Highly Recommended **** This is a show that is getting its rating based on the production itself and the talent that is utilized by Theatre at the Center for its rebirth of the Rock N’ Roll Broadway Musical. “All Shook Up”. With a book by Joe Dipietro based on the work of William Shakespeare “Twelfth Night”, and using the songs of the one and only ,Elvis Presley, “All Shook Up” is in fact , an inane love story that takes place in a small town, perhaps somewhere in Indiana ( maybe even Munster), where the Mayor (Iris Lieberman who truly has a ball playing her role) has banned Rock and Roll music among other items that make the town one to get out of rather than one to grow up in. The time is 1955. There is a young girl with big dreams, Natalie (delightfully played by the delicious Callie Johnson) who is by trade an auto mechanic. Into town rides a motorcycle guy, Chad (deftly handled by David Sajewich, who creates his own persona, not imitating Elvis in any way) in black leather who can make music and women swoon. His bike is making weird noises, so Natalie (one of his swooners) says she can repair it.
The entire town falls into the trap of this “roustabout”, as he is called, but as the play progresses, despite a great number of mistaken identities (a typical Shakespeare ploy in his plays) everyone in this godforsaken town, who has been lonely, seems to find love as we are treated to some of the greatest Presley songs performed in some unique ways. From the opening number of “Jailhouse Rock” where Chad is let out of the county jail and hops on his bike to hit the road, through “Heartbreak Hotel”, “That’s All Right”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” ( a great end to the first act as the entire love struck cast handles portions of this song).
Act Two begins with the old fairgrounds (set by Richard and Jacqueline Penrod) and some super projections (Guy Rhodes, who also handles the lighting) and the title song “All Shook Up” where the entire town explodes as they tell their story of falling in love. Of course, the mayor tells us that Chad is “The Devil in Disguise” and we learn later that “Fool Fall In Love” as they reach their “Burning Love”. 25 Elvis songs, done with great style as directed by Danny Herman (who also does the choreography) and Bill Pullinsi. As I said at the very onset, the script of this show almost could be that of a high school annual revue that makes the songs of Presley fit into a story. Yet, it does work.
In fact, this rendition is far superior to the previous ones that played in other area theaters in that the directors evidently let their people have fun with the story, the music and their characters. While the play addresses inter-racial dating and even homosexuality , it is done in a respectful and comedic way- the audience on opening night loved every minute, and so will you. I have always said that a musical relies on the ensemble to work its magic and I always find that the talent assembled at Theatre at the Center fill this bill to perfection. Performers Steve Silver, Bethany Thomas (the amazing Bethany Thomas),Sharriese Hamilton, the adorable Justin Brill, Matthias Austin, Patrick Tierney, the vivacious Allison Sill, Julie Baird, Johnson Brock, Caitlin Borek, Brian M. Duncan, Kayla Kennedy, Eric A. Lewis, Reneisha Jenkins, John Marshall, Jr., Annelise Baker and Henry McGinniss are amazing talents, each and every one- they make this production work!
William Underwood and his six piece orchestra truly make great music, never overpowering the performers, allowing us to hear every word of the songs that we came to hear. Kevin Barthel did a great job with the wigs and I was quite happy to see that he did not try to do the typical pony tail seeing as this was the 1950’s. There were many hair styles during the “Elvis years”. Brenda Winstead’s costumes were dazzling and simple, which is not an easy task and we should also do a tip of the hat to Brittney O’Keefe for her props. If you loved the music of Elvis, you will adore this show. If you enjoy a fun evening (or afternoon) of great music and solid performance, you will truly find th etrip south of the border worth the drive (roughly 35 minutes from the loop).
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
There are also some selected Saturday matinees and Thursday evening performances (check website for these).
Tickets range from $40-$44 (a value for theater of this quality) and there is plenty of FREE Parking.
To order your tickets call the box office at 219-836-3255 or visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “All Shook Up”