More than a Melody

Imagine a ballet with a Billy Joel cover band for an orchestra.

That pretty much describes Movin' Out in a nutshell.

The brainchild of two-time Emmy-winner Twyla Tharp — with a little help from the Piano Man himself — Movin' Out is not your average Broadway show. In fact it isn't your average anything.

But it is very much a ballet — albeit a rock ballet.

Definitely more dance concert than musical theater, Movin' Out comprises almost two hours of electrifying choreography built around more than 24 of the pop balladeer's songs. It offers a spectacular and sometimes intense portrayal of the Vietnam War-era generation.

The show begins in the Sixties and features an energetic company that silently yet frenetically shimmies its way through an all-American tale of life-altering events that shape five friends' worlds over two decades — from carefree high school days filled with sexual desire to periods of lost love, death, and redemption.

At least that's what the program's plot synopsis alleges — and it's printed for a good reason. The absence of any spoken dialogue and the reliance on dance to communicate the story line makes it frustrating to follow.

Performing what Tharp has termed crossover ballet, the mesmerizing and highly skilled dancers — featuring many members of the original New York cast — display a dazzling array of strenuous and sultry maneuvers. The well-cast troupe artfully captures the mood of the music — delivered by a jammin' eight-piece band ensconced high on a platform above the stage — rather than attempting to convey the meaning of the lyrics.

The result is a visually stunning spectacle.

Anchoring the show from his perch above the action, pianist and lead singer James Fox gives a soulful performance that at times is more captivating than all the lively leaping. Billy Joel fans will delight in the lyrical likeness the singer bears to the pop icon as he powers virtually nonstop through a slew of familiar hits, including chart-topping classics "We Didn't Start the Fire" and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me."

Fox was met with tremendous applause as he led an encore rendition of "New York State of Mind." Who knew ballet had such a following?

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Joanne Green

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