"Movin' Out" October 5, 2007
By Glen Creason
The much ballyhooed new-style musical “Movin’ Out” showed up at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts over the weekend and provided a very interesting and energetic experience for an audience that wasn’t quite sure what to make of the thing at first. If you hadn’t done a little research you would not understand that this musical is really a dance-ical with no dialogue whatsoever. The plot is advanced by the choreography of dance great Twyla Tharp who garnered a Tony for this work back in 2002 when the show opened on Broadway. Ms. Tharp had an idea for a sort of ballet based on pop songs that was risky but innovative. The proceedings move forward with the help of the songs of Billy Joel and the inspired numbers that represent the stages in the lives of a group of young people getting ready to take on the adult world. We get to experience them dancing through passages from high school to a reunion a decade later with plenty of drama in between.
Maybe the crowd, like myself was a little slow on the uptake of this format but the early going was met with quizzical stares and a long wait for somebody to say something. Yet, after a while the rhythm was struck and as the story unfolded in the bodies of the actor/dancers. The show began to glow a bit and finally became quite riveting as the story moved from the naiveté of kids playing at being adults to battle-worn, somewhat grizzled veterans of the battles (literally and figuratively) of life. The early scenes involved the kids preening for each other, exercising benign, petty jealousies and acting out a little rebellious defiance as they graduated from High School. Set in idyllic Long Island in the 1960’s the story takes a mean turn in the next stage as the men are called off to Vietnam and one boy is killed and two others return home damaged. Eventually, this disillusionment turns into drugs and a stagger along the seedy side of life. However, the undercurrent of love and redemption, exemplified by some of the female characters eventually wins over the young men, releases them from addiction and the show presents a very optimistic denouement.
Young Drew Heflin danced the part of Eddie and was outstanding in this incredibly demanding role that included numerous solos and more energy than I could summon in a month. On the female side Amanda Kay was very good as Brenda who went through changes stateside with her own kind of challenges and emotional angst. The scenes accompanying “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Angry Young Man,” “Goodnight Saigon” and the Finale/Reunion” were particularly spectacular on this night but the dancing throughout was top drawer. The musical part of the “musical” worked perfectly at this performance with the vocals handled by Matthew Friedman who really put some color into the sound. The eight-member band built a strong platform for Friedman and fellow vocalist Kyle Martin was excellent singing the tenor parts. The piece begins and ends with the sweet “Italian Restaurant” but includes some of Billy Joel’s best: “For the Longest Time,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Goodnight Saigon,” “Uptown Girl” and “Only the Good Die Young” that gave the audience something familiar to hang on to as the dance narrative unfolded.