We didn’t start the fire

By DJ Kelly November 28, 2007

Last night I was lucky enough to catch the opening night of Movin’ Out, Broadway Across Canada’s latest touring performance, at the Jube. Never heard of Movin’ Out? Me neither, but a little bit of Google “research” shows it is a multiple Tony Award winner from 2003. But the real reason you should pay attention is because it is set entirely to Billy Joel’s music. A very interesting concept…

A very difficult concept too. The first thing that struck me was that this “musical” didn’t have any of the performers singing, only dancing. ‘The Piano Man’ sang the entire show from a platform above the stage (with a wickedly good band, I should mention). I thought this to be brilliant, but during the first act I started to wonder… it’s a fine line between a good performance and cheese when you are working with a concept like this. And they were leaning in the latter’s direction. However the show did improve drastically. Let me explain:

Basically the performance is a ballet set to rock music, with a thin, kinda hard to follow, plot thrown in. During the first act the performers are teenagers doing teenage things (like going to the prom). Here’s the question for you: how do you do ballet with/to that? I knew we were in trouble when they wheeled a faux car out on stage. (This is a cardinal sin in theatre as far as I’m concern. NEVER do a scene in a car on stage. It will always suck. I’ve never seen a good one, although I have friends who insist they’ve seen it well done once before. They just can’t remember the name of the show or where it was performed. Either way, only being done well once before is not good odds.) But Movin’ Out starts to pick up when they ship the characters off to the Vietnam war.

During the war scenes, and especially during the second act when the return home as drug riddled broken men, the emotion of it all starts to take over, and the ballet finally has something to build off of. The production slowly goes from cheese to a nice tasty fondue. (Perhaps not a good analogy but, trust me, the last half is beautiful.)

Great dancing, great music, but they don’t work so great together until the end. If you can get over that, you are in for a great performance. (Or if you can’t, then you get two great performances that have nothing to do with one and other. Either way you win.)

PS – Here’s a link to the Calgary Herald review.