Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
All Shook Up
Good Vibrations' is an example of this genre at its nadir. On a more positive note, All Shook Up demonstrates that such musical tributes can be clever and enormous fun.
It remains to be seen whether this Elvis Presley musical can rival the super-international hit status of the similarly structured ABBA tribute, Mamma Mia! or the long running Billy Joel songsical/dansical, Movin' Out. What's certain is that All Shook Up does have enough of the right stuff to be a crowd pleaser.
And as the songs keep coming so do David Rockwell's (an apt surname for the designer of a show that really rocks) imaginative sets and props, gorgeously lit by Donald Holder. Costume designer David C. Woolard's rounds out the first class stagecraft with true to the '50s outfits and some terrific ensemble get-ups for the second act's "Jailhouse Rock " scene as well as several wedding gowns that out-do anything bridal wear queen bee Vera Wang could dream up -- and, of course, some blue suede shoes. Those shoes not only introduce the famous song of the same name but work like fairy wings for all the people roaming this Midwestern "forest." It all makes for a show that proves pop soloist or group retrospectives need not be synonymous with musical theater armageddon, provided they're staged and performed with respect for the songs being honored and manage some eye-winking reinterpretation.
DiPietro's Prince Charming is Chad (Cheyenne Jackson), a blue-eyed, hip swiveling, guitar strumming roustabout. Chad's bike needs a mechanic's ministrations and so he turns off the highway and lands " in a square little town, in the middle of a square state . . . in the middle of a square decade. " The mechanic turns out to be a girl named Natalie (Jenn Gambatese) who immediately falls madly in love with the tall, dark and handsome stranger -- to the chagrin of her unprepossessing best friend Dennis (Mark Price)) who loves her madly.
Once Natalie's wistful "Love Me Tender" sets the tone for the core romance, it's on to a welter of romantic sub-plots. Chad is so blind to Natalie's love that he doesn't even suspect that she's really his Twelfth Night style sidekick Ed. That's because he's smitten with Miss Sandra (Leah Hocking), the gorgeous blonde museum-on-wheels curator; so is Jim, (Jonathan Hadary), Natalie's widowed dad. Jim has his own devoted admirer in Sylvia (Sharon Wilkins), the proprietor of the local saloon (ingeniously decorated with license plates and tires). There's also a romance between Lorraine (Nikki M. James), Sylvia's teen aged daughter and Dean (Curtis Holbrook), the tightly reigned-in son of the tyrannical Mayor Matilda Hyde (Alix Korey), who along with a docile Sheriff Earl (John Jellison) patrols the streets in a Cadillac convertible to keep everyone in the town from having any fun.
The vehicular traffic across the stage includes a terrific star-crossed love scene involving one of a mock-Greyhound bus and a bicycle to the tune of "It's Now or Never" is just one show-stopping special effect. Mayor Matilda's outraged "You're the Devil in Disguise" prompted by Chad's disruption of her morality enforcing regime is accompanied by a burst of flames at the the foot of the stage and in the loges. True to it's genre, there's a real juke box to light up every time a song begins. Best of all are the statues in Miss Sandra's museum even though the surprise they entail is as predictable as practically everything else that happens along the way towards the inevitably all's well that ends well ending.
What keeps all the balls of the multi-faceted but feather light plot with its frequent self-parodying humor in the air are the Presley songs and the cast. Except for a few collaborative efforts, The King, as he was widely known, relied on other songsmiths like Carl Perkins, Leiber and Stoller, Arthur Crudup and Otis Blackwell (see detailed song credits at the end of the production notes). Even without Elvis to sing them they remain solid gold -- easy on the ears and deliciously danceable.
Cheyenne Jackson is as handsome a leading man as you could want. If not quite the iconic royal Elvis was his singing and movementss evoke the Elvis spirit even as he ably handles the goofy bits DiPietro wrote for his character. Jenn Gambatese's is winning as the grease monkey heroine. Mark Price is a good enough performer to overcome the stock aspects of the nerdy Dennis. Lea Hocking's Miss Sandra is the de rigueur blonde bombshell no self-respecting old-fashioned musical can be without; as Sharon Wilkins is Sharon, its big-voiced black Mama. Sharon also happens to love Natalie's widower-dad, an endearing Jonathan Hadary. Seasoned musical veteran Alix Korey has to make do with one big solo, but she makes the most of being obnoxiously officious as Mayor Matilda. The main players are supported by a stellar ensemble that includes several Broadway show veterans like Justin Bohon as well as dancers who've worked with leading ballet companies.
While Nikki M. James and Curtis Holbrook give likeable performances as the Barkeep Sylvia's and the Mayor Matilda's children, their interracial romance is too obvious an attempt to mimic Hairspray's message of tolerance. Mr. Ashley and Mr. DiPietro again strain too hard for relevance courtesy of the Bard via Chad's brief sexual confusion.
LINKS TO REVIEWS OF OTHER CATALOGUE MUSICALS REVIEWED
We Will Rock You
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.