fix her show.
She can be extremely difficult - she drove the producers crazy, for instance, over her billing, insisting it be "created by Twyla Tharp," but settling for "conceived, choreographed and directed by" after it was pointed out that Joel's contribution was fairly substantial.
Still, she's a perfectionist and won't rest until she has fixed the show.
Indeed, she's so confident she can get the first act in shape that she is taking the unusual step of personally inviting the critics back to see the show toward the end of its Chicago run.
And where is Joel in all this?
Well, he hasn't been around much, having spent some weeks in rehab.
But he did attend the opening night party. He was fit and chatty and slaked his thirst with Diet Coke.
He told me he was thrilled with the band, and heaped praise on Michael Cavanagh, who sings all the songs.
He cheerfully admitted that he doesn't know the first thing about theater: "They told me we were 'going out of town,' and here we are in Chicago. The last time I checked, Chicago was a town."
But he is impressed with Tharp and seems confident that she will take good care of his songs, which he calls "my babies."
"When she first approached me, I went into cringe mode," he said. "I wasn't going to say yes to this. But then I saw some of the dances she did, and I was very pleased. They were emotionally charged."
Joel's going away for a few weeks before heading back to Chicago to "look at the show with a fresh pair of eyes."
Maybe by then Tharp will have righted the ship.
"'Movin' Out' Has Overflowing Talent, But Still Lacks Focus"
By: Hedy Weiss
(July 24th, 2002)
Where can they go from here? That's the question I've been asking myself since seeing "Movin' Out," the theatrical ballet (and I use the word "ballet" in its broadest sense) that opened at the Shubert Theatre last Friday.
The show, set to two dozen of Billy Joel's hit songs from decades past, and featuring a dialogue-free "scenario," direction and choreography by Twyla Tharp, has no shortage of talent at its disposal, but it also has major problems. And you have to wonder how (or even if) its creative team is going to fix them before an already-slated Broadway opening on October 24th, 2002.
The problems are many and multi-faceted, and they have nothing to do with the music. In fact, Joel's songs, sung in virtuosic style by Michael Cavanaugh, are lush and vibrant, and remind you anew of just what an appealing songwriter he is. In fact, you may well leave the theater hoping he tries his hand at an original musical - preferably one with a solid book and three-dimensional characters.
Nor is the problem the dancers; they are dazzling and capable of anything. But they can't camouflage or compensate for Tharp's disastrous attempt at storytelling.
And that begs a crucial question: Who is telling the story here?
The dancers neither sing nor speak, so it's up to Joel's lyrics, and they often get lost amid all the activity onstage. And there is a visual disconnect between the songs and the performers.
The show also suffers from a truth in labeling problem. Very different expectations come with a full-evening dance work as opposed to a Broadway musical. Susan Stroman got away with a dialogue-free evening (barely) in "Contact," a show that, despite its success, I found pretty flimsy. But at least Stroman knows how to create a sense of nonverbal narrative. British choreographer Matthew Bourne successfully brought his theatrical update of the "Swan Lake" ballet to Broadway several years ago, but he succeeded largely because everyone was expecting a ballet and that is more or less what they got.
Tharp seems to want it both ways. She is clearly lured by the big budget and high profile of Broadway, but she hasn't made the leap from full-length dance work to musical. And marketing cannot hide lack of substance. Even a small change - like subtitling "Movin' Out" "a ballet for Broadway" rather than "a new musical" - might at least clarify audience expectations and come closer to the truth.
The much larger problems with the show are its uneven tone and simplistic content. The inane, cliche-ridden story, which never fully fleshes out the characters and moves thuddingly from Long Island high school days, to a comic-book breakup of an early marriage, to an appallingly dim take on the Vietnam War and then on into the early 1980s, is awkward in its suggestion of the passage of time and unclear in establishing crucial relationships and plot turns. The alternately minimal and clunkily generic scenery ("West Side Story" meets the barricades of "Les Mis") and the heavy-handed lighting don't help.
So who should be called in for emergency repairs: A writer (not to supply dialogue, but to improve the pacing)? Another director (to help unify all the different unconnected elements of the show)? Or a choreographer (Bourne, Stroman, Tommy Tune) who can sharpen the storytelling via dance?
Small adjustments won't do the trick, but major ripping and patching will destroy the fabric. More and more you realize just how difficult it is to create a coherent "new" musical.
"Billy Joel's Back and Ready To Rock"
By: Roger Friedman
(July 24th, 2002)
I have some good news for a change: Billy Joel is back and better than ever.
Looking trim and tan, Billy spoke yesterday afternoon at the very moving memorial service held for Billboard editor Timothy White. White died June 29th, 2002 suddenly from a heart attack at age 50.
Billy's presentation was a complete change from his appearance back in February at the NARAS MusiCares dinner in Los Angeles.
Yesterday, Billy spoke clearly and cleverly. He recalled to an audience that included Bill Murray, screenwriter Mitch Glazer (who brought his wife of 10 years, actress Kelly Lynch, and chatted with his former wife, TV actress Wendie Malick), and performers Phoebe Snow and Jonatha Brooke that he liked to introduce his dates to the much-beloved White.
"He charmed the women I went out with. And he loved musicians. He was always open, and without guile or pretentiousness. He didn't run with the pack. He went with his guts, and his instinct. He leaves a huge space."
In the often corrupt world of the music business, Timothy White "was the cowboy with the white hat," Billy Joel said. "He was one of the good guys."
Earlier, Billy talked about his recent stay at Silver Hill rehab, and what he's doing next. The big news is that he's writing again. "I'm writing snippets, songs, I don't know what they are yet. They may be for a new album, or for a soundtrack."
His musical, "Movin' Out," choreographed by Twyla Tharp, will come to Broadway in the early fall after its current Chicago tryout. The show got negative reviews last week in that town, and Billy thinks the critics were right.
"Twyla knows the first act is not good, and that the second act is much better. She's making a lot of changes and doing a lot of re-casting," he said. "I have to trust her to make the right decisions."
The show interweaves 20 or so Joel songs with a story line having to do with Americans going to Vietnam in the late '60s.
Speaking about his rehab, Joel said his incentive to get better and get out was the food. "It was terrible, I mean really bad." He had already lost 34 pounds before he went in, and dropped another six by the time he left, he said.
For his next project, Billy will be introducing pianist Richard Joo at a concert coming up in the Hamptons shortly. Joo played the classical pieces Billy wrote for his "Fantasies & Delusions" album, but has yet to score a contract of his own. Even Sony Classical has failed to sign him.
"I think there's so much politics in the classical music business, the older guys don't like new guys coming in," Billy said. "It's different in rock and roll. The new guys just sweep the old ones out."
But I guarantee you, folks, Billy Joel is here to stay.
"He Sings The Songs"
The "Movin' Out" "Piano Man" On How He Was Discovered, "Geezer Music" and Billy Joel
By: Chris Jones
(July 25th, 2002)
Broadway musicals usually employ multiple singers. But from a platform above the stage, the young vocalist Michael Cavanaugh sings the entire score for "Movin' Out," Twyla Tharp's dance-oriented show based on the music of Billy Joel.
The reviews for "Movin' Out," which plays a pre-Broadway engagement at the Shubert Theatre, 22 West Monroe Street, through September 1st, 2002, have been mixed. But it seems that everyone is impressed with Cavanaugh, a hitherto unknown "Piano Man" from Cleveland with the uncanny ability to sound just like Joel. On Cavanaugh's day off after opening weekend, he still had enough voice left to talk.
Question: How on earth did you get this gig?
Answer: It all started at "New York New York" in Las Vegas where I was playing piano in a bar. My manager is friends with Max Loubiere, who happens to be Billy Joel's tour manager. Max was in Vegas because Billy and Elton John were appearing at the MGM Grand. Max came to hear me play. And, later, he decided to surprise me by bringing Billy to my show.... He called me about 20 minutes before to tell me Billy was coming. I nearly had a heart attack. It was insane.
Question: So what happened when Joel showed up?
Answer: He came in and watched me play for about an hour. I was trying not to do any of his songs, but that was all the crowd wanted to hear. So I leaned over to Billy and told him the crowd was screaming for him, not me. So he did a couple of songs with me. Later on, Tommy Burns, Billy's musical arranger called...I guess they had decided I could be their guy.
Question: Are you actually obsessed with Joel? Or is this just a job?
Answer: He has been my musical idol since the age of 7. At my first piano lesson, I played "It's Still Rock and Roll To Me" for my piano teacher and sang it for him from the piano. When I was really young I was into Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne, but my dad put "Big Shot" on the stereo and told me to listen to that. I thought it was so cool. And I've been into Joel's music ever since. When I was about 15, I was in a Top-40 band. We did Paula Abdul and other '80s stuff, but I always got my Billy Joel songs in. They started calling me "Young Joel."
Question: So are you impersonating Joel or doing your own thing with his songs?
Answer: To me, this is not an impression. I'm trying to sing the songs with the same attitude as Billy Joel. I try to phrase things like him, but using my own voice.
Question: Come on, you sound just like him.
Answer: I'm not crazy about being called a Billy Joel sound-alike. When I'm compared to him, I don't think I can ever look too good. But I'll take that as a compliment. Maybe his music is so much in my blood, it just comes out that way.
Question: Isn't that what they wanted for the show?
Answer: They told me to sing things my own way. But the more I'd sing it like Billy, the happier they would be. People come to the show to hear Billy's music. They want it to be true to what it is. I don't want to lose my own identity, but I understand that.
Question: Aren't you worried you'll get stuck doing Joel?
Answer: I guess I think about it sometimes. I write my own songs, and I would like to release my own music some day. But if I can get people to enjoy the way I perform and enjoy watching me on the stage, then that's a good start.
Question: You look very young on stage. How old are you?
Answer: Do we have to go into that? Upper twenties. Very upper. I don't want to advertise my age.
Question: Why not?
Answer: In the record business, everyone's 14. With this show, people keep telling me how young I look on stage. I tell them they would not be saying that if they were from Columbia Records.
Question: So how involved has Joel been in what you're doing onstage?
Answer: Well, there were a couple of places where I was singing the wrong lyric. "Shameless" was one of them....I guess I got the lyrics from, like, Billy-Joel-is-Great-Dot-Com. And it was just a matter of a couple of words, but he leaned over and said "you're doing great, man, and I hate to bring this up, but..."
Honestly, he's been very supportive and very happy with everything I've been doing since the beginning.
Question: Do you find Joel songs easy to perform?
Answer: Playing and singing his songs at the same time is very challenging. It's like walking and chewing gum. Billy was always very good at separating his hand skills and his voice. A lot of his songs sound simple, but then you try to play them...
Question: So you admire his work technically?
Answer: His lyrics are so clever. They take twists and turns, they're always out of the ordinary and they're never cliches. And his music has so many different styles. When he wrote "An Innocent Man," he was thinking of The Drifters. When he wrote "Uptown Girl," he was thinking of Frankie Valli. When he wrote "You May Be Right," he had The Rolling Stones in mind.
Question: Joel just got out of rehab. Are you worried about emulating that part of a star's life?
Answer: I'm aware of it. I've dreamed of making it my whole life, but I'm glad this success is happening now rather than later. My wife and I are from Ohio. We have a child. The most important thing to me now is my family.
Question: You must be killing your voice.
Answer: Actually, it's not that different from what I'm used to. In Vegas, I did three one-hour shows a night, doing Joel, Aerosmith, The Beatles. So I'm used to beating myself up every day and trying to stay alive. I sound hoarse every morning, but luckily it doesn't come out when I sing. I drink gallons of water. I vocalize every day. I do a lot of things to make sure I don't lose my voice. I'm doing six shows a week [an understudy usually performs Saturday afternoons and Sunday evening]. I wanted to do eight a week at first, but it was better for the show that I not try to be Superman.
Question: Don't you like younger artists? Isn't this geezer music?
Answer: You want to hear the truth? When I was in Vegas, we'd get college kids in every weekend from California. All they wanted to hear was Billy, Elton - and Elvis. Good music is good music whether it's coming out now or came out 30 years ago. I'll be a Billy Joel fanatic for the rest of my life. I once waited out all night in the snow to hear him play in Cleveland. We played football and danced around to keep warm. I don't have to do that anymore.
"Movin' Too Fast"
By: Michael Riedel
(July 31st, 2002)
There are a lot of Billy Joel fans on Long Island, which is one reason why the producers of "Movin' Out" were shocked and dismayed to read a negative review of their $8 million show in Newsday last week.
The other reason is that Newsday jumped the gun - by a good two months.
"Movin' Out" is trying out in Chicago, and doesn't open in New York until October.
Traditionally, New York newspapers don't review Broadway-bound shows during their out-of-town runs, the theory being that shows go out of town precisely so that they can iron out the kinks before facing New York critics.
But Newsday flouted that unofficial - though long-honored - rule, publishing Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips' unfavorable review of the musical last week.
(Newsday is owned by the Tribune Co.)
Michael Hartman, a spokesman for "Movin' Out," said the show's producers believed the decision to print the review was "unfair. It's also shocking because it has never happened before."
Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters and Producers, a trade organization that represents Broadway producers, said:
"We are disturbed at the idea that shows that are clearly in the developmental stage could be covered as if they were finished products. It doesn't seem fair to either the creators or the readers."
Newsday entertainment editor Cheryl Kushner defended the paper's decision to run the review, saying: "There is a lot of interest in Billy Joel here in New York, and we ran the review because we felt it was news."
OK, now that we've gotten all that official mumbo jumbo out of the way, let's make a little mischief.
The person who should be especially ticked off about this little brouhaha is Newsday's chief theater critic, Linda Winer.
She, not Windy City Phillips, should speak for Newsday when it comes to Broadway shows.
Winer is an influential and highly regarded critic, but her authority will be undercut if her paper continues to publish the opinions of provincials.
I couldn't raise this issue with Winer yesterday because she was traveling.
But she gets back today and, I suspect, will raise holy hell out there on Long Island.
I should, in fairness, mention that I, too, wrote about the out-of-town tryout of "Movin' Out" last week, reporting on the negative reviews and the changes the show is undergoing.
I have been asked if what I did is any different from what Newsday did.
All I can say is that I try to write fair and balanced columns, and that I take great pains to make sure that my opinions about a show do not color my reporting.
The same cannot be said of a mere reviewer.