By Nancy Oliveri
All Shook Up, the last show of the Cider Mill Playhouse’s 2012-2013 season, is a hunk-a-hunk-a burning love story fashioned around some of the Elvis Presley’s most memorable tunes, strung together by Joe DiPietro in a plot that is a funny, topical, gender-bending and a small town civics lesson to boot. In the show, which opened Thursday (June 6), the residents of a Midwestern town where nothing happens are all shook up by the arrival of a hip swingin’, song singin’ “roustabout,” Chad (Chad McCallon), who catches the eye of every girl (and guy) in town. And they all want a piece of him, in one way or another.
Elvis’ persona will always be something that good-looking actors with flexible hips, sensuous lips and a deep velvet voice will always want to try at least once, and for this show, I’m glad McCallon attempted it. He has a beautiful voice with a tremendous range.
On opening night, it took a couple of songs for him to warm up to a perfect Presley pitch, but he definitely got there and added humor to the role by exaggerating Elvis-style mannerisms.
The fun was already well underway when a grease monkey gal, Natalie (Jackey Good), who also sings like a nightingale, poses as a guy to get Chad to pay even a tiny bit of attention to her. Natalie, dressed as “Ed,” inadvertently arouses the passions of the bookish but very sexy museum curator, Miss Sandra (Christine Zavakos). It’s complicated, but not impossible to follow. Even if you know what’s about to happen, you still want to see how all the characters get there.
The good-sized cast manages three or four subplots that work to tie it up neatly, borrowing at times from Twelfth Night and even a little Cyrano De Bergerac. Aside from the biker dude, tomboy mechanic and sexy museum lady, you also have your town decency advocate, Mayor Matilda (Jessica Pullis), and her sidekick, Sheriff Earl (David Hamme); a widowed dad, Jim (Brad Morgan); a nerd, Dennis (Josh Sedelmeyer); a pair of hopeful, star-crossed teens, Lorraine and Dean (Imani Pearl Williams and Luke Hobak), who as easily could have been the stars, … and several dancing bobby soxers.
The show has lots of moments that are easier on the eyes, frankly, than on the ears, and on opening night, it also experienced a couple wardrobe malfunctions having to do with broken zippers and too much seam in a notable pair of stockings. But it also features many satisfying solos and ensemble numbers, choreographed by Michael Susko.
In the Cider Mill’s cabaret style set-up, with tables and chairs encircling the stage, it is never easy for everyone to hear and see everything, so you need to depend on the actors to compensate. Jan DeAngelo’s five piece orchestra almost drowned out some of the less powerful voices, but microphone adjustments have probably solved that.
The show’s lively numbers include the familiar Jailhouse Rock, complete with bars and black and white striped convict costumes; Blue Suede Shoes, Don’t be Cruel, Love Me Tender, Burning Love, Hound Dog and many more. In one of the sweeter moments, each of the principals takes a line or two from I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You and sings in soliloquy as they decide it is time to make their feelings known to their beloved.
Resisting their feelings in the pre-civil rights 1950s setting of the show, Natalie’s dad, Jim, and his friend Sylvia (Shanice Hodge) are clearly meant to be together. Morgan is very funny as he tries to copy Chad’s leather-clad youthfulness, and Hodge is compelling as she ponders the odds of Jim’s falling, at last, in love with her while making fun of his attempt to look sexy. You root for these two from the start.
Bottom line: If you like Elvis and a good stage show, All Shook Up is for you. To borrow from the title of another Elvis song featured in the show, Let Yourself Go.
IF YOU GO: Showtime is at 8:15 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through June 30; also, 4 p.m. June 29. Tickets are $28 Fridays, $29 Saturdays, $26 at other times ($10 for Sundays and matinees for ages 18 and younger when accompanied by an adult; $25 Thursdays, Sundays and matinees for students and those 65 and older). Tickets are available by calling 748-7363. The box office is open noon to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and until curtain time.