Never mind exactly how many roads a man must walk down before you can call him a man. There's a bigger question facing the new Bob Dylan musical: How can any stage production do justice to this iconic singer? Mr. Dylan, after all, is often deep and impenetrable, and musicals aren't known for their complexity.
And they still aren't. In the hands of renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is lively if superficial, cramming almost 30 Dylan songs into 90 eye-candy-filled minutes. Now at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre before a probable run on Broadway, "Times" follows a young man as he breaks away from his nasty father, head of a ragged traveling carnival.
There are problems: The dance-heavy production lacks a coherent story and has muddled singing, an overly loud band, and a boyish lead actor who lacks both gravitas and personality. But the dancing and acrobatics are fun, enlivened by trampolines built into the stage. A couple of set pieces are truly moving, and Ms. Tharp - veteran of the Billy Joel musical "Movin' Out" - throws in a few surprises: "Lay, Lady, Lay," for example, is played for comedy, casting a new light on Dylan's classic song of seduction.
While critics were generally cool, Dylan fans seemed to greatly enjoy "Times" during its opening weekend, suggesting it will indeed make it to the Big Apple - hopefully with a makeover along the way. Grade: C+