If you go
What: Michael Cavanaugh performs with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra in "Michael Cavanaugh in Concert: The Music of Billy Joel & More!"
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25
Where: The Forum, 500 Walnut St., Harrisburg
Tickets: $20 to $82
To Order: Box office: 717-545-5527, online at https: harrisburgsymphony.org
When Michael Cavanaugh performs his Billy Joel-themed concerts with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 24 and 25, it will be like old home week.
Cavanaugh spent three years on Broadway in the lead role in "Movin' Out," the musical featuring Billy Joel's songs and Twyla Tharp's choreography. The show rocketed Cavanaugh from obscure Las Vegas piano player to Broadway star and earned him a Tony Award nomination. The cast album of the show was also nominated for a Grammy.
Stuart Malina, the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra's music director and conductor, was part of the creative team behind "Movin' Out." When Cavanaugh auditioned, Malina was one of the folks he had to win over to get the gig.
"Stuart was huge in that show," Cavanaugh said in a recent phone interview from his home outside Las Vegas. "He was very instrumental in the way the show was performed."
Cavanaugh was playing piano at the New York, New York casino in Vegas on that fateful night when Joel, who was in town to perform a concert, walked in. He'd heard from Joel's tour manager that Joel would be catching the show.
Cavanaugh had once camped out to get tickets to a Joel concert in Cleveland. So it was a huge deal to get a chance to meet his "musical idol."
"I'm not the kind of guy to crumble under the pressure, but he's sitting at a table 10 feet away and I'm trying it hold it together," Cavanaugh said.
The two wound up hanging out after the show. Two months later, the Piano Man called to ask if Cavanaugh would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway musical Joel was putting together.
Cavanaugh will perform some of Joel's most popular songs during the concert, Michael Cavanaugh in Concert: The Music of Billy Joel & More!
Cavanaugh will be backed his own band and by the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. While it will be Cavanaugh's first appearance with the HSO, he's no stranger to performing with orchestras, including the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Philly POPs.
It might sound unlikely, but Joel's songs are a good fit for the full orchestra treatment, Cavanaugh said,
"You wouldn't picture an orchestra on 'It's Still Rock and Roll to Me,' but it sounds cool," he said.
Cavanaugh likes a lot of Billy Joel tunes — "She's Got a Way" and "You May Be Right," among them.
Pressed to name his favorite, Cavanaugh gives the nod to "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," Joel's winding story set to music about a Queens, N.Y. couple — high school sweethearts Brenda and Eddie — who date, marry and divorce during the course of the song.
"It goes so many places," Cavanaugh said. "To me, it's a masterpiece."