‘Movin’ Out’ movin’ in for shows at StranahanWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
Choreographer Twyla Tharp wasn’t scared by Billy Joel’s foray into the dance world.
It’s been the longest time since you’ve seen “Uptown Girl,” the video where the piano man danced as a mechanic working at a garage. Remember his sweaty face, the bandana hanging out of his back pocket, how he sang into a wrench …
Tharp knew it was all about music with soul. She kept the faith and sunk into a Billy Joel state of mind to create, choreograph and direct the musical “Movin’ Out,” which features 24 songs by the singer.
Relax — Joel’s music is still the same old tunes you knew. But the dancing is electrifying. Tharp and Joel won Tony Awards in 2003 for choreography and orchestration, respectively. And the story that fueled their success is still keeping them so entertained.
“Movin’ Out” will be at Stranahan Theater for eight shows Sept. 11-16. Tickets range from $23 to $61.
“It’s about five friends — Eddie, Brenda, Tony, Judy and James — and basically it’s a coming-of-age story in the pre-Vietnam era and the post-Vietnam era,” said Amanda Kay, lead dancer, who plays Brenda. “It’s the trials and tribulations that these main characters experience — love, war, lust, pain, anger.”
Those characters are from Joel’s songs “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” “Movin’ Out,” “Why, Judy, Why” and “James.”
“It’s just such a sheer joy to get up there every night and perform to tunes that you love,” Kay said from Atlantic City, where the show has played for two months. “Billy Joel is a little bit before my time; there are 24 hits that play during the show I know and absolutely love.”
The 28-year-old Johannesburg, South Africa, native said Tharp’s got a way to inspire dancers.
“It was kind of amazing because Twyla was there for the two-month rehearsal process. She would come in every single day from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and work with us. I don’t think the show would be as good as it is if she didn’t put as much attention and love and care and detail into it.
“I think she changed the way I dance. I think she changed me from a B-class dancer to an A-class dancer,” Kay said. “It was a life-changing experience.”
There is no dialogue in “Movin’ Out,” just a rock band playing Joel’s music.
“I think that dancers in general are amazing actors because they have to express the story through their bodies without any words, so I think they become really good communicators,” Kay said.
She feels especially connected to a couple songs.
“There’s a big dance number to ‘Uptown Girl’ and it’s a lot of fun. I do a whole bunch of lifts with the boys, and it’s really sweet and fun,” Kay said. “I look out into the audience, and everybody starts clapping because they know the song. It’s great audience interaction.”
Another of her favorites is “She’s Got a Way.”
“It’s a really interestingly set up on stage with the lighting. Twyla managed to choreograph so it looks like it’s split into two different worlds,” Kay said. “One side of the stage is Tony, who’s in the Vietnam War and at a bar hanging out with girls, and the other side of the stage is me, working as a go-go dancer and being caught up in the night life. But there are certain slow movements we do together to show we’re thinking and pining over one another, but we’re still completely in two different worlds. It’s a striking piece.”