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'Movin' Out' puts Point Park alum in good place

| Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Don't let anyone tell you dreams don't come true. Patrick Lavallee knows better.

Six years ago, he was studying dance at Point Park University and inspired by his visits to Benedum Center to see Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and a touring production of "A Chorus Line."

"It's a gorgeous theater, a great space," he says, now anticipating his turn to star on that stage.

Lavallee is one of the five principal characters in the production of "Movin' Out" that will be presented Friday through Sunday at the Benedum, Downtown.

"As a dancer, for me, it's a dream show," says Lavallee, 25. "There's no other show like it ever on Broadway. It combines Billy Joel's music, which I think most people know and love, and the choreography of Twyla Tharp, a household name since the '70s and still very innovative."

"Movin' Out" opened on Broadway in 2002, ran for more than 1,000 performances and won Tony, Drama Desk and Astaire Awards in 2003. The show is about five kids, three guys who are best friends, and two girls, from Long Island, N.Y. -- all characters Joel has written about in his songs. The guys enlist in the Army and go to Vietnam, where one is killed.

Lavallee plays the drill sergeant, and says, no, he doesn't get the girl.

"When they come back from Vietnam, they have a rude awakening," he says. "They thought they'd come back as heroes, and were almost treated as scum of the earth."

Tharp told The New York Times that, while working on "Movin' Out," she paraphrased of the opening of "The Iliad" in her mind: "Sing to the audience, Billy Joel, of the rage of a generation of American men."

Lavallee started dancing when he was 7. He and his three older brothers all took dance.

"My mom always wanted a little girl," he says. "We had to fill that void. I'm the only one that dancing stuck with."

When he was 13 or 14, he decided he wanted to dancing professionally, despite a love-hate relationship with the hard work.

"But the benefit, the reward is huge," he says. "Whenever I'm onstage, especially a show like this, it's two hours of hard-core dancing to rock music playing. I feel like any athlete winning a big game -- it's all worth it.

"What's nice about dance is that it's so expressive," he says. "We're telling a story through movement."

Additional Information:

'Movin' Out'

What : The music of Billy Joel, staged and choreographed by Twyla Tharp

When : 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission : $24-$62

Where : Benedum Center, Downtown

Details : 412-456-6666

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