Orange County-Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out rocked the house in the OC. Opening up to warm reviews across the country, the musical debut in 2002 and is still going strong. The story, conceived and directed by Twyla Tharp, about Billy Joel's infamous characters as they travel through the turbulent times of the 20th century. Brenda and Eddie, the characters From 'Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,' Tony and Sergeant O'Leary from 'Movin' Out,' Judy from 'Why, Judy, Why?' and James from 'James.' Tharp's adaptation of these characters, from Joel's mere 3 minute songs, to a 'full length' musical is pretty impressive.
The show rolled into the Orange County Performing Arts Center to a packed house. The mostly local-older crowd, well dressed and ready to go was really mesmerized by the show. Having just of course, a delicious dinner and pricey drinks at one of the corporate hangouts around the theater, avoiding the LA commute. Inundated with strong sexual overtones, close dancing, grinding, gyrating and the likes, just safe enough for the conservative crowd to enjoy.
The first half of the show is a miss. Tharp attempts to deal with 'Post World War II' idealisms and it gets to be a little much. There seems to be this desperation to stretch the small cast of about 12 to a parade of 100's and shed some light on happier times. Then all the men get rounded up and head to the war, Vietnam. There's this struggle among the characters, strife to overcome. Here in lies the problem, the characters are not emotional, and the audience cannot connect, therefore when all the mishaps in their lives start, one can't feel for them. Cliches of war and battle are strewn up, as the men carry out scenes of war, drug use and insanity. They are not the least bit convincing.
The second half of the show is where it gets good. The 70's arrive and the characters go crazy, do you blame them? It's the time of bell-bottoms and disco. It's here the dancers perfect form is displayed in its entire splendor. The dancers come from classical, ballet backgrounds and their dedication is obvious. The characters get real sexy and sultry, there is an emphasis on them, and their movements, Tharp is infamous for this. Vietnam is over and there's a sense of progress. There are amazing moments when ballet dance, classical piano, and horseplay are all on stage at one time. Tharp is able to take these varying elements and present them in a new, cohesive way to create a unique performance. However on the whole, Tharp's narrative isn't so smooth, so many points need to be communicated that there really isn't much of a clear climax.
One performer should not go without mention and that is the 'piano man' Darren Holden (ala Billy Joel) himself. Holden Leads an All-Star band that really gives Joel a run for his money. The bands rendition of 'Uptown Girl' and 'Shameless' were dead on. The band is in the sky, above the stage creating clean sound and a unique effect. If nothing else, the $30 ticket is worth sitting in the cheap seats, checking out the band and making the drive.
The cast took their bows to 'I'm in a New York State of Mind.' The audience erupted in cheers and applauds when Holden exclaimed, 'I'm in an Orange County State of Mind' the last time around. The two hour drive, the $8 parking and a mediocre show, I too 'I'm in and Orange County State of Mind.'
For more go to www.ocpac.org
If you Go;
Orange County Performing Arts Center Segerstrom Hall
600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
Parking in garages around Theater.