The only thing that could make “Movin’ Out” more terrific is if Billy Joel himself were playing at the piano.
The Broadway musical, on stage this week at Proctors, is a hard-driving dance spectacle. The engine is fueled by Joel’s hits such as “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “Only the Good Die Young.” Yet the brilliance of this jukebox musical is how these songs are strung together by director and choreographer Twyla Tharp to tell a tale of despair and redemption.
The story begins with Brenda and Eddie, “the popular steadies and the king and queen of the prom,” as well as their friends James, Tony and Judy. Once Brenda and Eddie get “a divorce as a matter of course,” the guys join the army and are shipped to Vietnam. There, James loses his life. And Eddie and Tony lose their way.
The story is imaginatively conceived by the amazing Tharp. She hears this tale, a very dark and desperate one, in his music. And she has brought it to bear in a densely choreographed creation that leaps from one explosive dance number to another. Lyrics and dance tell it all.
The curtain opens on the band, poised and playing above the action. With Matthew Friedman at the piano, the band rocks out tightly on the songs, mirroring their recordings. The only difference is the voice. Friedman is energetic, but he is clearly not Joel.
It hardly matters as the dancing coupled with the music is a revelation. Tharp’s choreography draws out nuances in the music that might otherwise go unnoticed. Yes, Joel’s music is narrative. But Tharp’s interpretations add meaty layers.
For example in “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” a litany of 20th century villians and heros, Tharp envisions the chaos and destruction of war. In “She’s Got a Way,” she imagines Tony longing for his American “Uptown Girl” Brenda, but he succumbs to a local seductress at a seedy Vietnam bar.
Of course, the music is fabulous. But the dancers are boggling. They perform beyond human capacity. Brett Emmons as Eddie is amazing. He hardly takes a breath as he expressively jumps, spins and kicks his way through the show.
Amanda Kay is invigorating as Brenda while John Corsa performs Tony with thoughtfulness of character. Karolina Blonski as Judy is a delicate creature. And Eric Bourne depicts James as a clean-cut, dutiful lad.
Tharp is the people’s choreographer and knows how to tap into any style to make her point. She draws from martial arts, breakdancing, waltzing, even moonwalking, but mostly she works from a ballet base. She is the only living choreographer who can make ballet seem like the dance of the common man. She won a Tony Award for her work. It was well-deserved.
WHEN: Through Sunday
432 State St., Schenectady.
HOW MUCH: $20 to $60
MORE INFO: 346-6204
or at www.proctors.org.