The good news is that most of the original cast that previewed this show here in 2002 before movin’ out to Broadway where it has since remained and is having a huge success, has been reassembled to jumpstart this national touring version. This means that you’re seeing essentially a more polished and leaner version of the show but with all of its Broadway bells and whistles still in place rather than being scaled back as they usually are for such tours. The bad news is, well, the whole score is still all songs of Billy Joel, and done by a cover band fronted by a seventies era soundalike/lookalike complete with a black T-shirt and pounding piano chords all distractingly appearing on an upper level of the stage while down below a pantomime narrative is being danced out that is supposed to somehow tie all of these unrelated stretches of pop pabulum together (kids cruising in cars, fighting, falling in lust, then love, dying in Viet Nam, blah-blah-blah). And so, you have two hours of dancing choreographed by Twyla Tharp that is sometimes static and often spectacular that takes place against mediocre music that is has little contrast to it. Of course, if you’re a Billy Joel fan, this is your show, but if you are a fan of great dance alone, the challenge is to figure out why Tharp would pick such bland, banal music to work with in the first place when a revue of separate dance vignettes set to contrasting styles of familiar seventies hits would have seemingly been far more effective and appealing. (Dennis Polkow)
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, (312)902-1400. $18-$80. Through July 9.