I was really excited to go and see Movin’ Out at the Orpheum. I had seen a promotion declaring it “the #1 show of the year.” I immediately, in my head, gave it the Tony Award and decided I had to see it. Actually, it turns out it was Time bestowing that honor—but they may have been right.
|movin’ out, presented through march 8 at the orpheum theatre, 910 hennepin ave., minneapolis. for tickets ($25-$75) and information, see hennepintheatredistrict.org.|
As my sister and I were waiting for the show to start, she looked at her clock and said that it was not a good sign that it was 8:03 and the show hadn’t started. Immediately after that there was a flash of light, the band boomed out the opener—“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”—and the stage filled with dancers. It was electrifying from the first minute. The next thing I knew it was intermission, 45 minutes later.
Movin’ Out is a simple story told through the lyrics of Billy Joel’s music and the movements of the dancers, choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Beginning in the 1960s, it takes us through the end of high school, the Vietnam War, the heart-breaking aftermath of that war for the main characters, and finally peace and healing through re-established relationships. The narrative is acted out by the dancers, and the only vocals come from the band. With the brief synopsis offered in the program, I had no problem following the story.
The set comprises two levels, with the band suspended above the stage and the dancers performing below them. The “Piano Man” suspended above the action with the rest of the band really has the lead role, in that it is his voice that we hear telling the story. Because there is no other narrative I found myself really paying attention to the dancers. Many times there would be 8-12 dancers on the stage, each group of dancers telling a different part of the story. For me, there was more emotion portrayed by these dancers than by actors in a traditional show speaking dialogue. The scenes during the war were riveting in the raw emotion portrayed by the dancers, coupled with Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
The lighting during the whole show was very well-done and at times seemed to be another player in the story. The entire group of dancers was incredible. According to the program, many of them rotate among the lead roles and the ensemble depending on the night. The cast for any given performance is identified in the lobby as you walk in. On Friday night I felt that Ashlee Dupre’s performance of Brenda was beautiful. Her training and background are in ballet, and her movements were breathtaking at times. Marc Heitzman played the role of Eddie, and his sheer athleticism brought his dance to amazing levels.
There was a short period during the second act that seemed a little slow and drawn-out, but other than that I loved the entire show. It is one where as soon as it ended I knew that I would be back to see it again.
I am not a huge follower of Billy Joel, but there are many of his songs that even I recognize and love. If you are not familiar with Billy Joel, do not let that stop you from going to see Movin’ Out. I believe you also will find it to be two hours filled with great music and incredible energy.
Jean Gabler (email@example.com) is program manager for undergraduate business programs at the University of St. Thomas.