Nikki White and Logan O'Neill in All Shook Up. Photo by Don Walker.
There could conceivably be thousands of ways to weave the songs of Elvis Presley into a stage musical, but the one playwright Joe DiPietro devised for All Shook Up is a particularly successful one—fun both to watch and to hear.
DiPietro took an Elvis-like character (the motorcycle-riding, hip-swiveling Chad, played by Logan O’Neill in this PLATO
production at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre) and plunked him down in 1950s small-town America—a town where public necking, rock ‘n’ roll and other forms of indecency are forbidden by the strict mayoress (Helen Holliday). Of course Chad will indeed shake things up, especially in the heart of grease monkey Natalie (Nikki White), who falls for him instantly, thereby depressing her best-friend-wannabe-boyfriend Dennis (Jason Kimble).
But Chad falls just as instantly (and when this happens, it’s always to the opening blare of One Night With You) for the town’s somewhat snooty but sexy museum director, Miss Sandra (Alana Opie). Oddly enough, she’s unaffected by him, seeking a more literary suitor. Meanwhile Natalie decides the best way to get close to Chad is to become his male sidekick, Ed, donning a ridiculous hunting hat and applying an equally ridiculous fake facial stubble, a la Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
There are plenty of other romances going on, too, like the interracial one between the mayor’s overprotected son (Craig Weiskerger) and the daughter (Jaszy McAllister) of the owner of the town’s honky tonk café (Ariel Blue), who in turn discovers she has a thing for Natalie’s widowed dad (Jared Weldon). It really does have the marks of one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, just with the addition of all those great Elvis tunes like That’s All Right, It’s Now or Never, Blue Suede Shoes and Can’t Help Falling in Love.
When you open a show with an iconic rock tune like Jailhouse Rock, you’ve really got to come on strong, and the opening night beginning of All Shook Up was too tentative to have the impact it should have. But things quickly began to gel, as we discovered the true nature of the town with a rendering of Heartbreak Hotel and, eventually, moved into other forcefully sung ensemble numbers that played to the strengths of the cast. Act II was especially entertaining, with O’Neill at his most engaging in the comic confusion that ensues when he realizes his attraction to the “male” Ed. You can imagine what that would have meant to a 1950s stud.
Director Kyle Turoff has managed her cast capably for maximum effect, whether it’s Blue giving good sass, Opie turning up the sexual heat on Let Yourself Go or even just timing well the silent, gruff responses of sheriff Earl (Ben Turoff), the mayor’s accomplice in her decency crusade. At times you may want the small orchestra to come across a little more loudly and energetically on these beloved rock tunes. But in general you should find yourself, to paraphrase some of the lyrics to the show’s title tune, “a little mixed up but feeling fine.”
All Shook Up
continues through Sept. 2; call 366-5454 or go to platoarts.org