Players Guild’s ‘All Shook Up’ is a rockin’, dancin’ fun-filled hit
Too often, Elvis Presley is remembered via middle-aged Elvis impersonators in ill-fitting jumpsuits.
“All Shook Up,” the vigorously entertaining new musical at the Players Guild, pays tribute to the hot, 22-year-old, rock ‘n’ roll Elvis who starred in “Jailhouse Rock.”
The show isn’t about Elvis per se. It is more like one of Presley’s early movies. The storyline centers on a swaggering roustabout in tight jeans and motorcycle jacket who arrives in a quiet small town circa 1955.
All shook up is what happens to the townspeople over the next 24 hours. Women swoon at the sight of this cocky newcomer named Chad, nerdy guys grow confident from his influence, the prudish mayor wants him arrested, and some highly complicated, farcical romantic situations arise. The plot is playfully funny, and there is plenty of strong singing and athletic dancing throughout.
“All Shook Up” is akin to an Elvis jukebox, with 25 of his songs forming the musical score, among them “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Burning Love” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” The twist is that they are sung by all the various, and usually lovelorn, characters at appropriate moments in the story.
When Chad sings “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” to the only gal in town who’s immune to his charms, she fires back with “Hound Dog.” “Devil in Disguise” is sung by Mayor Matilda — revealing her own secret Chad lust — and a chorus line of old ladies with walkers. Elvis standards like “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Love Me Tender” and “If I Can Dream” fit perfectly into these multiple convoluted (and color-blind) love stories.
As Chad, Jayson Kolbicz brings solid stage presence, a strong singing voice and definite Elvis moves, but he’s also a good-natured central figure — a womanizer who craves real love, and a rebel whose simple goal is to help uptight people relax and enjoy life.
As Natalie, the tomboy mechanic who secretly yearns for disinterested Chad, talented Sarah Karam really comes to life when her character poses as a dude (named Ed) to get closer to her beloved. Resembling Elijah Wood, Karam brings a swagger all her own and sings “A Little Less Conversation” with gritty fire.
There are so many memorable performances. Teresa Houston is perfectly cast, and hilarious as ever, as the self-righteous mayor. Ruby Marie Myles exudes charisma and “American Idol”-style vocal chops as Lorraine, while Stephen Robert Carder is a veritable dancing machine as her secret boyfriend Dean.
Also winning are Brittany Dolinar as the sultry blonde who is bored by Chad’s overtures; Connor Logan Reese as the good-natured nerd hopelessly in love with Natalie; Doug Downie as Natalie’s lonely widowed father, and Eva Ashawnti Roberson as his happily single longtime friend. Each has at least one memorable vocal turn. The other townspeople all contribute solid singing; the vocal harmonies on some of the songs are rich and full.
Page 2 of 2 - The sound mix and amplification are so clear as to be invisible. The pit band, conducted by pianist Steve Parsons and featuring noteworthy rock guitar from Erin Vaughn, is excellent. The frequent choreography, by Michael Akers, is inventive and high-energy.
“All Shook Up” should appeal to all ages, from tweens raised on “Grease,” “Idol” and “Glee” to grandparents who jitterbugged to young Elvis in his heyday.
Performances run through March 17 at the Cultural Center for the Arts, with shows at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. To order tickets, visit www.playersguildtheatre.com or call 330-453-7617.
Reach Dan at 330-580-8306 or email@example.com.
On Twitter: @dkaneREP