All Shook Up
Unlike other "jukebox" musicals (shows that try to shoehorn in old songs to tell a new story), All Shook Up actually works, in the sense that the old songs really do successfully fill out the plot. I was slightly afraid that a scaled-down staging of this musical might prove to be disappointing. Happily, though, the Ivoryton Playhouse production proves that All Shook Up is a dandy show for regional theatres.
Set in the Midwest in 1955, and taking a leaf from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the story may be on the slim side, but it is told tongue-in-cheek and delivers a good deal of laughs. It also features characters you can really care about, and the overall effect is quite endearing. And all those Elvis songs! Joe DiPietro has chosen very wisely from the songs in the Elvis Presley catalogue, with nearly all the leads getting at least one or two numbers that pretty much bring down the house.
Chief among the cast is Preston Ellis as Chad. Playing a "bad boy" character whose arrival in town sets the plot in motion, Preston Ellis is just as good-looking and sexy as befits the role and he displays a super singing voice in such songs as "Roustabout," "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Burning Love." As the female lead Natalie, Danielle Bowen is quite wonderful as well, and she especially shines in the numbers "Love Me Tender" and the touching "Fools Fall in Love."
But just about the entire cast of All Shook Up is grand, in particular Nicholas Park as Dennis, who effortlessly gets laughs in a comical role, but can stop the show with a heartbreaking "It Hurts Me." As Miss Sandra, Mara Jill Herman is a real looker and you can easily see why she breaks hearts left and right. She delivers a steamy "Let Yourself Go." As the young couple whose love, in the show, is deemed "forbidden," Logan Scott Mitchell and Danielle Famble are pretty hilarious, especially in the riotous bus scene when they sing "It's Now or Never." Finally, in the adult roles, R. Bruce Connelly, Onyie, and Melissa McLean are equally good and they collectively lead a pleasurable "Can't Help Falling in Love" toward the end of the show.
Love is very much the subject of All Shook Up and it is to the credit of everyone involved that it shines through, even within the frequent laughter that the book elicits. The show looks quite good, even scaled down from the Broadway original, with fine work by scenic designer Cully Long, lighting designer Marcus Abbott, and Kari Crowther, whose costumes are perfectly appropriate for the time and place of the musical. Ivoryton Playhouse has certainly struck gold with their production of All Shook Up and this show is almost guaranteed to make you feel better than you felt when you came in.
All Shook Up continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through July 27th, 2014. For tickets, please visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767-7318.