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Wagner is ‘All Shook Up’ about new production

March 13, 2009
Center Stage, By Marsha Wagner

If you want to shake, rattle and roll the night away and have a ball while you do it, then you must, must, must zip on down to the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre's latest production - "All Shook Up." This "jukebox" musical has a book written by Joe Di Pietro, who also wrote the very delightful Off Broadway hit, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." The music in this one is a mixed bag of Elvis Presley's songs.

Jukebox musicals are fairly recent pop phenomena. "Jersey Boys" and "Mama Mia" are but two fine examples of this genre. In this show Librettist DiPietro cobbled together Presley's hit songs, put them into a narrative - loosely based on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" - added a mite of the musical "Footloose," then sprinkled in smidgens of "Bye, Bye, Birdie" and a bit of "Music Man." Voila! the plot. To heat up this mix, they've stirred in some rockin' and rollin' choreography and shaken it all together the result? "All Shook Up," a humdinger of a delicious show.

The exuberant show is part camp, and part romantic farce, a crazy tale starting with a gender-bending plot (the" Twelfth Night" device) taking place in a Squaresville, small, nameless, mid western town, during the equally square 1950s. Then, one summer's day, a tall, handsome, hip-swiveling, roustabout, a motorcycling stranger named Chad (Jonathan Grunert), makes his entrance (clad in black leather jacket, tight jeans and blue suede shoes, toting a guitar), looking for a mechanic to repair his bike.

Our mechanic turns out to be a tomboy, named Natalie (brilliantly played by April Monte) whose whole life changes with a chance meeting of this man of her dreams. Chad, unfortunately, won't even give her a tumble. Natalie then disguises herself as a guy in order to get his attention. So here we have mistaken identities leading to the crazy mixed-up love complications and cross-dressing escapades leading to slapstick mix-ups bringing us to a predictable yet satisfying conclusion. The show is a gem, with lots of side-splitting tongue-in-cheek humor played against those ever-green, chart-topping hits of Elvis's, added to a story with a great big genuine heart.

Director / Choreographer Buddy Reeder fills the blue suede shoes of his interesting musical characters with spirited, triple-threat, fabulous performers. As Chad, the roustabout leading man, Grunert is to-die-for handsome, sexy and incredibly talented. His wry takes and expressions for his vain, narcissistic character are fun as well as right on, while his fabulous singing deliveries of the "King's" songs are equally well executed. Furthermore, Grunert moves like a dream and can shake his hips as well as his booty in true Elvis fashion.

Monte gives another of her amazing, stellar performances as Natalie Haller, the tomboy mechanic, who kick-starts her life from grease monkey to glamour chick in order to get her guy.

Equally impressive performances were given by Ben Martin as Dennis, Natalie's wannabe boyfriend, Hannah Zold as the sultry Miss Sandra and Andy Kopec as Jim Haller, Natalie's dad. Well-deserved kudos also must go to Chelsea Waller as Sylvia, who brought down the house every time she opened her mouth to belt out a song, be it gospel or up tune.

Special mentions for Regina Harbour playing the uptight, upright Mayor Matilda Hyde who gets all shook up by Chad's appearance in town, and her ever-loving sidekick husband, Sheriff Earl, played to the hilt by Broadway Palm's comic veteran of mirth and mayhem Paul Bernier.

Last but not least let's have a round of applause for the marvelous ensemble cast playing a variety of roles, while delivering the goods big-time with their excellent singing and dancing.

Director/Choreographer Buddy Reeder has not only done a fine job casting this show, but his direction is fast paced and gives this musical a light-hearted sensibility, just right for framing these jukebox hits easily and tastefully. Reeder also buoys up this fun-house ride of a show with energetic toe tapping, hip '50s mode Rock 'n' Roll choreography, filled to bursting with style and wit.

A lion's share of credit must also go to the spectacularly, inventive sets by Evan F. Adamson, lighting design by Russell A. Thompson and costumes by John P. White. All-in-all, the creative staff and the talented cast have given a great framework to the "King's" hit songs, artfully linking the songs to a storyline that advances both plot and characters.

So if you are an Elvis addict and are ready to shake you bootie, rattle your bones and rock out, then roll on over to the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre for your "All Shook Up" fix.

Start by calling the box office at 278-4422 to make your reservation post haste. I have a feeling that even though this show is playing till April 11th, it's is bound to sell out fast, once word of mouth gets around. When you call be sure and tell 'em Marsha sent you.

 
 

 

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