Theatre Mirror Reviews"All Shook Up"

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entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone

"All Shook Up"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Bill Hanney's North Shore Music Theatre is "All Shook Up".An uproarious new musical comedy featuring the unforgettable hits of Elvis Presley, "All Shook Up" is loosely based on William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". It tells the story of a guitar playing roustabout Chad who rides into a struggling square Midwest town and changes it forever with the power of love and rock-and-roll. This musical comedy was written by Joe DiPietro. The show takes place in 1955 and tells the romantic tale of how a young girl's dream comes true when Chad rides in on his motorcycle and turns the town upside down with his hip-swiveling, lip curling and sexy song singing. It features 24 Elvis classic hit songs including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Jailhouse Rock", "Blue Suede Shoes", "It's Now or Never" and "Don't Be Cruel". The basic storyline is about the mayor of the town, Matilda Hyde banning necking and having fun because it is a sin. Chad brings the town back to life. He pursues the town sexpot, Miss Sandra who can't stand him while sweet grease monkey, Natalie pines for him. Nerdy Dennis is secretly in love with Natalie while her father lusts after miss Sandra. Sylvia is secretly in love with Natalie's dad while her daughter, Lorraine falls in love with the Mayor's son, Dean and the hen pecked sheriff, Earl is secretly in love with the Mayor. These songs are woven into the story line about love finding rock and roll. This energetic musical is directed by Russell Garrett with musical direction by Anne Shuttlesworth and topnotch choreography by Kiesha LaLama. This marvelous high energy show is rewarded with a standing ovation at curtain call.

Russell's powerful direction keeps the show in constant motion and he obtains the best performances from his cast. Anne who I last reviewed as music director of "Tarzan" brings out the best in their vocals with the harmonic blends and tempos of the numbers especially "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "All Shook Up" while she plays the keyboards and conducts her 10 piece orchestra. Kiesha works her magic on the cast with terrific choreography including the twist and other fifties style dances. The group numbers are marvelous and beautifully performed by the talented cast. This cast is lead by Joyce DeWitt as Mayor Matilda Hyde, the loudmouth domineering mayor. She is most widely known as Janet Wood in "Three's Company". She is a whirling dervish as she commands her constituents to obey her every whim. Joyce is a hoot in this role and is terrific as this overbearing woman. She belts out her solo "Devil in Disguise" which is about Chad being an evil presence in the town. The leading man of the show is Ryan Overberg as Chad. It was as if this part was written for him. I last reviewed him as Conrad Birdie last month in "Bye Bye Birdie". He is tall, dark and handsome and is a triple threat performer who can act, sing and dance up a storm. Ryan swivels his hips and curls his lips as a perfect embodiment of Elvis. He sells his many songs perfectly with his terrific voice including "Jailhouse Rock", with a show stopping rousing dance with him leading the cast, "Roustabout" when he rides into town on his motorcycle, C'mon Everybody" where he restarts the jukebox to bring life back into town, "Follow That Dream" and "Love Me Tender" with Dara as Natalie and "All Shook Up" with the company and the finale "Burning Love" with Dara and the whole cast. His most poignant song is "If I Can Dream" when Chad realizes he loves Natalie. Ryan is a marvelous performer who delivers the goods fantastically in his dream role. Bravo!

His leading lady in this show is played by Dara Hartman. She plays auto mechanic, Natalie who is always dressed in work clothes expect when she wants to impress Chad, she wears a dress with a big grease stain on it. Finally her best friend, Lorraine gives her a lovely feminine outfit to wear. Natalie disguises herself as Ed so she can hang out with Chad more often. However due to mistaken identity ala "Twelfth Night", Miss Sandra falls in love with Ed. Dara does a fantastic job as the girl dressed as a boy but really is a girl role. She displays her lovely soprano voice in "One Night With You'' when she falls in love with Chad, "Love Me Tender" and "Follow That Dream'' lovely ballads with Ryan, "A Little Less Conversation" and "Fools Fall in Love" when Natalie thinks she has lost Chad forever. This last song brings the audience to tears with its poignancy and her soulful rendition of it. Paul Sabala plays the nerdy, Dennis who is madly in love with Natalie. He is splendid in this role and displays his powerful singing voice in many group numbers as well as in "C'mon Everybody" and "Teddy Bear/Hound Dog"but shows off his strong tenor range in his solo number, "It Hurts Me". Paul's acting and dancing are topnotch, too as he tugs at the heartstrings of the audience as the likeable underdog who can recite Shakespearean sonnets. The sexy blonde vamp Miss Sandra is wonderfully played by Coleen Sexton. She oozes sex appeal and displays her strong soprano voice in "Hound Dog' when she kicks Chad to the curb. Coleen also delivers powerhouse renditions of "Let Yourself Go" with the statues dancing in it and "The Power of My Love" with Chad and Natalie's father, Jim. She is the museum curator who loves being wooed by a man who spouts Shakespeare.

John Hillner is hilarious as Natalie's father. He is desperate to have Miss Sandra fall in love with him. Jim dresses up in a leather jacket and blue suede shows and takes lessons from Chad in how to swivel his hips. John shows off his voice in many songs including "Can't Help Falling in Love with You". However the gal of his dreams has been under his nose all these years It's Sylvia who has a hard nose exterior but is a marshmallow underneath. Jannie Jones is dynamite in this role and so is her voice which soars in "Heartbreak Hotel" with the barflies, the duet "That's All Right" and in the tear jerking, "There's Always Me", a solo jazz number which brings down the house and tears to the audience eyes. Sylvia's feisty high spirited daughter, Lorraine is excellently played by LaQuet Sharnell who also has a dynamic voice which she uses in the duet "That's All Right" and in the tender love song "It's Now or Never" with Eric Hatch who plays Dean, the mayor's son. She rides a bicycle ala Elvira Gulch from "Wizard of Oz" in that scene. He wears a military uniform and is red headed and handsome, making Lorraine swoon the first time she meets him. Eric does a great job in this comic role which becomes more romantic as the show goes on. He displays his strong singing voice in "Can't Help Falling in Love With You" with LaQuet and the chorus as well as "If I Can Dream" with Ryan and LaQuet. I last reviewed Eric seven years ago at NSMT in "Fame". Dean's loudmouth mother, the overbearing mayor is finally put in her place by the hen-pecked sheriff, Earl who has been in love with her for fifteen years. Earl is played with gusto by J.T. Turner where Earl becomes the mouse who roars finally bringing rock and roll back into town. Kudos to the entire cast on a magnificent show. So for a fun filled trip back to 1955, be sure to catch "All Shook Up". This high energy, sensational must see show of this summer will leave you dancing in the aisles. Tell them Tony sent you.

"All Shook Up" (14 - 26 August)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide