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It’s still rock and roll to me

Review: Based on the songs of Billy Joel and conceived, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, Movin’ Out offers tremendous music, spectacular dancing and brilliant lighting and design. So one would think this Tony Award-winning performance would leave nothing to be desired, right?

Well, yes and no.

There are a few key components that seem to be missing. First of all, there is virtually no script; the only spoken dialogue is that of commands from a drill sergeant in one of the scenes. The entire play is told through song and dance. Secondly, while there is singing, none of it comes from the actors themselves, but solely from pianist-singer Darren Holden. Because of these missing items, the intricacies of the play’s plot are unclear for much of the performance.

With familiar Joel songs such as “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “For the Longest Time” and “She’s Got a Way,” the performance felt more like a concert than a play. Audience members found themselves singing along while the actors danced out the story.

However, there is a lot of acrobatic combination of jazz, ballet and swing. The men lifted the women well above their heads and did back flips and amazing jumps. Not to be outdone, the women flew across the stage into the men’s arms with astounding flexibility and grace. Although they showed no signs of exhaustion, one feels tired just watching them.

Set in Long Island in the ’60s and spanning the Vietnam War and times thereafter, the play follows characters Eddie, Brenda, Tony, Judy and James and the effects the war has on each of them.

If Movin’ Out had dialogue between the characters, this play would be a masterpiece. As is, the performance is highly entertaining and thoroughly amusing, but the lack of direction of the plot may leave some audience members confused and hungering for more.

Movin’ Out runs through this Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $34.50-$74.50