Movin’ Out: Joel And Tharp Have All The Right Moves

movin-out-0011This weekend Boston is lucky enough to have two big budget shows featuring some amazing dancing.  You’ve probably heard about the one over at the Opera House, “Dirty Dancing” (if you haven’t, welcome back to the land of the living Rip Van Winkle!) … the other is “Movin’ Out” at the Colonial Theater.  Now, with no disrespect to the kids in the big, pink juggernaut that is “DD” … if you want to see some real dancing, get yourself over to “MO.”

movin-out-016Movin’ Out” is a wonderfully entertaining mash-up of the work of two pop culture giants, Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp.  Joel’s decades of classic pop provides the music (24 songs in all), Tharp’s infectious choreography delivers the movement.  It’s no more complicated than that … great songs, great dance.  Add a cast of talented musicians and the athleticism of a stunning corps of dancers, and you’ve got quite a feast for the eyes and ears.

Yes, there’s a story that ties it all together … no real dialog, but a story.  Mismatched lovers Brenda and Eddie from Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” splittin’ up in the Summer of ’65 (instead of ’75 like the original song lyrics).  This allows for a story arc involving three friends, Eddie, Tony and James who face love, war (Vietnam) and eventually the horrible fashion trends of the ’70’s.  That makes for plenty of sex, drugs and rock and roll … but since this is Billy Joel and not Led Zeppelin, it’s all pretty lucid.  Unfortunately, a wee bit trite too, but story is not what carries this show.

Damovin-out-002ncing is what’s front and center here …  the music comes from a band on a catwalk above the stage (but more on that later) … and you’ll see moves that will amaze you.  Tharp puts her dancers through a workout that only a professional athlete could fully understand.  Lifts, throws, splits, dives and leaps … tango one minute, pas de deux the next.  All executed with a crispness and intelligence that match the songs that inspired them.

Lawrence Neuhauser, as Eddie, is just a force of nature.  He throws himself into the role of a troubled tough guy with real heart and passion.  He commands the stage and your attention at every moment.

Addie Hoobler, as Brenda, matches that intensity, but also injects a level of vulnerability that draws you in.  Her dances with Tony, played by Anton Harrison LaMon have real heat … and the sweat pouring off their bodies prove it.

Does it all work?  No.  There’s this awful S-and-M number set to the song “Captain Jack” … interesting that the number that has the most sex in it is the least sexy.  Also, the dream sequences that resolve some of  Eddie’s nightmares can be a bit much … the company dons these muted, asylum-like, play clothes for the “River of Dreams” dance that are more annoying than evocative.

Those stumbles are the exception, however, not the rule.  The dancing, overall, is nothing short of exceptional.

movin-out-009Now, let’s hear it for the band.  Matthew Friedman hits all the right notes as Piano Man.  He bangs the keys, and delivers Joel’s songs with a pleasing combination of reverence and spunk.  Dressed in black, he’s conductor and narrator … our touchstone to where the music sprang from.  He’s got a crack band with him, and because they’re above the stage and the dancers below, sometimes it’s hard to know where to look.

I also have to mention, the very cool chain-link and corrugated steel set design … throw in some stage smoke and lighting effects and it gives everything some real street cred.  Well done.

movin-out-012Now, unlike “Dirty Dancing” which still has several weeks to go, “Movin’ Out” moves out after just four more shows (two today, and two tomorrow).  Grab some tickets online or at the Colonial Theater box office, and have a great time.  Joel and Tharp will have you steppin’ lively into spring.


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