Begin with the upbeat music of Elvis Presley and the ridiculous plotlines of Shakespearian comedy, throw in a good helping of Bye, Bye, Birdie and The Music Man, followed by a generous portion of Footloose, mix it artfully together and All Shook Up blasts from the oven. This vibrant show not only takes corniness to a new level, but also does it in such a well thought out and strategic way that its ridiculous chain of events will amuse any viewer.
The beginning is somewhat abrupt, opening with a variety show-like atmosphere that is perpetuated in subsequent numbers, in which songs are forcibly introduced by awkwardly posed scenes. As we coast through the blast out number “C’mon Everybody,” with its intense energy and electrifying choreography, the corniness starts to take on the style of a musical rather than a variety show. However, it isn’t until “Teddy Bear/Hound Dog” that its form as a musical really takes shape, and one becomes immersed in the story of people in a topsy-turvy world where every one is “All Shook Up” in so many ways.
Stephen Oremus’ song arrangements are masterful, keeping the fun, upbeat feeling of timeless Elvis songs while suiting them to a musical style; either combining songs into duets (as in “Teddy Bear/Hound Dog,” an argument in song), expanding the song with harmonies (a prime example being the finale “Burning Love”), or by running themes throughout the show (such as “One Night With You,” which literally blasted forth from characters whenever they fell in love).
The crafty use of satiric comedy in this over the top world also emanated from its explosive choreography and specific design elements. The lighting and set design, directed by Donald Holder and David Rockwell, respectively, aid in creating a dynamic world in which both the most cozy and intimate scenes can take place, and expansive scenes extend off into the wings. Some lighting cues bring the hilarity of moments into focus, and leave many audience members throwing their heads back in laughter. The “roustabout” Chad (Joe Mandragona) uses his magic touch to electrify the town jukebox, and Natalie/Ed’s (Jenny Fellner) singing in “A Little Less Conversation” brings the conveniently abandoned fairgrounds to glitzy, electric life, in a physical touch that is illustrated by the flamboyant but specific lighting. Amid its quirky, overblown atmosphere All Shook Up is an enjoyable comedy with the intention of pleasing its audience; and so poignantly succeeded.Review By Rick Skyler and Lia Morgan