Theater Review: ‘Movin’ Out’ moves the crowd

“Movin’ Out,” which opened Sept. 18 at the Pantages Theatre, attempts to do for Billy Joel what “Mamma Mia” did for ABBA, only with Fosse-like choreography and ’50s meets midriff/cleavage outfits. While it was enjoyable to watch a choreographed rendition of “We didn’t Start the Fire,” it’s absolutely essential to go into the production with the correct expectation that you will be seeing a dance interpretation for the best of Billy Joel.

There is essentially no dialogue in the production and the music is not sung by the performers, but by one man, a younger looking version of Joel. The storyline was thinly hinged and awkwardly directed by the content of Joel’s songs. Main characters Brenda and Eddie, for instance, start off as queen and king of the prom, taken directly from the song lyrics of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”

That said, it is a phenomenal dance production that leaves spirits boosted and any number of Joel’s songs in your head. With forward and back flips, and nonstop dancing stringed through multiple scenes, Ron Todorowski (who played Eddie on opening night) essentially made the production. Other leads Friday, David Gomez, Julieta Gros, Matthew Dibble and Holly Cruikshank, displayed amazing footwork and expressive dance interpretation. The ensemble cast was strong for the most part.

Matt Wilson, Joel’s prodigy, had the sound, performance and even look of Joel down to a tee. Placing Wilson and the entire band on a grated catwalk over the performers exuded an effective concert-type feeling. Wilson could have done without the cheesy hand gestures, but focus at most times was largely directed to the dancers.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp did a commendable job in making Joel’s music come to life in dramatic dance movements. However, Tharp, more often than not, literally interpreted Joel’s songs, which I found out of place and unnecessary, specifically with the exhibitionists and dominatrix in “Captain Jack.” A metaphor would have worked just fine. All and all, though, the choreography was strong, thus making for an enjoyable production.

“Movin’ Out” will be playing thru Oct. 31 with shows running Tuesdays through Sundays.

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