Movin' Out

If you are anything like me, when you heard a couple of years ago that there was a new musical opening on Broadway featuring the songs of Billy Joel and choreography by Twyla Tharp, you'd have said hmmm?  That doesn't seem to go together. It sounds a little like peanut butter on pancakes. Not entirely unheard of but just off enough to give you pause.  (By the way its really quite good try it sometime only make sure you have real maple syrup on top.) Then when you hear it is a show done entirely in dance with no dialogue, well that's the corker! What just dancing to Billy Joel and no story? Now that just sounds strange and different and it's not entirely true. 

"Movin' Out" definitely has a story, a story told entirely in dance and song. 24 classic Billy Joel songs like "Uptown Girl," "Movin' Out," "Why Judy Why?," "Angry Young Man," "James," "We Didn't Start the Fire," are woven together to act as a narrative and even a backdrop to the story of five life-long friends, through two turbulent decades. It is a poignant story of love, innocence and innocence lost, betrayal, further loss and renewal. A moving journey of five friends who find themselves coming of age in an era, which like them is rapidly changing and spinning out of control as it fights to rebalance itself.

I had the pleasure of being in the audience on opening night at the Pantages in Los Angeles to see the national tour of "Movin' Out". The atmosphere was electric and the audience attending was like reading a "Who's Who in Hollywood". The red carpet was rolled out and the Paparazzi were there in force with cameras flashing. I was lucky to arrive at exactly the same time as Billy Joel made his way down the red carpet and into the theatre. The art deco beauty of the Pantages always inspires me. And it felt fitting for this theatre treasure to play host to so many stars. 

The energetic Michael Cavanaugh sits behind the piano during the entire show performing an impressive impersonation of Billy Joel, singing and playing along with the band; all of them perched on a floating platform high above the stage. The band was excellent and completely involved in telling the story even when they weren't playing. The songs, the musicians playing them and the beautiful and complex lighting designs by Donald Holder became a character in the story, narrating and moving it forward.




Twyla Tharp showed her genius in both the direction and choreography of this musical. She was nominated for 2 Tony Awards in 2003 for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography winning the Tony for Best Choreography. Billy Joel and Stuart Molina also took home a Tony for Best Orchestrations for "Movin' Out" that same year.

Tharp artfully blended seemingly diverse styles of dance, using ballet, lyrical ballet, jazz, modern, folk dancing and even some gymnastic techniques, in such a way as to crystallize her story telling. Such simple things as whether a foot was pointed or flexed or a knee was turned in or out, all played into telling the story. Conveying character and emotion, even time and place with crystalline clarity.

The dancers are true athletes and give a high energy and exuberant performance. The entire ensemble precisely dances the technically difficult and strenuous show with ease and joy. The lead characters Brenda (Holly Cruickshank), (Read my private interview with Holly by clicking here) Tony (David Gomez), Judy (Julieta Gros), Eddie (Ron Todorowski), and James (Matthew Dibble), gave strong and moving acting performances coupled with sensational dancing.

If great theatre wasn't enough of a joyride for the lucky audience on opening night, just when we thought it was all over and we could go home and savor in what we had just witnessed. The man himself, Billy Joel took the stage and rocked the hysterically delighted audience with a couple of his hits.

If you wear make-up, be sure to put on waterproof mascara because you'll cry as you take this explosive journey with these five friends as they come of age in an era that changed the world. Part ballet, part rock concert and part musical "Movin' Out" is an incredibly touching and exciting production. It will be playing through October 31.

"Movin' Out" is produced by James L. Nederlander, Hal Luftig, Scott E. Nederlander, Terry Allen Kramer, Clear Channel Entertainment and Emanuel Azenberg.  Musical continuity and supervision is by Stuart Malina. "Movin' Out" features a scenic design by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Suzy Benzinger, lighting design by Donald Holder and sound design by Brian Ruggles and Peter Fitzgerald.

Performances of " Movin' Out" are Tuesdays - Fridays at 8:00 PM, Saturdays at 2:00 PM & 8:00 PM and Sundays at 1:00 PM & 6:30 PM.  There will be one special weekday matinee performance on Thursday, October 28 at 2:00 PM, and there will be no evening performance on Sunday, October 31.

Ticket Prices:  $55.50 - $80.50,
Tickets available online:
Tickets by phone: at 213-365-3500 or 714-740-7878,
Tickets in person: Pantages Theatre Box Office.  Located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, ½ block east of Vine Street, the box office is open daily 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM, or until 30 minutes after curtain goes up on the day of a performance. 

No tickets will be available for purchase at Ticketmaster outlets for this special engagement.

VISA will be the only credit card accepted for purchase of single tickets to this engagement.

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