Michael Cavanaugh

Michael Cavanaugh performing in Rudder Auditorium on Oct. 20.

Michael Cavanaugh brought the legendary spirits of Elton John and Billy Joel to Aggieland.

Tony- and Grammy Award-nominated star of Broadway’s “Movin’ Out” Michael Cavanaugh led his band through a show-stopping performance of the biggest hits of Elton John and Billy Joel on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m. in Rudder Theatre. The show kicked off the 49th MSC OPAS season and was the first Broadway national tour performance held in Rudder Theatre for the first time in 20 months. Young and Ol’ Ags alike gathered to see Cavanaugh rock the stage and perform some of the most iconic tunes of classic rock, including Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” “I’m Still Standing” and “Tiny Dancer” and Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” and his final encore of “Piano Man.”

Cavanaugh was hand-picked by Billy Joel as the lead in “Movin’ Out,” and subsequently received a Tony Award nomination for “Best Actor Featured Role in a Musical.” Along with numerous other recognitions, including being called the “New Voice of the American Rock ‘n Roll Songbook,” it is no surprise Cavanaugh made a thrilling and charismatic presence on stage. Cavanaugh not only has a talent with his voice and the piano, but also in his chemistry — from the moment he came on stage, he instantly created a connection with the audience, allowing the concert to be a more casual environment where the listeners felt comfortable singing along and directly engaging with Cavanaugh. 

Along with this, Cavanaugh told anecdotal stories throughout his performances. Before singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,” he told the lively story of how he met Billy Joel on a February night — at a dueling piano at the New York, New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Joel was supposed to watch Cavanaugh perform for 15 minutes but ended up staying through his entire performance, which Cavanaugh ended with a piano duel with the star in front of an ecstatic crowd. 

The band supporting Cavanaugh featured drummer Johnny Fedevich, bassist Billy Venditti, keyboardist Jamie Hosmer, guitarist James Olsen and saxophonist John Scarpulla, who all greatly contributed to making the experience even more exciting. Throughout the performance, Cavanaugh allowed for spotlight performances from Scarpulla and Olsen, which riled up the audience as they showcased their individual talents. The overall band’s musical talents flowed greatly with the performances, demonstrating the trust, bond and reliance to which they all built and contributed over the course of their time together. 

Toward the end, the audience was so enthralled with the performance that Cavanaugh received a long, standing ovation, filled with chants of requests for an encore. Needless to say, Cavanaugh and his band came back out to satisfy the request of the audience by performing “Piano Man” by Joel and encouraging fans to sing and clap along. Even after the encore, Cavanaugh’s performance left many fans exhilarated, creating a phenomenal start to the 49th MSC OPAS season.

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