“All Shook Up” the Jukebox Musical inspired by and featuring the songs of Elvis Presley with book by Joe DiPietro has everything going for it from Blue Suede Shoes, (yup) to motorcycles, to interracial relationships, to boy girl, girl pretending to be boy relationships to stop gap dreamy sequences, to an actual motorcycle on stage.
At San Diego Musical Theatre’s opening night at the Horton Grand Theatre in beautiful, but crowded downtown San Diego where “All Shook Up” will be playing through Sept. 1st, the atmosphere was in Shake, Rattle and Roll mode.
Making his auspicious directorial debut Robert J. Townsend has his hands directly on the pulse of the show, Michael Mizerany and his physical choreography, with dance captain Danny Gersonde leading the troops, keeps the dancers on their feet most of the evening.
|"Jailhouse Rock" (Ken Jacques)|
Musical director Don Le Master never lets up on the momentum of the more than twenty musical numbers inspired by “The King” and the all singing and dancing cast, featured on Mike Buckley’s two tiered set with rollercoaster in the background in Act II, brought miles of smiles and some tears to an opening night audience ready for some fun.
In the same old, same old ‘never heard of town somewhere in the Midwest’ summer of 1953 motorcycle jock and roustabout Chad (a charming and sexy looking Jesse Bradley) just released from jail (“Jail House Rock”) comes rolling in to ‘town’, guitar firmly over his shoulder acting somewhat like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Everyone is agog especially the gals.
|Jesse Bradley and Krista Fealolock (Heather Longfellow)|
Chad needs his motorcycle fixed before he’s off to the next town. Local mechanic Natalie (an adorable Krista Feallock) takes one look at him and melts (“One Night With You”). It’s love at first sight complete with car grease on her face and coveralls looking more like a grease monkey than a smart young gal. Never mind that nerdy Dennis (a sweet Noah Filley), one of the town’s regulars is head over heels in love with her, she keeps swooning over Chad who can’t see past his own ego.
More than anything Natalie dreams of leaving town to follow her dream just like Chad (“Follow That Dream”) but does not want to leave her widowed father, Jim (a sincere Richard Van Slyke) alone.
In the meantime the towns folks gather at the local diner (“Heartbreak Hotel”) owned and operated by Sylvia, a force to be reckoned with Erin Vanderhyde. (“There’s Always Me”). Her helper is her young and impressionable daughter Loraine (Brooke Henderson).
|Cast with Erin Vanderhyde in center (Ken Jacques)|
At the local hangout and gathering place complete with broken Jukebox we get a chance to meet up with the natives (read the large ensemble). The jukebox has not worked for years until Chad struts in and touches it sending off magical, dreamlike waves throughout the town.
Unfortunately, nothing of any consequence had happened here for years, ergo broken jukebox. This is all because of the ‘Mamie Eisenhower’s Decency Act’ outlawing loud music, public necking and tight pants (careful Chad).
|Barbara Schoenhofer and Anthony Ballard|
This news comes back at them with the arrival of Mayor Matilda Hyde, (Barbara Schoenhofer is a kick as the prim and proper Mayor Hyde). Dressed in all white outfit (Janet Pitcher) with a small pillbox hat angled on her head is a force only Chad can deal with.
The Mayor escorted by her straight-laced military cadet son Dean (Brendan Dallaire) and her sidekick and driver Sheriff (Earl Anthony J. Ballard) is a tough nut to crack, but…well you know, “Only Fools Fall In Love”.
|Sami Nye, Jesse Bradley, Krista Feallock and Noah Filley (Ken Jacques)|
In the meantime Chad has the hot’s for Miss Sandra (a sexy looking Sami Nye), the sex bomb running the local ‘Museum’ who falls for Ed (Natalie in disguise) while Dennis tries to work some of his own magic on Natalie, but to no avail. On the other side of the coin, Matilda’s son, blond haired blue eyed Dean and Sylvia’s daughter Loraine an African-American teen are cuddling on the side. Oops. Remember this is 1953.
All this back and forth generates more of The King’s music: “Teddy Bear”/’Hound Dog”, “It’s Now Or Never”, “Fools Fall In Love”, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. The beat goes on with cat and mouse love games involving each of the main characters including but not exclusive to the best- known secret, Sylvia and Jim. (“Get Me To The Church”…oops, wrong show!)
It all becomes one big love fest with the underlying theme of ‘following your dreams’ with almost two dozen non-stop of Elvis’ best and little known hits throughout the years.
|Brendan Dallaire and Brooke Henderson|
Period looking outfits and theme related clothes are by the talented Janet Pitcher. Lighting design by Michelle Miles and sound by Jon Fredette with wigs by Peter Herman complete this ready for prime time musical with a heart.
A twenty deep talented cast putting their heart and soul into a fantasy love story is just what’s needed in this upside down country of ours right now.
Shake it Up guys and bring the house down!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Sept 1st
Organization: San Diego Musical Theatre
Production Type: Jukebox Musical
Where: 444 Fourth Avenue, Downtown San Diego, 92101
Ticket Prices: Range from $25.00 to $70.00
Venue: Horton Grand Theatre
Photo: Heather Longfellow and Ken Jacques