All Shook Up is an Elvis-Flavored Jukebox Musical

Natalie, the female Natalie, the female mechanic, immediately falls in love with Chad.

Natalie, the female Natalie, the female mechanic, immediately falls in love with Chad.

   By Pat Lindsey

If Elvis had been in the house during The Muny’s opening of All Shook Up, he would have enjoyed a hunk of burning nostalgia, because this show is definitely reminiscent of Presley’s movies–a simple plot, song after song, and great gyrating dance numbers. Elvis fans will love it for its 27 Presley tunes packed into one show, but they should not expect to see an Elvis impersonator performing them.

The story is about a sexually-charged guy named Chad who rolls into a small 1950s American town on his motorcycle to get his bike repaired. Natalie, the female mechanic, immediately falls in love with Chad, but Chad shows little interest in her until she decides to dress like a man to become Chad’s best friend and sidekick while he’s in town.

Eventually, Chad, who had been chasing after the sexy blonde museum curator Miss Sandra (Felicia Finley), is shocked to find himself attracted to “Ed,” the name Natalie gives her male persona. That’s about as complicated as the plot gets and everything else is based on budding loving affairs between seemingly mismatched couples and overturning the strict rules against music and dancing that the current mayor has instituted. Similar to The Music Man, Chad shakes up the dreary lives of the town’s residents with love and music. Their dull clothing is ripped off and replaced with bright colors and the music and dancing begins.

The show opens with “Jailhouse Rock,” because Chad (Tim Rogan) has just spent a week in jail for going from town to town playing music and exciting the women. The whole cell block breaks into pelvic contortions and the tone is set for the roustabout to play havoc with Mayor Matilda Hyde’s Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act that bans jukebox music. Tim Rogan is a perfect leather-jacketed hunk who wears blue suede shoes.

All Shook Up is a “jukebox musical” that uses an artist’s past popular music instead of original tunes. The most successful show that attempted to make a show out of an artist’s music was Mamma Mia (ABBA). Others include Jersey Boys (The Four Seasons), Moving Out (Billy Joel), and Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys). All Shook Up is also loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” in which a female character assumes a male role and another female falls in love with her.

Many of the Presley songs in the show are performed by female cast members. Natalie, brilliantly played by Caroline Bowman, sings a solo “One Night With You,” but teams up with Chad in “Follow That Dream” and “Love Me Tender.” Other big Presley hits are “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Teddy Bear,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “Burning Love.”

The lyrics of the songs chosen fit the dialogue required at certain times to advance the story. Liz Mikel, who plays Sylvia, owner of the local hangout, can really belt out the notes in several songs, including “There’s Always Me,” “That’s All Right,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and the reprise of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” I thought I knew all of Elvis’s songs, but there were a few unknown to me, such as the obscure “I Don’t Want To” from his movie, Girls! Girls! Girls!

The  creative team of Mike Isaacson  (Executive Producer) , Dan Knechtges (Director), Jessica Hartman (Choreographer), Charlie Alterman (Music Director), Greg Emetaz (Video Designer), Luke Cantarella (Scenic Designer), and John Lasiter (Lighting Designer) knows that its Muny audience can’t resist a show that bursts into living color with frequent dancing and memorable music from days gone by.

The plot might be simple, but All Shook Up gives us one night to have “A Little Less Conversation” and watch “Fools Fall in Love” as we shake, rattle and roll. To the Muny we say, “Thank you very much.”

All Shook Up is being performed nightly at 8:15 p.m. at The Muny now through July 19.


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