all shook up

by dick kerekes
I saw the gala performance of the Elvis Presley inspired musical All Shook Up recently. This was the North Florida premier of this musical. I found it to be exhilarating, spirited, truly charming and clever, with a first class cast of wonderful singers and dancers and a plot that seemed to move well in and out of the 24 Elvis songs in the show. If you are an Elvis fan (they seem to everywhere from age 8 to 80), you will enjoy a story that has heart but doesn’t take itself too seriously. In these nervous times that are ‘All Shook Up,’ it is an evening of pure fun; a feel-good show that audiences can’t help falling in love with.
No, this is not a biography of Elvis, but uses some of his hit songs woven into a story that slightly resembles the King. The plot involves an Elvis-like roustabout named Chad (engagingly played by Alhambra newcomer, Clint Clark) who drives his motorcycle into this small mid-western town that is burdened by the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act that prohibits dancing, necking and interracial relationships. It was enacted by the uptight Mayor Hyde (played in a great comic performance by Lisa Valdini) but Chad teaches the town how to rock, and several romances develop using ideas that will remind you of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. There is a bit of gender bending, disguises and assorted love matches but don’t worry, the language is good ole boy American lingo.
  If you are an Alhambra regular, you have probably noticed that director/producer Tod Booth always has excellent leads in all of his productions. What may have escaped your attention is how much consideration he gives to supporting cast and the entire ensemble. In All Shook Up every role is cast to perfection, with tremendous vocal strength that brings all the music to life. The cast is top-notch in the comedy department as well, and I found this show even funnier than the last Alhambra offering, Moon Over Buffalo.
Katie Scott is hilarious as Natalie, the mechanic that falls for Chad, but disguises herself as a man to try to win his affection.
The Romeo and Juliet like couple is played by La’Tarsha Long and Jared Miller, and their duet ‘Its Now or Never’ will send shivers up your spine. Ms. Long played Maria in the recent Alhambra/Jacksonville Symphony production of West Side Story and received rave reviews about her performance.
  You are going to love Shirley Tripp, who plays Sylvia owner of the soda shop. Making her Alhambra debut, Ms. Tripp’s rendition of ‘There’s Always Me’ was one of the many show stopping numbers in Act II.
It was great to have Kelly Adkins back on the Alhambra stage (she’s a veteran of over 30 shows), and she is the sexiest curator of a museum you will ever see anywhere! Wow, I had forgotten what a marvelous voice she has.
  Conrad De’Andrea is another Alhambra favorite and, besides being the dance captain for this production, has some funny moments as Sheriff Earl in the surprise conclusion of the show.
  You will recognize Joey Panek from two previous Alhambra shows (Moon Over Buffalo & Little Shop of Horrors). He plays wonderfully the nerd Dennis, and gives us a lesson in double takes and facial expressions. He also displays wonderfully trained singing in ‘It Hurts Me.’ What is an Alhambra production without Tony Triano? I don’t know, he appears in most of them and is always outstanding. He plays Jim, a widowed mechanic and father of Natalie. He is lonely and looking for love and since this play has happy ending, he finds it.
  You will see some very unique statues when Sandra sings ‘Let Yourself Go’ in Act I. I would tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil your fun. Just pay close attention for this unique bit of staging by Director Booth. This energetic cast is rounded out by Adonis Boyd, Ashley Monet, Michelle Myers, Sarah Sanders and Jeremy Williams.
Most of the action takes place on an open stage with a few set pieces rolled on (gas pump, juke box, lunch counter and tables). Scenic Designer David Dionne has decorated the outside wall of the stage opening with six large black and white photos of important news events of the l950s. During the intermission or before the show, walk down by the stage and see if you can identify these famous scenes.
  I am not a fan of musical revues where just songs from an artist or period are done. I like a little plot, so this jukebox musical was to my liking and certainly was a big hit with the always involved and clapping gala audience. Elvis did 31 movies and recorded about 700 songs over his career and this is a sample of some of his best numbers. Joe Dipietro, of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, wrote the book that used 24 of Elvis’s songs like ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘Jail House Rock,’ ‘Love Me Tender,’ ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ just to name a few.
  You will laugh a lot; tap you feet a lot (guaranteed!) when you see All Shook Up. Even if you are not a hard-core Elvis fan, you will absolutely have a good time and love this show.
All Shook Up runs through November 30. Call 641-1212 for information and reservations ‘Don’t be Cruel,’ put on your ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Let Yourself Go’ at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre.