BWW Review: ALL SHOOK UP at The Players Centre
All Shook Up is a 2004 American jukebox musical that is based on William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night. It is jam packed with Elvis Presley tunes and plot twists that will tickle your funny bone. With book by Joe DiPietro, you can't help but have a great time, as his comedic writing comes to life by having his characters jump out at just the right time with just the right Elvis song that pertains to their particular situation. There are clever lines, humbling moments and hilarious antics in which Mr. DiPietro places his characters. Try to keep track of how many crushes there are and between whom. This production is often described as Grease meets Elvis and makes for a fun evening of lighthearted entertainment.
We go back sometime in the 1950's where pelvis swinging, guitar slinging Chad (Brian Finnerty) a "roustabout" has just been released from prison. Chad, in typical motorcycle garb and a red handkerchief waving out of his back pocket, joins a team of jail mates in black pants and black and white striped jailhouse tops singing and dancing to "Jailhouse Rock".
Down the road a piece in boring town USA, grease monkey Natalie (Caitlin Ellis) works on cars at her Daddy's car repair garage. While she fantasizes about the day when the man of her dreams will come to town and save her from her boring life, she overlooks the fact that her best friend Dennis (Jason Ellis) has a secret crush on her.
With a quick set change the townsfolk are gathered at Sylvia's (Phyllis Banks) honkytonk to lament their longing for love. Sylvia's daughter Lorraine (Bailey Scott) and Natalie's widowed father Jim (Kelly Leissler) join their neighbors in "Heartbreak Hotel", until the rumble of Chad's motorcycle interrupts the gang. When Chad announces his bike is in need of repair he is of course introduced to Natalie who develops a crush on him. Could this be the man of her dreams? But when Chad tries to stir up some fun shenanigans in town he is told about the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, which does not allow for necking in public, tight pants or loud music, and is strictly managed by Mayor Matilda (Debbi White) and enforced by her ever silent sidekick Earl (Jerry Rudd), the Sherriff.
Natalie has her eyes set on Chad but he has his eyes set on the museum curator Sandra. (Try to keep up - this is the 4th crush). Sandra is sophisticated and dresses the part. Natalie feels in order to complete for Chad's affections she needs to get out of her greasy mechanic's jumpsuit and into a pretty dress. The only dress she owns has a big grease stain on the front so Lorraine lets her borrow one of her dresses. Soon Natalie finds out that her father also has a crush for Sandra although he has some untold feelings for Sylvia, (could be another crush).
Dean, the son of Mayor Matilda, soon exclaims his love Lorraine and that he thinks she's beautiful. But Mayor Matilda isn't having it and is sending him back to military school. In the meantime Natalie decides the dress isn't working for her and thinks Chad is a man's man and likes hanging with the boys so she dresses like a guy, makes friends with Chad under the name of ED and becomes one of the boys. The problem with that is Sandra now has a crush on her. Him. Ed. Natalie can't hold back from Chad and kisses him while still pretending to be Ed. Now Chad has to accept the fact he has a crush on Ed, as he liked the kiss. Oh the drama!
While all the madcap scenarios are in play we are treated to songs like, "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender", Blue Suede Shoes", Can't Help Falling in Love", All Shook Up" and the grand finale with the entire cast singing "Burning Love". I won't reveal the ending. You'll have to see it for yourself. But it does come together nicely and there is a wedding or three.
Brian Finnerty as Chad gets a workout in this production. Watch his dance steps. He is the choreographer and it shows. Nice footwork sir. Miss Ellis especially gets quite a workout in her dual role as Natalie and Ed and sings her heart out. Miss Banks is the soft-spoken Sylvia who lets go a few times and surprises the audience with her spirited innuendos. Mr. Leissler as Natalie's father and whom Sylvia has a crush (another crush), plays Jim with a sweet and gentle nature. Miss Samuels as the blonde bombshell Sandra is sultry and provocative throughout the program. Mr. Ellis as Natalie's best friend showed off some outstanding vocals. Miss Scott brought a sweet yet sassy persona to Lorraine. Miss White was perfect casting for Mayor Matilda. She shines in any role she plays. Her comedic timing is always on point. Jerry Rudd, who finally does get to speak at the end, added a humorous side to Sheriff Earl. The entire cast dove into the their characters giving each one the individuality they needed which made their presence as an ensemble work so well together. Director Helen Holliday kept her cast intact and moving at a good clip as needed for this type of production. Kudos to Set designer Kyle Ransbottom on the background screens that brilliantly served as scenario holders as well as an awesome spinning record.
All Shook Up runs through December 23, 2018. For more information on The Players Centre for Performing Arts visit www.theplayers.org.