Bob Dylan is bringing it all back to Broadway.
The prolific singer-songwriter has become the latest musical icon to have his repertoire adapted for the stage. The Times They Are A-Changin', directed by famed choreographer Twyla Tharp, who most recently had audiences rockin' out to Billy Joel hits in the Tony winner Movin' Out, opens Oct. 26 on the Great White Way. Previews begin Sept. 25 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater.
"I have no talent for flattery whatsoever but Twyla's artistry knocks me out," Dylan, 65, said in a statement. "Her production of The Times They Are A-Changin' is the best presentation of my songs I have ever seen or heard on any stage. It had a hold over me from start to finish."
The musical which, like Movin' Out, is a coming of age tale, features counterculture anthems like "Subterannean Homesick Blues," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and, of course, the title song--all classic examples of how Dylan's music became a sounding board for social commentary, political protest and philosophical musings.
Tharp's creation tells the story of a young man named Coyote and his strained relationship with his bullying father, Captain Arab (a character from "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream") who owns a run-down traveling circus, and Coyote's love for Cleo, a beautiful circus performer.
Tharp, who's the same age as Dylan and formed her company Twyla Tharp Dance in 1965, has the advantage of also being a product of that era's influence on youth, art and people's discontent with societal constraints.
"The greatest compliment I can give is that something moves me," the director said in a statement. "The Times They Are A-Changin' is what I see now when I listen to Dylan's music."
Her latest production debuted at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in February, with critics saying--as one might imagine--that Tharp's choreography often takes a backseat to the Dylan tunes. But, they say, there's also some undeniable energy on stage.
San Francisco Chronicle theater critic Robert Hurwitt wrote that it was "amazing how much of Dylan's masterful musicianship and trenchant or cryptic lyrics [Tharp] manages to cram into 90 minutes, even if some of the songs are abridged."
But, he added, "Tharp perfectly matches the unexpected twists, sarcastic puns and take-no-prisoners iconoclasm of Dylan's mid-'60s lyrics"--which is just what we love about him--"with raucous explosions of inventive energy?executed with astonishing skill?by an exceptional seven-person ensemble."
"Like a Rolling Stone," "Gotta Serve Somebody," " Lay Lady Lay," "Desolation Row," "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Simple Twist of Fate" are some of the other songs that get theatrical treatment.
But, as Broadway audiences have proved, well-known source material does not necessarily equal success (see Ring of Fire, which closed in April after a month in theaters, and Lennon, which managed 42 performances until the curtain came down for good). But Movin' Out did enjoy a three-year run in New York, so perhaps Tharp's touch is just what the doctor ordered to make the wind blow the other way.
While Dylan never went away, he's seemingly everywhere now, including at a minor league ballpark near you. For the third straight summer the Blonde on Blonde singer has scheduled a 17-date tour of such venues, starting Aug. 12 at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock, Michigan.
"I think he likes the vibe, the whole experience of playing a ballpark," concert promoter Jerry Mickelson told the New York Times. "It's like going back 20 years in time."
Dylan--who announced last month that Modern Times, his first album of new material in five years, will hit stores and online Aug. 29--is also beaming into your home via satellite. For love of the game, the musician recently devoted an edition of his weekly XM Satellite Radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, to baseball, singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" a capella and playing old-time radio clips.
On Tuesday Dylan will headline a free concert at Zurriola Beach in the Spanish city of San Sebastian, in what the event's organizers have called "a happening that will be remembered as a milestone in the path of peace." (Spain's prime minister announced last month that his government would begin talks with the banned Basque separatist group ETA, which has been demanding independence for almost four decades, waging a sometimes violent conflict that has left more than 800 people dead.) A crowd of 50,000 is expected.
"The gathering of thousands of people united by the music and over political ideas of any kind looks like the best way to symbolize this moment," concert organizers said in a statement.
Well, if the times are about to a-change, Dylan's your man.