BWW Review: The MUNY's Engaging and Lively ALL SHOOK UP
ALL SHOOK UP, a celebration of music performed by the King, Elvis Presley, is a entertaining mash-up of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT, combined with some ideas from FOOTLOOSE, and with just a pinch of the movie version of GREASE (book by Joe DiPietro). I know how that sounds, but instead of taking itself or the music too seriously, this show actually achieves a sort of subversive and hilarious kitsch appeal. It's the current production on the MUNY's stage, and it's a splashy, funny, silly, and tune-filled hoot from start to finish.
The basic plot finds a young roustabout named Chad arriving in a small town after a short stay in prison. His motorcycle is acting up, so he finds a garage where he can get it repaired. The mechanic on duty is Natalie, and she's immediately smitten with the studly biker boy. Dennis is Natalie's friend who secretly loves her, but is too shy to speak up for himself. He becomes Chad's sidekick in an amusing twist, but is then replaced by Natalie in male drag as Ed. Meanwhile, Chad and Natalie's widowed dad, Jim, have the hots for the local museum operator, Miss Sandra. And, of course, there are even more romantic entanglements that arise, some quite surprising. All in all it's a goofy, but likable farce, that has an interesting combination of hits by Elvis, mixed in with cuts from his movie soundtracks, and throughout his career, though arranged in completely different ways to suit the stage and story.
Tim Rogan delivers the goods for the ladies in the audience as Chad, the roustabout that stirs up the passions simmering in the small town he visits. Rogan's voice works well with the material, and his persona provides some clever comic moments that he's able to exploit. Caroline Bowman is a real treat with her highly energized performance as Natalie/Ed, and she makes a vivid impression. Liz Mikel is just wonderful as the local diner owner with a larger than life personality, Sylvia. Her soulful voice gives "There's Always Me" a decidedly poignant feel. Barrett Riggins nearly steals the show as Dennis, lovestruck by Natalie, and itching to break out of his shell, while Lara Teeter gives us a delightful take on Natalie's father, Jim. Felicia Finley is a curvaceous riot as Miss Sandra, and Ciara Alyse Harris (Lorraine) and Paul Schwensen (Dean) make a nice pair as Sylvia's daughter and the mayor's son, respectively. Hollis Resnik is perpetually aghast as Mayor Matilda Hyde, as her little town gets taken over, and Jerry Vogel does fine work as Sheriff Earl.
Director Dan Knechtges keeps the pace moving along at a nice clip, and the gags flying fast and furiously. The cast seems to be having a blast, and that always translates into a fun time for all. Jessica Hartman's choreography is an electric blend of styles that are enthusiastically performed, and Charlie Alterman's music direction is superior, with the scaled down orchestra enlivening these songs immensely. Luke Cantarella's gorgeous scenic design throws in tons of unforgettable elements from the 1950's, and it's enhanced by the video designs of Greg Emetaz. Leon Dobkowski's costumes change from drab to brightly colored once Chad rides in and the townsfolk loosen up. And, it all looks great under John Lasiter's lighting.
The MUNY's production of ALL SHOOK UP is a marvelous confection of infectious tunes combined with large doses of good humor. There's plenty to laugh and like about it! The show runs through July 19, 2017.