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‘Piano Man’ keeps his voice strong for Gallo Center-bound spectacular ‘Movin’ Out’

As the singer in the touring Billy Joel rock ballet, "Movin' Out," Kyle Martin has to do some heavy lifting vocally.

"Your voice has to be in shape all the time because you have to sing 24 songs back to back," the Roseville resident said in a telephone interview. "If your voice is in bad shape, good luck."

Martin, 31, plays the Piano Man in Troika's touring production, which is coming to the Gallo Center for the Arts next week. He has performed with the show all over the country, playing the piano and singing such songs as "Uptown Girl, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "We Didn't Start the Fire" and "Pressure."

Featuring Twyla Tharp's choreography and no spoken dialogue, the show centers on characters from Billy Joel songs, including Brenda and Eddie from "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," Tony and Sgt. O'Leary from "Movin' Out," Judy from "Why, Judy, Why" and James from "James."

The story opens during the 1960s, when most of the characters are in high school, then covers the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Some of the characters indulge in promiscuous sex and drugs to cover their pain, but in the end, they find the strength to conquer their demons.

The high-energy show ran on Broadway from 2002 to 2005 and toured into San Francisco and Sacramento.

Martin has worked with many Christian music acts, including Jaci Velasquez, Natalie Grant and Bibleman. He also competed in

Season 4 of "American Idol," appearing briefly on TV in an audition but never making it to Hollywood.

He is the performing-arts director at Fusion Elite, a Rocklin school that gives lessons in voice, piano, drums and martial arts. He previously served as music pastor at the town's Sunset Christian Center.

Martin became aware of Billy Joel as a kid when he heard the song "My Life," which was being used as the theme song for the TV show "Bosom Buddies." As a teenager, he started playing Joel's music and pop songs by other pianist/singers including Elton John.

Martin was recruited for the role in "Movin' Out" when his voice teacher in Los Angeles passed on a tape of his singing to the producers of the show. He heard nothing for two years and was surprised when he got a call to fly out to New York for an audition.

"I'm ecstatic to be in it," he said. "When I saw it for the first time, I saw that this show was built around everything I could do — piano, voice and music. Why I do it is because it gives me an opportunity to give everyone the energy that has been inside of me for so long and I'm able to let myself go and be free."

He is impressed with the caliber of the dancers on tour, many of whom were trained by Tharp. The touring show has the same flashy, difficult choreography as the Broadway version.

"The reaction has been amazing," he said. "People that walk out of the theater, I keep hearing them say how much they love the show."

Martin said he always has a good time performing the songs because they are so fun.

"It takes awhile for me to calm down after a show because I put so much energy into it," he said.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at 578-2313 or lmillegan@modbee.com.

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