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|Thankyouverymuch: "All Shook Up," at the Prospect Park Auditorium through July 19|
|Theatre - Reviews|
|Written by Mike Schulz|
|Monday, 13 July 2009 06:00|
The Shakespeare-inspired Elvis Presley pastiche All Shook Up is too inconsequential and ridiculous - gloriously so - to feature anything resembling a moral. But if pressed, you could probably fashion one from the words of its motorcycle-riding hero, Chad: "It's like my daddy used to say: 'In the right light, with the right liquor, anyone can fall for anyone.'"
Get rid of the liquor, and that pretty much sums up this spectacularly silly musical/comedy, currently being presented by the Quad City Music Guild, and among the most joyous Guild shows I've yet been privileged to see. Directed by Bob Williams, it's one of those deliriously entertaining productions in which you can hardly decide whether the performers or the audience is having the better time, but I'm putting my money on the audience, because we're the ones lucky enough to experience the proceedings in full. Graced with an absolutely outstanding cast, All Shook Up is so chockablock with jokes - verbal, visual, and musical - that the only way to catch them all would be to see the show more than once. Which, by the by, wouldn't be the world's worst idea.
Using the Bard's Twelfth Night as a blueprint, author Joe DiPietro's farcical revue incorporates more than two dozen Presley hits in a comedy of unrequited love, mistaken identity, and gender confusion. And while the complications of its plot are easy to follow, a comprehensive explanation of them doesn't really require a synopsis so much as a schematic. You see, there's this mechanic named Natalie (played here by Melissa Anderson Clark). Natalie has a nerdy best friend, Dennis (J. Adam Lounsberry), who's secretly in love with her. Natalie, though, is in love with the roustabout biker, Chad (Bryan Tank). Chad, though, is in love with the prim museum curator, Sandra (Shana Lavino). Sandra, though, is in love with Chad's new best friend, Ed. And Ed is actually Natalie, who has disguised herself as a boy to get closer to Chad.
Meanwhile, Sandra is also being pursued by Natalie's father, Jim (Mike Millar), who's adored by diner owner Sylvia (Jackie Madunic), who's the mother of waitress Lorraine (Cara Chumbley), who's in love with military brat Dean (Andy Gibb Clark), who's the son of town mayor Matilda (Heidi Pederson), who's in league with town sheriff Earl (Todd Weber), whose job is to enforce the town's strict no-sex, no-deviance, and no-no-no-rock-'n'-roll edicts. And that, my friends, is All Shook Up - although, in Act II, things do get a bit more complex.
Do I even need to describe how much freaking fun this show is? Probably not, but you should definitely know that for all of its comic ingenuity, All Shook Up is just as ingenious musically. With a storyline strung together via the King's catalog, the song cues are sometimes so ready-made that you laugh (and not derisively) at their goofball obviousness, and sometimes so clever that you roar at their unanticipated perfection. (The romantically anguished "One Night with You" refrain gets more and more riotous the more it's repeated, and the sequence that intertwines "Hound Dog" with "Teddy Bear" is about as smart and witty a musical mélange as could be imagined.)
And when the song selections aren't making you giggle, they might very well be giving you the chills. The fiercely funny Madunic - as explosive here as she was playing Tina Turner for Music Guild's 2007 Beehive - brings the house down with a devastating rendition of "There's Always Me"; Pederson, whose hysterically pert comic readings seem sprinkled with gunpowder, leads a rousing "Devil in Disguise"; and Act I's "Can't Help Falling in Love" finale, sung by nearly everyone in the show's 34-person ensemble, is as harmonically breathtaking and impassioned as the first-act closer to Les Misérables, with the added benefit of being hilarious.
Conducting the show's incredibly impressive orchestra, music director David Blakey performs wonders with All Shook Up's cast, and director Williams provides plenty of wonders of his own. The staging on Dean's and Lorraine's "It's Now or Never" duet, with Lorraine furiously pedaling her bicycle to keep up with Dean's departing bus, wholly deserved its mid-song applause, and the "Let Yourself Go" number, in which a garden of statues bursts to life, was nearly as imaginative. Kathy Lafrenz's choreography, while energetic, could probably have stood to be more varied - a few of the same dance combinations are employed for a few too many different routines - but she and Williams always ensured that the cast looked plenty good when performing it.
Not that, with this cast, there was much chance of anyone looking bad. Is it totally inappropriate to suggest that Music Guild erect a statue of some kind in honor of Anderson Clark and Tank? All Shook Up proves that these dazzling Guild veterans are audience favorites for a reason, and after seeing them in numerous stage roles, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed either more than I did here: Anderson Clark, with her continually fresh, fantastically witty comic instincts and stellar vocals, Tank, with his effortless Broadway-belter panache and side-splitting faux coolness. (His Chad, who's a little too emphatic about his purported success with the ladies, is never funnier or more endearing than when he, too, begins to feel a stirring for "Ed.")
Chumbley and Gibb Clark form a delightful pair of hormone-driven dipsticks, the dryly lascivious Lavino sings with gorgeous - and understandable - confidence, and the ever-sensational Millar manages to steal a scene here without saying a word. (Approaching Sandra, his Jim prepares to speak, finds himself tongue-tied, chortles like Burt Lahr's Cowardly Lion, and makes a hasty exit, leaving the audience in stitches.) As for Lounsberry, I think I would've been content with two-plus hours solely devoted to his gawky brilliance as Dennis. After his dynamite Nazi-in-short-pants in The Producers, All Shook Up marks the second production this year to showcase Lounsberry's awesome comedic talents, and again, he's almost criminally enjoyable, offering a knockout combination of sweetness and uproarious invention.
Through absolutely no fault of his, though, Lounsberry's one solo - Act II's "It Hurts Me" - was detrimental to his overall performance on Saturday, as his body microphone hissed and spit throughout, making it sound as though the actor was singing into a very large, very disruptive ceiling fan. ("It Hurts Me" indeed.) I've never been a supporter of them, but God, how I have come to loathe body mics. Music Guild's latest is at least the third production I've seen over the last four weeks that has been seriously waylaid by hissing, snapping, cracking, and popping, and Lounsberry wasn't the only one beset by this annoyance on Saturday; at different times, Chumbley's and Madunic's mics were also ill-functioning at best. Williams' set and designer Sue Woodard's costumes look great, and God knows the cast is great, so why in heaven's name can't it all sound great? All Shook Up is too thrilling a production to have the experience hindered by sorry sound; while Pederson's mayor is outlawing romance and rock, she might also demand a removal of technical enhancements that are actually no enhancements at all.
For tickets and information, call (309)762-6610 or visit QCMusicGuild.com.
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