All Shook Up, Book by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Russell Garrett
Music Director: Anne Shuttlesworth
Choreographer: Kiesha Lalama
Review by Kate Lonberg-Lew
Elvis is tooling around the countryside when his motorcycle breaks down
and he finds himself stranded in repressed, naïve, small-town America. While his bike is being fixed by the town’s tomboy-teenage mechanic, he teaches the citizens how to let loose, love, and most importantly, rock out. This is the basis for the musical All Shook Up playing at the North Shore Music Theatre.
The play is very, very loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and attempts to address issues of sexuality, repression, and gender identity. This particular production bordered on farcical, a wise choice that if embraced completely, would have done wonders to strengthen the wonton script. As it was, the resulting performance was a bit of a mess, with characters falling arbitrarily in love and chasing one-another at speeds that risk audience whiplash and leave little chance for the characters to connect.
That being said, this production has several things going for it. Director Russell
Garrett and casting agents Jay Binder and Jason Styres have brought together a cast of the strongest voices you’re likely to find traveling the off-Broadway circuit. This group can belt, and All Shook Up gives them the opportunity to do just that. Many of the cast displays strong acting chops as well. Leading the pack is Dara Hartman who plays the duel roles of Natalie Heller and Ed. She pairs physical comedy and heart to make a character that is both fun and accessible. Jon Hillner, Natalie’s dad, depicts a warm, if somewhat lost, father that you can’t help but root for.
Just like Mama Mia showcases the music of Abba, this musical is a venue for Elvis songs. And it does this admirably, incorporating more than twenty of Elvis’s most famous tunes. Unfortunately, the plot leaves you with the distinct impression this is the sole reason for the play’s creation. So the bottom line is this: If you love Elvis songs, this is a must-see production; if you want a good story with Elvis in it, you might want to wait for a production of Bye-bye Birdie to come your way.