Can't Help Falling in Love with 'All Shook Up'
"All Shook Up"
Cast in alphabetical order:
Alicia Albright (Swing, Asst. Dance Captain)
Susan Anton (Miss Sandra)
David Benoit (Sheriff Earl)
Nick Cearley (Swing)
Abbie Cooper (Ensemble)
Randy A. Davis (Dance Captain, Swing)
Wally Dunn (Jim Haller)
Jenny Fellner (Natalie Haller)
Josh Franklin (Ensemble)
Beth Glover (Mayor Matilda Hyde)
Erin Greiner (Ensemble)
Buddy Hammonds (Ensemble)
Tiffany Janene Howard (Ensemble)
Matthew Warner Kiernan (Ensemble)
Valisia Lekae Little (Lorraine)
Joe Mandragona (Chad)
Mary Jo McConnell (Ensemble)
Kevin B. McGlynn (Ensemble)
Dennis Moench (Dennis)
Jermaine R. Rembert (Ensemble)
Brian Sears (Dean Hyde)
Betsy Struxness (Ensemble)
Kyle Vaughn (Ensemble)
Aurella Williams (Ensemble)
Natasha Yvette Williams (Sylvia)
Carla Woods (Swing)
Performances: Now through October 8
Box Office: 617-931-2787 or online at Ticketmaster and at The Opera House (539 Washington Street, Boston)
The national tour of All Shook Up, a rock 'n roll musical featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, began its run at The Opera House in Boston on September 26th, the third stop of the 35-city tour. All Shook Up opened on Broadway in March of 2005 and enjoyed a run of 213 performances, winning a Drama Desk Award for David Rockwell's Scenic Design along the way. The show is set in 1955 in a small town in the Midwest and tells the tale of Natalie Haller (Fellner), a teenager looking for love. When a handsome, motorcycle-riding "roustabout" in tight jeans (Chad, played by Mandragona) comes into town, the townspeople receive a culture shock that is just enough to open them back up to love. Against a backdrop of Elvis Presley's timeless music ("Jailhouse Rock," "Heartbreak Hotel," "Love Me Tender," "Can't Help Falling in Love With You"), Joe DiPietro's book seamlessly weaves the songs into a workable plot that is at times witty and amusing, but also poignant and moving. The story comes to life through characters that are so honest and believable, the audience can't help but empathize with them,The order of the musical numbers has been shuffled around since the Broadway production, but the basic storyline remains the same. The plot centers around a chain of unrequited lovers, each pursuing another who is interested in someone else. These feelings lead to unexpected events that show the lengths to which people will go in the name of love: a girl dresses up as a boy to win his affections, two interracial couples take shape despite the social mores of the time, and a boy comes to terms with the fact that he may have feelings for another boy.
All Shook Up is ultimately a show about love, appealing to the romantic within us all. Tolerance for all kinds of love is the main message, and the topics of interracial dating and homosexual desires are treated with delicate respect. Familial love, friendly love, unrequited love, passionate "burning" love, forbidden love are all themes throughout the story.
The production boasts a strong ensemble and talented lead performers. Jenny Fellner shines as the adorably tomboyish and quirky Natalie, belting her numbers in her sweet, clear voice. Joe Mandragona is appropriately scandalous as the roustabout Chad, accentuating his statements with hip thrusts and making the girls swoon. Susan Anton as Miss Sandra delivers the most laughs of the night with her number "Let Yourself Go," complete with dancing statues. Valisia Lekae Little, Dennis Moench, and Brian Sears stand out in their supporting roles and bring a wonderful vigor to the stage with their strong voices and excellent comedic timing. The energetic ensemble is brought to life with Sergio Trujillo's sharp and lively choreography and look and sound great together. The loudest applause of the night, however, went to Natasha Yvette Williams (Sylvia), who brought the house down with her rendition of "There's Always Me," a touching love song she sings to the man she has fallen in love with.
Other noteworthy parts of the production include the scenic design and the musical arrangements of Elvis' music. David Rockwell's detailed and elaborate sets - which include a 50's style bar, a deserted fairground, and a wedding chapel - are well deserving of the Drama Desk Award they garnered. There's even a Tunnel of Love, complete with boats and smoke, which adds to the spooky mood of the deserted fairground. The musical arrangements of Stephen Oremus transform Elvis' solo pieces into numbers that can be performed by a cast of 26 and sound completely new and fresh as a result, while Oremus' collaborative effort with Michael Gibson delivers vivacious orchestrations of the familiar songs, giving them a new twist.
For just the third stop on the tour, the cast is in great shape. The ensemble delivers solid and highly energetic singing and dancing, and the lead performers portray their characters as fully developed human beings. Despite a few technical glitches, the show ran smoothly and is off to an auspicious start.
The tour will also stop in Appleton, Louisville, Orlando, San Antonio, Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Seattle, Denver, Tucson, East Lansing, Sacramento, Columbus, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Memphis, Raleigh, Lincoln, Omaha, Cleveland, Atlanta, Ft. Worth, Minneapolis, Costa Mesa, Tempe, San Jose, and San Diego.
All Shook Up may not be life-changing theatre, but audience members are guaranteed a fun and entertaining night and will leave the theatre humming those familiar, classic Elvis tunes.
1) Lto R: Joe Mandragona & Susan Anton in ALL SHOOK UP
Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.
3) Jenny Fellner and Joe Mandragona and the company in All Shook Up. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.
4) L to R: Wally Dunn, Susan Anton & Joe Mandragona in All Shook Up. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.
From This Author Katie Schick