The National Tour of Movin’ Out, brought to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium Jan. 4-9 by Broadway Series South, is a hard-rocking tribute to the songs of rock-and-roll legend Billy Joel and to the generation of Americans that made some of them their song. Boldly conceived, dynamically directed, and brilliantly choreographed by two-time Tony Award® winner Twyla Tharp, this spectacular dance extravaganza is big, brash, and loud. (Warning: If you keep telling your kids to turn down the radio, don’t sit too close to the stage.)
There is a smashing industrial set design of Santo Loquasto, a vivid array of sometimes skimpy costumes by Suzy Benzinger, a flamboyant lighting design by Donald Holder, and superb sound design by Brian Ruggles and Peter Fitzgerald. But there is virtually no dialogue — only a few seconds of an angry outburst by a Vietnam era U.S. Army drill sergeant, desperately trying to whip reluctant warriors into shape — and Billy Joel’s staccato lyrics as sung on Tuesday night by Darren Holden, who doubled as the piano man for an onstage band that really, really rocked the joint.
Red-hot guitarist Denny Blake and sizzling saxophonists John Isley and Bryan Steele combine with Holden or Wilson, bassist Malcolm Gold, drummers Joe Bergamini and Michael Sorrentino, trumpeter Raul Agraz, and trombonist Mark Miller for a crackerjack rock concert second only to a performance by Billy Joel and his band.
Although he occasionally slurs Joel’s machine-gun lyrics (and who wouldn’t), Darren Holden is absolutely awesome as the show’s lead vocalist and pianist. Indeed, his pyrotechnics on piano helped bring the audience to its feet, at the show’s conclusion, for a lusty standing ovation.
Movin’ Out, which follows five high-school friends through two decades, starting in 1965, is a real workout for lead vocalist/pianist Darren Holden, so much so, in fact, that Matt Wilson sits in for him Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday night. Indeed, the show is so physically demanding that the parts of Brenda and Tony require two performers each: Holly Cruikshank (Brenda) and David Gomez (Tony) strut their stuff Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon; and Laurie Kanyok (Brenda) and Corbin Popp (Tony), dance their hearts out Wednesday and Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday night.
Brendan King (Eddie), Julieta Gros (Judy), Matthew Dibble (James), and John Carroll (Police Sgt. O’Leary/Army Drill Sergeant) usually appear at all performances.
Tuesday night, tall, dark, beautiful, sinuous, and incredibly limber Holly Cruikshank and (comparatively) short, stocky, but equally lithe Brendan King danced up a storm as high-school sweethearts Brenda and Eddie. (The exuberant performances of Cruikshank and King alone would be worth the price of admission; but then so, too, would Darren Holden’s vivacious vocals and flying fingers.)
David Gomez gave a passionate performance as Eddie and Brenda’s good friend Tony, to whom Brenda turns when she and Eddie break up. The Vietnam war separated their friends Judy (Julieta Gros) and James (Sean Maurice Kelly subbing Matthew Dibble), and James’ death in combat devastated Judy and haunted Eddie, who returned home an angry, nearly psychotic mess, and James’ other three lifelong friends throughout the rest of their lives.
High-octane performances by Gros and Kelly and a crisp cameo by John Carroll as two very different men in uniform helped make Movin’ Out a must-see musical. From “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” to the unbilled encore of “New York State of Mind,” Movin’ Out is a real crowd-pleaser, with its stateside bar and restaurant scenes and its harrowing Vietnam segments burning themselves into the audience’s memory.
Broadway Series South presents Movin’ Out Thursday-Friday, Jan. 6-7, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 9, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $29-$84. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565 or http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/group.html [inactive 5/05]. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/broadway.html#movin [inactive 5/05]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/Show.asp?id=11031. Broadway Site: http://movingout.uvision.net/home_feb04/index.htm [inactive 6/05]. Tour Site: http://movingout.uvision.net/tour/ [inactive 6/05]. Billy Joel (Columbia Records): http://www.billyjoel.com/ [inactive 1/05]. Holly Cruikshank: http://www.hollycruikshank.com/ [inactive 5/07]. Darren Holden: http://www.darrenholden.com/.
For some of us (and we know who we are), the only inducement necessary to get us to rush out and buy a ticket to the touring production of the Tony Award®-winning Billy Joel dance musical Movin’ Out, playing Jan. 4-9 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium as part of the Broadway Series South series, is the knowledge that the gorgeous Holly Cruikshank plays one of the leads. (Cruikshank, a member of the show’s original Broadway cast who later alternated as Brenda, will play the physically demanding role of Brenda in the “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” segment Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Laurie Kanyok will be the alternate Brenda.)
A rising Broadway star educated at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, Holly Cruikshank is a tall, thin, sensuous actress and dancer who absolutely sizzled as the Woman in a Yellow Dress, opposite Alan Campbell, in the swing-dance segment of the National Tour of Contact that played Memorial Auditorium Feb. 12-17, 2002. Cruikshank will play Brenda opposite Brendan King or Ron Todorowski (Eddie) in “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
The show’s “Movin’ Out” segment stars David Gomez or Corbin Popp as Tony. Julieta Gros plays the title character in “Why, Judy, Why,” Matthew Dibble portrays James in “James,” and Darren Holden and Matt Wilson will alternate as the show’s piano man and lead vocalist.
Other Top 40 hits in Movin’ Out — performed by a live band, not Billy Joel — include “Big Shot,” “Innocent Man,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Pressure,” “Uptown Girl,” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
Set in the 1960s, mainly on Long Island and in Vietnam, Movin’ Out focuses on five friends and dramatizes key episodes of their lives as told in two dozen hit songs by five-time Grammy Award® winner Billy Joel. The show is the brainchild of director/choreographer Twyla Tharp, a two-time Tony winner who retells Joel’s compelling coming-of-age stories exclusively in dance, without dialogue.
Tharp says Movin’ Out is “a story told without language. The movement and the action tell the story — the experience, the emotional resonance, comes from action rather than language.”
According to Broadway Series South, “Movin’ Out brings 24 Billy Joel classics to electrifying new life as it tells the story of five life-long friends over two turbulent decades. The songs and dance take audiences through a poignant narrative comprised of three main elements: post-World War II idealism, the Vietnam War and its subsequent unrest, and finally, survival. It adds up to one unforgettable Broadway musical.”
Movin’ Out opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway on Oct. 24, 2002 and has had 911 performances to date. It was nominated for nine 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won two Tonys: for Best Choreography (Twyla Tharp) and Best Orchestrations (Billy Joel and Stuart Malina).
Twyla Tharp will direct and choreograph the National Tour, and Stuart Malina [former Music Director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra] will provide musical continuity and supervision for the show. The National Tour will also reproduce the Broadway scenic design of Santo Loquasto, costume design of Suzy Benzinger, lighting design of Donald Holder, and sound design of Brian Ruggles and Peter Fitzgerald.
Time Magazine called the Broadway production of Movin’ Out “The #1 show of the year!” and The New York Times saluted this dazzling dance musical as “a shimmering portrait of an American generation. These tornado-driven dancers and rock musicians propel the audience into delirious ovations.”
In reviewing the current National Tour of Movin’ Out, Chris Jones of Varietywrote: “The first national tour of Movin’ Out sizzles with energy, vitality and class.” Arch Campbell of WRC-TV said, “Movin’ Out is non-stop, high energy, in-your-face entertainment!” and Peter Marks of The Washington Post called the show “an adrenaline rush! The current it generates courses out of the lobby and onto [the street]. Who could be immune to the magnetism of all this youth and spirit?”
Broadway Series South presents Movin’ Out Tuesday-Friday, Jan. 4-7, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 9, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $29-$84. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565 or http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/group.html [inactive 5/05]. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/broadway.html#movin [inactive 5/05]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/Show.asp?id=11031. Broadway Site: http://movingout.uvision.net/home_feb04/index.htm [inactive 6/05]. Tour Site: http://movingout.uvision.net/tour/ [inactive 6/05]. Billy Joel (Columbia Records): http://www.billyjoel.com/ [inactive 1/05].