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BWW Review: Can't Help Falling for ALL SHOOK UP

Wise men say a lot about love, as any fool can tell you. Shakespeare, Elvis, a young Kevin Bacon. Joe DiPeitro, famous for Memphis and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, pens an original tale of love using the wit of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the music of Elvis Presley, and the romantic soul of a smart writer. All Shook Up is Florida State University's School of Theatre musical opener for the 2016-2017 season, one guaranteed to have hips swivel, swivel, thrusting in their seats as captivated audiences hum along to the music that plays at every romantic's heart.

Tom Ossowski, a familiar face in the School of Theatre, has handled both direction and musical direction of the large musical. Moving around some numbers and tweaking the show to his demands, Ossowski balances the challenges of Pietro's caricaturish love plots with the outrageous score. One of the strongest parts of the show is Ossowski's musical direction.

All Shook Up is a twisted, chaotic show that feels more like Footloose meets The Music Man than Twelfth Night. Chad, an Elvis stand-in, rolls into town on his motorcycle, bringing rock-n-roll, love, or whatever demon suits your fancy. Natalie, the local 'grease monkey', falls for him and disguises herself as a man to win his affections. A rotating cast of characters, including the diner owner, her daughter, an Umbridge-strict mayor, police, and ruffians engage in convoluted love plots throughout the show.

B.F.A. senior Lily Kaufmann rocks the show from curtain until bows as Natalie (or 'Ed'), with an intricate performance bursting with character. Her voice accentuates her other cast members, in songs with Sean Watkinson's Chad like 'Blue Seude Shoes' and 'C'mon Everybody'. There's a decisive humor that Kaufmann brings to the stage, one smartly bringing the show up higher than it has any right to.

Watkinson's Chad is Kaufmann's equal by every definition. Watkinson has been studying The King's films extensively to give Chad the physicality that made Presley such a legend, his Chad being almost undeniably a clone. His rocking baritone voice gives a new life to 'I Don't Want To' and 'Roustabout', 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'Teddy Bear'. Seeing Watkinson swivel and finger-gun around the stage may be the best living equivalent to seeing Presley.

Director Ossowski has listed talent from the leads, all the way to the hidden ensemble. The ensemble moves with a clean efficiency of a clock, founding the energy that the leads leap from. Each gets a second to stand out, such as Aaron McKenzie's solo in 'Heartbreak Hotel', or the choir behind 'Devil in Disguise'.

Supporting members are the variety that helps the cavalcade of characters stand, something Ossowski flexes in almost every scene. Trevor Schmidt plays the hapless admirer of Kaufmann's Natalie, Dennis, a great balance to Watkinson's swagger. Schmidt as the un-smooth sidekick is a riot, as is his chemistry with the sultry Taylor Sherry. FSU Alum and Tallahassee local Larry Gerber and Sue Sartorelli, respectively, each add a bit of flair to the show. A true stand-out, with the most entertaining cameo of the entire show, is Brad Betros as Officer Earl. Pietro loves making his silent characters shine.

Rounding out the rock concert of a show is Ossowski's rock-star tech team. A cast as large as All Shook Up boasts needs a Sound Designer that can handle the volume of sound, something Zach Cramer makes look simple. Not a single voice is lost in the din, and Ossowski's full orchestra is heard in a blend that tops a cast album. Costuming from Clara Jean Kelly pops, from the simple outfits of the barmaids to the dresses showcased in the second act. Swirling the dresses and high kicks is the crisp choreography from Kate Watson Gelabert, as iconic as you'd expect from an Elvis themed show. Lighting from Don Fox is enjoyable in the energetic group numbers, but a few of the strobes are overbearing, giving an epileptic feel of a rave to scenes that don't necessitate that sort of visual.

Fans of theatre will find familiar comforts in the innocence of All Shook Up, but this is the rare show that caters to non-musical fans just as strongly. The magic of Valentine's Day has come early, All Shook Up is happy to provide all the lovey-dovey joys now. Bring your friend, bring your significant other, bring your smile. Ossowski's production is a sparkling gem that will be hard to top this season.

All Shook Up runs Oct. 21st-29th, tickets can be purchased online or at the door.


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From This Author Trevor Durham