Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

All Shook Up
TheaterWorks
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of West Side Story and Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street


Brenna Jackson and Vinny Chavez
Photo by John Groseclose
From pop to rock, gospel to country, Elvis Presley recorded songs in a wide range of music styles. So, basing a jukebox musical on the songs associated with Presley, and not one based on his life, was a good idea: the show's lead wouldn't have to compete with the ghost of Elvis, and there is a treasure trove of familiar songs, in many musical styles, to instantly hook the audience. While the resulting musical, All Shook Up, did not last long on Broadway in its 2005 debut, it has proved to be a steady hit in regional theatres. TheaterWorks' production, which opens their 2018/2019 season, is a fun and infectious toe-tapper, with a talented group of lead actors who inject the show with a huge amount of humor, charm, and some truly beautiful vocals.

Scripted by Joe DiPietro, who wrote the book and lyrics for the popular revue musical I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and won a Tony Award for his book and lyrics for the musical Memphis, All Shook Up is set in Anytown, U.S.A., in 1955. Arriving on his motorcycle in this quiet, small town is a good-looking, guitar-playing, hip-swiveling roustabout who immediately changes the lives of everyone he meets, including himself.

The musical features such classic Presley songs as "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Can't Help Falling in Love." DiPietro's book is a cross between famous musical comedies set in the 1950s and '60s like Grease, Bye Bye Birdie, and Hairspray and a fun twist on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

The fast-paced comical moments are delivered very well by the entire cast, under David Chorley's sure-footed direction. And while the main characters are basically archetypes (bad boy, tomboy, nerdy guy, dominating mother and dominated son, etc.), all 10 of the actors who play these roles are able to add some nice layers to their to them three dimensional. They also all sing incredibly well, under Ken Goodenberger's confident musical direction.

Brenna Jackson is bright and spunky as Natalie, the tomboy who falls for Chad and goes to comical extremes to get him to realize he loves her, too. As Chad, Vinny Chavez's handsome good looks, charming personality and self-assured swagger create the perfect bad boy personality, which makes it entirely understandable how everyone so easily falls instantly in love with him. The two form a winning couple that you root for, and both have clear and strong singing voices that work well on both the ballads and rock tunes they deliver.

In the supporting cast, Nathan Sheppard is simply hilarious as the nerdy Dennis, with fun, comical body language that gets big laughs. Likewise, the combination of Hector Coris' assured comic timing, rubbery facial expressions, and sweet demeanor instill Jim, Natalie's father, with both humor and heart. Bridgette Lee Phipps' strong voice delivers some knock-out vocals as Sylvia, the woman who runs the local bar and the mother of Lorraine. Fay Schneider does well as Miss Sandra, the new woman in town who wants nothing to do with Chad, and Trey Degroodt and Rachel Schumacher are sweet and warm as, respectively, Dean, the son of the town's Mayor, and Lorraine. Hayley Hinkley is a hoot as the town's mayor who tries to make sure everyone lives up to her high sense of morals, and Gerald Thompson gets some big laughs in act two as the town's sheriff.

Tiana Torrilhon's set design works well to portray the various locations in the piece and Josiah Duka's video projections add some nice pops of humor. With vibrant washes of color and moving rock concert infused spotlights, Jeff A. Davis' lighting is stunning. Landis York's costumes perfectly evoke a simple, small-town feel, and Brenda Goodenberger's hair and makeup designs are period perfect.

There are only two slight setbacks in this overall very good production. The character of Lorraine, which is nicely played by Schumacher, was originally written to be performed by an African-American actress. So, the numerous conversations about Dean and Lorraine's romance being a "forbidden love"—this is set in the 1950s after all—and the drama with Dean's mother not approving of Lorraine seem a bit odd. Also, while the leads are all fantastic, there are some members of the ensemble who are sometimes out of sync with the rest of the cast in the fun and frenetic dance moves, which are nicely choreographed by Nathalie Velasquez.

All Shook Up, through September 23rd, 2018, at TheaterWorks, 8355 West Peoria Avenue, Peoria AZ. Tickets can be ordered at theaterworks.org or by calling 623-815-7930.

Director: David Chorley
Music Director: Ken Goodenberger
Choreographer: Nathalie Velasquez
Scenic Designer: Tiana Torrilhon
Lighting Designer: Jeff A. Davis
Sound Designer: Marcus Myler
Media Design: Josiah Duka
Costume Designer: Landis York
Hair and Make-Up Designer: Brenda Goodenberger
Props Designer: Robert Andrews
Stage Manager: Courtney Stevens

Cast:
Natalie: Brenna Jackson
Chad: Vinny Chavez
Dennis: Nathan Sheppard
Miss Sandra: Fay Schneider
Sylvia: Bridgette Lee Phipps
Jim: Hector Coris
Lorraine: Rachel Schumacher
Dean: Trey Degroodt
Mayor Matilda: Hayley Hinkley
Sheriff Earl: Gerald Thompson
Female Ensemble: Savoy Antoinette, Chelsea Carll, Amelia Huot, Issie Ocampo, Jesse Pike, Mary Plante, Isabella Roessle, Arona Spader
Male Ensemble: Mark Alan C. Clemente, Carson Conway, Jonah Fried, Albert Johnston, Robert Lee, Tyrel Milam, Caleb Ormord, Charie Rabago


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