Fame Academy star to play Billy Joel as Broadway show heads for the West End

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The Independent Culture

The star of the TV talent show Fame Academy with a long-held passion for the songs of Billy Joel is to take the lead role in the American singer's hit Broadway show when it transfers to Britain this spring.

James Fox will play the Piano Man - in effect Joel himself - when Movin' Out opens at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London for a three-month run prior to a European tour.

The musical is a dance show devised by the acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp to Joel's hits. It grossed more than $100m (£57m) during a three-year run in New York.

Fox, 29, a Welsh singer who represented the UK at the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest, has already taken the lead in a tour of the show across the US. He said: "I'm just such a Billy fan. It was a pleasure to turn up for two hours and do the show every night. I only met Billy a month ago in Florida, but it was a dream come true. I've been a fan since I was six. For me, he's never written a B-side."

Movin' Out tells the story of a group of friends at the time of the Vietnam war, although the narrative is conveyed through dance with no dialogue. It was the brainchild of Tharp, a choreographer who has worked for the world's most famous ballet companies. Her previous works on Broadway include Singin' In The Rain.

It uses some of Joel's 33 top 40 hits, including "Uptown Girl". He sent a message from America, where he is on tour, to the official launch in London yesterday. "London has always been one of my favourite cities and I'm sure you're all going to love Movin' Out, too. I'm particularly pleased the incredibly talented James Fox will be returning to his home turf. He's been wowing audiences here, and he's going to... do so there."

Over there and over here

SPAMALOT: Adapted from Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Eric Idle. At the Palace from October.

WICKED: It has broken all box office records on Broadway. At the Apollo Victoria from September.

EVITA: A home-grown exception, this is the first London revival of Lord Lloyd-Webber and Sir Tim Rice's 1978 show about the life of Eva Peron. At the Adelphi from June.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: First stage version may be the most expensive musical in West End history when it opens at the Dominion late this year.

Movin' Out previews from 28 March and will run until 17 July.

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