Combine two dozen great Billy Joel songs with some awe-inspiring dancing and you get one formidable show.
Troika Entertainment’s touring production of “Movin’ Out,” now running at the Gallo Center for the Arts, showcases first-rate entertainers at the top of their game.
It’s unlikely that the local community theaters or colleges will ever be able to stage this production — they couldn’t find the dancing talent. These performers build up a sweat with flips, cartwheels, split leaps, lifts, spins and high kicks.
The people behind me at Friday’s opening night performance went crazy over it all. Every few minutes, I heard them yell out “Awesome!” or “Unbelievable!” When they weren’t doing that, they sang along to the impossibly catchy songs.
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Part pop ballet, part rock concert with lots of flashing lights and pumped in smoke, “Movin’ Out” ran on Broadway from 2002 to 2005 and won a Tony Award for Twyla Tharp’s dynamic choreography.
Directed by Tharp, the show follows five friends from the time they graduate high school in Long Island in the 1960s, through the Vietnam War and beyond. There is no dialogue and the story is told solely through dance.
High above the stage on a platform sits a seven-piece onstage band led by a singer-piano player. Roseville resident Kyle Martin, who played the part Friday (the role rotates between three performers), showed off a strong, agile voice. He made the audience happy by switching the lyrics to his closing song “New York State of Mind” to “Modesto State of Mind.”
The production begins with a rousing rendition of “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me,” with some performers dramatically arriving in a red convertible. Hot-tempered high school prom king and queen Brenda and Eddie are breaking up, and friend Tony hopes to win Brenda’s affection. Meanwhile perfect couple James and Judy are planning to marry.
Their innocent fun is interrupted when the boys are drafted and set to war. The band begins playing “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and soon the action moves to a chaotic battle with explosions off. It’s a powerful scene, especially now when so many servicemen and women continue to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not everyone makes it home and those who do have a hard time re-entering civilian life. Couples have trouble reconnecting and some get involved in drugs and alcohol. In one scene, troubled Eddie experiments with bondage and sadomasochism (warning: you might not want to bring the kids).
But in the end, everyone finds forgiveness and redemption and the show wraps up with a sentimental version of “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
As with the piano player, the lead dancers rotate from night to night. Marc A. Heitzman, who played Eddie on Friday, astounded with his athletic prowess and unrestrained passion. Ashlee Dupré exuded sex appeal and confidence as his sassy high school girlfriend Brenda. Tall Adam Dulin-Tavares was suave and dashing as Tony. Stacey L. Harris was sweet and perky as Judy, and Gregory DeSantis was charming as James.
It’s great to see the Gallo Center booking 21st century shows like this one instead of just the classics from decades past. “Movin’ Out” has moved up to the top of my list of favorite Gallo Center shows.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.