By Joe Dipietro
It’s 1955, and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything and everyone he meets in this hip-swiveling, lip-curling musical fantasy that will have you jumpin’ out of your blue suede shoes with such classics as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Don’t be Cruel.”
Talk-backs are to take place after the performances on Sunday, March 13th, and Friday, March 18th.
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The Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica presents ALL SHOOK UP, a musical tale about a rebel rousing young man, the young woman that falls for him, and the town that sets its own rules, far removed from the rules that the stranger holds.
It’s 1955, an era where rock and roll would become the new sound in music. Chad (Christopher Paul Tiernan II), a rebel without a cause, has recently been sprung out of the joint. He takes his motorcycle and heads on toward a small town located in that middle of nowhere. In need for a mechanic to perform a repair on his bike, he meets Natalie (Zoe D’Andrea), the daughter of Jim (Larry Gesling) who owns the local garage. Natalie is a rebel in her own right since she’s a mechanic at the same garage. But she holds similar notions as Chad, known as the “Roustabout”, to dream of the open road as well as following one’s dreams. Meanwhile, the town run by the stogy Mayor Matilda Hyde (Jewel Greenberg) has a pair of important rules for its citizens to follow: No loud music and no indecent behavior! And there are the townsfolk themselves. Mayor Hyde’s son Dean (Joseph Monsour) falls for Lorraine (Flynn Hayward) the daughter of Sylvia (Brittney S. Wheeler), the owner of the town’s diner Although Lorraine is “colored”, that notion doesn’t phase the couple. But there are other romances and issues to deal with, and Chad knows that music, even if it’s rock ‘n roll, can place this sad little village back to life and enhance its passion and romantic appeal.
This stage musical with a book by Joe Dipietro, takes upon two sources to make this show what it is. The story itself is based upon The Bard’s (i.e. William Shakespeare) time tested play Twelfth Night, and uses a musical score of tunes made famous by The King (i.e. Elvis Presley). Although the setting takes place when Elvis was beginning to be a musical sensation and the community (never named) could be a hamlet located somewhere in the America south (Tupelo, Mississippi perhaps?), Elvis himself is never named nor referenced to. However, the lead character Chad as performed by Christopher Paul Tiernan II, plays his role as first part Elvis, and second part James Dean, as both were unique, cool, and became legions during their time and long after. But the plot of this story isn’t so much the center point. What makes this musical appealing is its ensemble cast, as well as how each cast member can sing and dance! (Some sing better than they can dance and vice versa!) The song roster runs the gambit from Elvis’s younger days such as Jailhouse Rock, That’s All Right, Teddy Bear, as well as the title tune, to his more mature period. (Burning Love, If I Can Dream, etc.) Each song flows with the story line that boasts a charming selection of comical characters set upon those Elvis hits! And the tunes selected during each scene do fit the bill!
The robust ensemble cast as presented on the Morgan-Wixson stage also includes Paul Loma as Dennis, an awkward young man who holds a secret crush for Natalie, Alicia Reynolds as Miss Sandra, the owner of the local museum who Chad has an eye for, Matthew Artson as Sheriff Earl, who is suppose to enforce Mayor Hyde’s rules, Eileen Cherry O’Donnell as Henrietta, backed up with a team of others that personate a healthy selection of the dancing and back up vocals! (Room doesn’t allow to list all of those players by individual name, but trust this writer: They were all great!!) Nell Teare & Kristi Slager provides the choreography, along with Anne Gesling’s transcribed musical direction. Kristie Rutledge showcases the period costuming, and Lidiya Korotko furnishes the set design.
Directed by Nell Teare, ALL SHOOK UP is a very amusing and lively showpiece. Granted, it is what’s known in the theater industry as a “jukebox musical”. But that doesn’t suppress the fact that all the pieces in this stage show work well with one another, and provides the moral that love, as well as the spirit of music–even if that music is rock and roll, does conquer all! Also consider the other fact that rock ‘n roll has been around for some sixty plus years, and love has been around since day one. Indeed, the musical part has to catch up with the love notion. Then again, as Willy S. once said (or wrote), “The Play’s The Thing”, and ol’ EP would add, “Thunkathunkayaverymuch!”