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Movin' Out Piano Man enjoys his time at keys

November 16, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Kyle Martin remembers the first time he took notice of a Billy Joel song. It was "My Life," the theme song for the 1980s TV sitcom "Bosom Buddies."

"It was one of my first introductions to Billy Joel," he said during a telephone interview from his California home.

Martin, who performs the role of the Piano Man in the second touring company of "Movin' Out," quickly lists his other favorites, including "Just the Way You Are."

"As a piano player, his music was what you learned how to play," he said.

Martin and the rest of the "Movin' Out" cast will bring the music of Joel and the choreography of Twyla Tharp to Shippensburg's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on Thursday night.

It wasn't until two years after auditioning that Martin learned he won the part of the Piano Man. For the audition, he had to perform eight Billy Joel songs including the difficult riffs of "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." He said he had left confident in his audition, but then time passed. More time passed. So much time, in fact, Martin said he forgot about the part. Then he got the call asking him if he'd like to take over for the second national tour that opened in June 2007.

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"I dropped my coffee," he said. "I was awestruck."

In his performances, Martin says he stays true to Joel's arrangements, but he's allowed to give his own touch in the performances. "Every Piano Man had their own show. Every performance is different," he said. "I do things more vocally. I like to hit the rafters."

The performance of "Movin' Out" is told entirely through dance and 24 of Joel's songs. There is no dialogue, but Martin says many Joel fans will recognize characters such as Brenda and Eddie from "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." The songs push the story along through three main elements: post-World War II idealism, Vietnam War and the unrest of the country, and finally survival.

Martin said the first time he stepped onto the stage and slid behind the piano, he admits to having a little bit of anxiety.

"It was my first time on a Broadway stage," he said.

Martin has had the chance to meet the original piano man - Billy Joel himself - during Joel's rehearsal for the final concert at New York's Shea Stadium in June. All three actors who played the Piano Man, including Martin, were present for the meeting with Joel, who Martin calls "larger than life." He said Joel was just "like a normal guy."

Offstage, Martin completed an album earlier this year called "Stories in Light" with Matthew Friedman, a former Piano Man himself. The album contains both Joel tunes and original songs. Martin is also working on his solo album, "The Language of My Soul," which he calls a more personal piece.

Eventually, "Movin' Out" will end and Martin will have to be movin' on. But even after he sheds the Piano Man role, music will continue to be a part of his life.

"Music is a part of my soul. It's the way I'm able to communicate," he said.

If you go ...



WHAT: "Movin' Out"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: Tickets range in price from $28 to $55; as of presstime Wednesday, seats were still available.

CONTACT: Tickets are available at 717-477-7469, at the Luhrs box office from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday or online at www.luhrscenter.com

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