Sunday, February 17, 2008

Movin' Out Moved Me

Yesterday I saw a traveling production of Movin' Out, the theatre production inspired by the music of Billy Joel. I liked it but my friends didn't. Here's the deal. You have to prepare yourself for what your going to see. Don't go expecting to see your typical lighthearted romantic-comedy musical theatre production. Instead, this show is basically a dance recital that's heavily ballet influenced. Let's just make a checklist here of what you get and what you don't.
1. First of all, you get a real live band of very talented musicians that are practically channeling the essence of Billy Joel. Its a really great combo of "real" piano, synth, lead and bass guitar, 2 sax players and a drummer. Several of them shared the vocal duties but the piano player could have been BJ's twin twenty years ago.
2. Secondly, you get very talented dancers that are very verstile in traditional ballet and modern dance. Its a supremely athletic cast. They have to be due to the very physically demanding nature of the show.
3. You don't get any dialogue. The show is basically a production that uses interpretive dance to illustrate a story using Billy Joel's music as the theme.
4. There are no sets. The entire stage is utilized for the staging of the elaborate dance numbers. The lighting and fog machines are used somewhat effectively to emphasize featured dancers and dramatic moments, but that's about it.
I have been a lover of Billy Joel's music every since I was a college kid. I respect him for being a real musician and not just a pop commercial lip-syncer like so many of today's pop musicians. The guy writes his own music. I've tried to play some of thoese piano parts to his tunes. Several of them take the skills of a real virtuoso to pull it off effectively. His vocal abilities are amazing. His range is atypical of most rock stars. As a matter of fact, it took three vocalists to sing the parts to some of the songs that Joel handles himself. So, I loved the show for that reason.
The drawback of this show is that the story was somewhat forced out of the songs. It was beautifully choreographed by Twyla Tharp, but Billy Joel never meant for these songs to be used in a musical. He wrote this material over the course of twenty to thirty years. The writer of this show really had to force these songs together to create a story. Fortunately, Joel's music his stylistically and harmonically unified enough to bind the thing together. If it hadn't been for that it would have been a little tough to stick with it. Because, somone as easily bored as myself can only watch prancing pretty people and fancy footwork for so long before I start to ask, "where's the concession stand?"
Here's the roughly contrived story in a nutshell. Brenda and Eddie (from song) and their friends Tony and James are wild high school kids from the 60's. They dance and romance one another beginning with Italian Restaraunt. The guys head off to the Vietnam War. James gets killed and when James and Eddie return to the states they suffer the obligatory emotional crises required to flesh out the dramatic points for the show. Tony becomes reaquainted with James' widow. And achieves a catharsis. Brenda and Eddie reconcile and they all dance away happily ever after.
My only problem with the story was a brief scene where Tony experiences a nightmarish life of drugs and sexual addiction that has the dancers mimicking various sex acts wearing very skimpy and risque' costumes. I personally don't have a problem with it (I'm a big boy now). But, there were several families with young children in the audience. There was no warning in the program about this scene and it was definitely way beyond PG-13. I'm not saying the scene should have been cut. I'm saying that families should have been allowed to make the choice whether their children were ready to see such things played out so realistically by real people.
Now, as they say, that's the facts, Jack. But, here's the real reason why this show is worth every penny you pay for it. Here's why you should make every effort to attend this show (especially if you happen to be one of the "family" or a female). ITS THE MEN, STUPID! Imagine if you can a whole cast of young athletic men in the twenty to thirty age category who have been working at vigorous athletic, aerobic, and strength training for the last several years of their lives. Do you realize what that type of conditioning does to the gluteus muscles of those fellas? It was amazing. The whole afternoon was like window shopping at a bubble-butt boutique. Its also certain that they had found the most imaginative costume designers to outfit the guys in clothes that definitely flattered their best features. There were a few times when the guys didn't even bother with the inconvenience of wearing a shirt. And my-oh-my, how flexible they are.
Now, as beautifully, eye-poppingly gorgeous as these guys were, my friends and I were very able to control ourselves and maintain our composure. Because, we've got class. However, the same can't be said about the tasteless cow sitting behind us. This two-ton, middle-aged menopausal heifer never shut up for the entire show. While she was well-dressed it was obvious that she had been brought up as an ignorant hillbilly. You just can't whistle and cat-call like she did and not have been raised in the woods. If I were her husband I would have been ashamed and embarassed that my wife acted this horny in public. Every time "Tony" showed us a really hot move she squealed like a horny co-ed at a Chippendales strip show. She also had the audacity to believe that her full-voice singing along to the show actually added to our enjoyment of the evening. I gave her several ugly looks. We put our hands over our ears during the most hellacious screeching and screaming. But, she never got the hint. If there was any justice in the world she would have to pay for our tickets. I couldn't believe that the ushers didn't ask her to control herself.
But, it was an experience I'll never forget.

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