One of the
top hits on Broadway today is a ballet set to popular music
that contains an in-country Vietnam War scene and deals, in
part, with the readjustment problems of two Vietnam veterans. That may
sound hard to believe, but it's true. What's more, the show in
question - Movin' Out - is exhilarating, moving, and
vastly entertaining. Movin' Out is the work of the
renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, who conceived,
choreographed, and directed the production, which is based on
the music of Billy Joel.
Movin' Out contains two acts of 24
scenes, each of which is built around a Billy Joel tune,
beginning with "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," and ending
with a reprise of "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant." In
between are spirited renditions of 25 other Billy Joel songs,
including "Uptown Girl," "This Night," "We Didn't Start the
Fire," "Big Shot," "Innocent Man," and - of course -
"Goodnight Saigon" scene, which takes place near the middle of
Act II, is the most moving number in the performance. It's a
dream/nightmare sequence that conveys the emotional torment
faced by two of the three Long Island middle-class boys who
join the Marines and undergo a brutal tour of duty in the
Vietnam War. The war scene itself, to the tune of "We Didn't
Start the Fire," also is effectively and creatively done.
Everything from the dance moves - a mixture of ballet and
modern - to the minimal yet effective scenery works nearly to
sole exception of a few lines barked by a Marine D.I., the
show has no dialogue. But Tharp tells her story well. It
follows six friends, including the three guys who fight in
Vietnam, from the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties. It's a
story of optimism, innocence lost, and redemption, and it
works on every level.
sensational ten-piece rock band is on a riser on stage during
the entire performance. Michael Cavanaugh does an amazing job
of leading the spirited group, singing and playing piano like
a young Billy Joel at the top of his game. The entire troupe
of dancers does splendid work, especially the energetic John
Selya (Eddie) of the American Ballet Theatre; the raven-haired
Elizabeth Parkinson (Brenda), a Joffrey Ballet principal
dancer; and Keith Roberts (Tony), another ABT standout.
adds up to a satisfying night of singing and dancing, even if
you're not a big Billy Joel fan. If you are, Movin' Out
just could be your favorite Broadway experience of all time.
NOYCE IN GREENE-LAND
in the midst of the Cold War, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, one of
Hollywood's brightest lights, co-wrote, produced, and directed
The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene's seminal
novel. Mankiewicz was a multiple Oscar winner whose body of
work included two of the most thoughtful and honored films of
all time,The Philadelphia Story (1940), which he
produced, and All About Eve (1950), which he wrote and
Mankiewicz's Quiet American, though, did not come close
to his best work. One reason was that he took significant
liberties with Greene's plot, turning its main message
around nearly 180 degrees. Greene's 1954 book brings a
well-intentioned, if na‹ve and arrogant, American, Alden Pyle
of the CIA, into conflict with a hard-bitten, cynical British
newspaper reporter, Fowler, in Saigon in 1952. They come into
conflict over the future of Vietnam and the attention of the
married Fowler's mistress, Phuong. Pyle pays with his life.
Mankiewicz's version, Pyle (played by WWII hero Audie Murphy)
is an innocent victim of communist treachery, abetted by the
jealous Fowler (Michael Redgrave). In Greene's novel, Pyle
brings on his own demise through his clumsy, ignorant meddling
into Vietnamese national politics, and Fowler is only one
player - albeit an important one - in Pyle's demise.
novel's message comes through loud and clear in Australian
director Phillip (Clear and Present Danger) Noyce's new
Quiet American. This riveting film hews closer to
Greene's plot, with a few exceptions.
movie is an absorbing, if sometimes dark and slow, effort.
It's clear that he set out to show the factors that led to the
subsequent American war in Vietnam. And it's also clear that
he, like Greene, zeroes in on the meddling Pyle as the
embodiment of the arrogant American policy-makers who thought
they had the answers to save Vietnam from Vietnamese
message is less than subtle. There are three American
characters in the film; all are portrayed negatively. The CIA
Saigon station chief is a sinister lurker; the Army adviser is
a boorish drunk; Pyle thinks he knows all the answers but
doesn't have a clue about what's going on.
Fraser, the man of many faces, is an excellent Alden Pyle.
He's especially good at conveying Pyle's political naivet‚.
The acclaimed Michael Caine gives a very nuanced performance
as the conflicted, addicted (to opium) Fowler. Do Hai Yen, the
Vietnamese actress who plays Phoung, is spectacular in every
aspect, including the way she looks in an ao dai.
Quiet American, an Australian-American co-production, was
the first foreign movie shot in Vietnam since 1975 - and
probably since 1958 when Mankiewicz took advantage of the lull
between the end of the French War and the beginning of the
American War and filmed his opus on location in and around
Saigon. The new film also is being mentioned as Oscar fodder;
at the very least Michael Caine should get a nomination for
ARTS IN BRIEF
From Danang, which was a Grand Prize winner in Documentary
at last year's Sundance Film Festival, has been shown in
several movie theaters around the country in recent months.
That includes engagements in November and December in the San
Francisco area. The film, directed by Gail Dolgin and Vicente
Franco, tells the dramatic story of Heidi Bub, who was born to
a Vietnamese mother and American GI father in Vietnam in 1968,
but raised in Tennessee after escaping her homeland in
filmmakers followed Heidi Bub back to Vietnam in 2000, her
first trip to her homeland since she escaped. The film "is
beautifully directed and edited," said the San Francisco
Chronicle's Edward Guthmann. It is "that rare documentary
that incorporates so much of human experience - drama,
conflict, tears, and surprise -that it transcends the
normal divisions between fiction and nonfiction film. It's
absorbing and it's complex."
McClendon, the pioneering White House reporter who died at age
92 on January 8, was known for her tough questioning at press
conferences of every U.S. president beginning with Franklin D.
Roosevelt in 1944. She also gained a reputation for standing
up for veterans' rights, stemming from her service as a WAC in
for example, McClendon had a nationally televised
confrontation with President Nixon. She
accused his administration of delaying GI Bill checks for
Vietnam veterans. Nixon said he thought the checks were going
out on time. "No, you're just misinformed," McClendon shot
back. Soon after, Nixon checked into the problem, and the GI
Bill checks went out on time. In honor of her work on behalf
of veterans, the VA in 1997 named its transitional housing and
assistance facility for homeless veterans in Washington, D.C.,
the Sarah McClendon House.
Soldier's Eyes," a collection of photos taken by soldiers
during the Vietnam War, was displayed at Grays Armory in
Cleveland November 13 through December 1. The nearly one
hundred photographs in the exhibit were lent by the National
Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago.
electronic periodical,Combat: The Literary Expression of
Battlefield Touchstones, made its debut in January.
Combat will be published quarterly and will be published
on line at
www.combatmagazine.ws The e-mag's
mission, its editors say, "is to impart the historical reality
and to disclose the psychosocial effects of warfare to the
general reader." Combat will contain essays, stories,
and poetry. Authors and artists are invited to submit work by
e-mail. The address is
November, The Providence College Department of Art and Art
History in Rhode Island displayed a group of paintings and
photographs by Cambodian artists, several of which dealt with
the post-Vietnam War Killing Fields. You can learn more about
the exhibit, about Cambodian contemporary arts, and view the
show's images at the website:
Hemphill Fine Arts Gallery in Washington, D.C., presented
"Vietnam Now and Then," a photographic exhibit, in December.
The exhibit combined Vietnam War photojournalism with images
of Vietnam today. The photos included works by Larry Burrows,
Vo Nah Khanh, Kyoichi Sawada, Peter Steinhauer, and Mitch
Chapter 725 in Gonzeles, Louisiana, is compiling a book of
poetry by Vietnam veterans. If you'd like to contribute or
would like more information about the project, contact Chapter
VP Paul Horner by phone at 225-622-6614 (home) or 225-253-7142
(cell). Tell him you read about it in The VVA Veteran.