Movin' Out

Is Billy Joel good enough to deserve imitation? We think not.

Billy Joel is perfect for Broadway: big, dumb songs about love and pain. Choreographer and director Twyla Tharp has assembled a series of weirdly literal interpretive dances set to Joel songs that almost tell a story, starting with Brenda and Eddie in high school ("Brenda and Eddie were still goin' steady/ In the summer of '75"). Other characters need to be extrapolated, like Judy, who gets engaged to James (from "James") in a pas de deux set to "Just the Way You Are." Tony seems to be "Anthony" from the title song, "Movin' Out," but the play suffers if you think about it too much. Eddie, James, and Tony join the Army and ship out for Vietnam; one of them dies during a faux-Hendrix remix of "We Didn't Start the Fire"; and later Eddie relives his Vietnam nightmare in "Goodnight Saigon." Love is lost and regained, and the show ends on a completely unearned triumphant note, like an orange juice commercial. Darren Holden, who played piano and sang on the night I attended, does a fair imitation of Billy Joel, but is Joel good enough to deserve the imitation? Tharp also insists on using some of his most bombastic songs, like "Big Shot" and "The Stranger." Best seen drunk, probably.

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