Cautionary Tales – Bless the Coal-black Hearts of the Broadway Critics

20th May, 2022

When Billy Joel agreed to let dance legend Twyla Tharp turn his songs into a Broadway musical it seemed like a surefire hit. But in previews, Movin’ Out was panned by the critics. It was soon headed for Broadway and was set to be an expensive and embarrassing failure.So how could Twyla turn things around and avert disaster before opening night?

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

I first heard about this story from Twyla Tharp herself, in her brilliant book The Creative Habit. Other sources include reporting from the Patriot-News, Newsweek, Newsday, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Pulse and the New York Times.

A particularly useful account is Robin Pogrebin’s “Movin’ Out Beyond Missteps New York Times, 12 December 2002.

A documentary film, Flight of the Gossamer Condor, is an essential source on that topic.

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