If there were more justice in the world of Broadway theater, All Shook Up 
would now be in its third year of playing there to standing ovations.  It has a 
clever and very funny book by Joe DiPietro. Ken Robertson and Sergio Trujillo 
came up with a bunch of sensational dances.  It featured a truly star-making 
performance by Cheyenne Jackson and an equally stellar supporting cast.  
Most notable of all, it was built around two dozen songs made famous by Elvis 
Presley, in other words, some of the most recognizable, hummable hits ever on 
a Broadway stage.

Sadly, All Shook Up was the victim of prejudice, the very sin it so slyly preaches 
against. Broadway critics (and the Tonys) had it out for so-called “jukebox” 
musicals (shows built around the oeuvre of a particular composer or artist, a la 
Mamma Mia) and decided to make an example of All Shook Up. No matter 
that its book could just as easily have worked with original songs.  No matter 
that Elvis’s songs were particularly appropriate for a Broadway musical. (After 
all, there were so many of them to pick from, and they represented some of 
the finest work of large group of composers.)  No matter the enthusiastic 
reaction of audiences who LOVED this show. The critics were in a bad mood, 
the Tony committee snubbed Elvis, the producers didn’t know how to 
overcome this one-two punch, and Broadway audiences paid the price.

But wait, there’s a happy ending after all!  Precisely because All Shook Up  
didn’t get the Broadway run it deserved, regional theaters haven’t had to 
wait (as they still are for Mamma Mia) for the rights to stage this show, and 
Musical Theatre West audiences are the lucky winners here.

Steven Glaudini has staged All Shook Up with the same inspiration and flair 
that he brought to The Pajama Game, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Full 
Monty. Lee Martino’s dances are every bit the equal of the Broadway 
originals, and maybe even better.  A cast of some of our finest local talent 
make the dozen lead roles completely their own, backed up by sixteen 
magnificent triple-threat singer/dancer/actors.  

In a word, All Shook Up is a Hit with a capital H!

Joe DiPietro’s book borrows inventively from Shakespeare, yet centers itself 
around a character Elvis himself might have played in one of his 1960s movies. 
Chad (the Elvis role) is even referred to more than once as a Roustabout, the 
title of an Elvis flick in case you didn’t know. 

Leather-jacketed Chad arrives on his motorcycle one day in “a small, you-
never-heard-of-it town somewhere in the Midwest” in 1955, and the dull, go-
nowhere lives of its citizens are never the same again.  Tomboy Natalie falls 
head-over-heels for Chad and decides to disguise herself as a guy named 
“Ed”, the better to get closer to him (Chad not seeming to know that Natalie 
is alive). This sets off a chain of unrequited loves that Shakespeare would have 
been proud to create.  Chad falls for the new woman in town, the sexy/brainy 
museum proprietress Miss Sandra, as does Natalie’s father Jim, who is loved 
from afar by Sylvia. Miss Sandra only has eyes for “Ed.”  Meanwhile, geeky 
Dennis pines after Natalie, who started the whole thing when she got it into 
her head to dress in male drag.  Only Dean and Lorraine have the good 
fortune of falling in love with each other, but Lorraine (Sylvia’s daughter) is 
black and theirs is a forbidden love, especially since Dean’s mother is the bossy 
mayor, who along with her closed-mouth sidekick Sheriff Earl, patrols the town 
enforcing the “Mamie Eisenhower Public Decency Act” (no singing, no 
dancing, no touching, no kissing, and certainly no interracial love).  Gay love 
would also be forbidden if anybody in the town knew that such a thing 
existed, a conundrum for the previously 100% heterosexual Chad when he finds 
himself attracted to “Ed.” Got that?

All Shook Up opens with “Jailhouse Rock” (moved up from Act 2 for the 
National Tour in a savvy decision to start the show with a bang), our hero 
Chad swiveling his hips with backup provided by jail-uniformed fellow inmates 
and a bevy of black-and-white striped mini-dress wearing prisonerettes doing 
Vegas-ready high kicks). Chad has spent the night in jail, you see, for exciting 
the town’s women.  “And we don’t like our women excited,” the guard 
informs him upon his release.

The scene then switches to Sylvia’s honky-tonk, where its drab denizens living 
drab lives sing about a night in “Heartbreak Hotel,” which as you may recall is 
“down on a street called Loneliness.”  Chad’s unexpected arrival causes 
women to faint in his presence and have to be dragged away (a running 
gag).  Soon the citizens aren’t looking (or feeling) so drab anymore and when 
Mayor Matilda catches them (gasp!) dancing, she exclaims in horror, “Well, it 
looks like there’s been a whole lot of shaking going on!”  And there has been 

Grease-monkey Natalie, whose philosophy heretofore has been “Why wear a 
dress when you can use it to clean an engine,” now dons feminine garb to pull 
Chad’s attention away from Miss Sandra, but to no avail. Chad only has eyes 
for Miss S., telling her with a seductive growl, “Everything you say makes me 
sweat.”  When Natalie transforms herself into “Ed” in order to become the 
Roustabout’s sidekick, Miss Sandra finds that there is indeed a reason (named 
“Ed”) to stick around town.  Who said the course of love ever ran smooth?

DiPietro’s book is chock packed with laughs, some straight out of the Elvis 
songbook, as when Chad tells Dennis, “What I’m searching for is the highest 
form of love—Burning Love!”  Other lines are just plain laugh-out-loud funny. 
Miss Sandra tells “Ed”, “Quote Shakespeare and you can peel me like a 
banana.” When Mayor Matilda tells Chad to leave town, or else, he replies, “A 
man doesn’t leave when he’s threatened.  He hides.”  There’s also this bit of 
wisdom: “Like my daddy used to say, ‘In the right light with the right liquor, 
anyone could fall for anyone.’”  Remember that the next time you feel 
desperate for love.

DiPietro also deserves credit for having created a clever and cohesive book 
around a bunch of prewritten songs, and making them fit his plot as well as his 
plot fits them.  Chad tells Natalie, who dreams of getting on her motorbike and 
seeing the world, to “Follow That Dream.”  When Lorraine reveals to Dean that 
she’s never been kissed, he tells her in a song, “It’s Now Or Never.”  When “Ed” 
gets tired of all talk, no action from Chad, “he” sings out “A Little Less 
Conversation.” And when Mayor Matilda tries to alert her fellow citizens to the 
danger Chad poses to their white bread community, she warns them musically 
that he’s the “Devil In Disguise.”

Of course, all of this excellence would mean nothing without the right 
performers to make it come alive, something which the Broadway cast had in 
spades, but which was somewhat lacking in the National Tour. MTW’s 
production remedies that with 12 powerhouse stars.

Derek Keeling has Chad’s swagger and sex-appeal down pat, is handsome as 
all get out, and can sing, dance, and act up a storm.  Notice the comic chops 
he displays when a confused Chad waxes poetic about “Ed.” Natalie is a role 
Bets Malone was born to play, with her mix of tomboy/girlishness and gloriously 
unique soprano, and Malone is endearing as can be in scenes like the one 
where Natalie does her best (and still fails) to be sexy.  

Barry Pearl brings comedic flair, a fine voice, and decades of musical theater 
experience to the role of Jim, and as Sylvia, Gwen Stewart is not only sassy, she 
brings her exquisitely silken tones to the shiver-producing “It’s Always Me.”

Another reason to cheer—Altar Boyz and Zanna Don’t’s LA Drama Critics’ 
Circle Best Actor nominee Danny Calvert is back in L.A., channeling his inner 
nerd (and a bit of Pee Wee Herman) as lovestruck Dennis, and singing the 
bejesus  out of “It Hurts Me” as only he can.  Sabrina N. Sloan and newcomer 
Tristan Rumery are charmers as interracial love pioneers Lorraine and Dean, 
and both have charisma and talent to spare as well as bright futures in 
musical theater.

Cynthia Ferrer proved in MTG’s Blood Brothers that she can do (and sing) 
“dramatic” as well as anyone around, but here she returns to her comic roots 
as uptight Mayor Matilda.  No one does quirky better than Ferrer!  Her sidekick 
in sin-prevention is John Massey, almost unrecognizable under his sheriff’s hat 
and mustache, and drolly wordless until an eleventh hour delight of a surprise.

Finally, in a performance that is a revelation, Tracy Lore reinvents herself as 
sultry sex siren Miss Sandra.  In a Double Indemnity blonde wig and low-cut 
dresses which bring out the Va-Voom within, she is scarcely recognizable as the 
same actress who played the very proper wife Vicki in The Full Monty.  Lore is 
excellent no matter what role she plays. Here she is downright sensational, 
singing up a storm with the seductive “Let Yourself Go” and delivering lines like 
“Throw me to the ground and start me like a Chevy” in a way that even Mae 
West would envy. Award voters, take note and score high!

The terrific ensemble is comprised of Jennifer Bishop, Brian Conway, Laura D’
Andre, Robert Laos, Allison Little, Morgan Matatoshi, Katherine McLaughlin, Jill 
Morrison, Melissa Emile Paris, Jeffrey Parsons, Leigh Scheffler, Daniel Smith, 
Rocklin Thomas, Kyle Vaughn, Charlie Williams, and Kaci Wilson.  A+ to all!

Finally, and pivotal to the success of All Shook Up, are the here uncredited 
vocal arrangements of Broadway whiz kid Stephen Oremus.  Grievously 
overlooked by the Tonys, Oremus created some of the most glorious harmonies 
you will ever hear on a musical theater stage, making each Elvis hit sound 
brand new. The final minute of the Act 1 closer, “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” is 
quite possibly the most sublimely beautiful 60 seconds of song I have ever 
heard. All right, I may be exaggerating, but no wonder the lights go down on 
Act 1 to cheers usually heard at the final curtain.

Musical director Michael Borth and the MTW orchestra bring the Elvis songs 
beautifully to life. Jean-Yves Tessier’s lighting and Julie Ferrin’s sound design 
contribute to the magic of All Shook Up, as do costume designer David C. 
Wollard’s original Broadway creations. Only original Broadway designer David 
Rockwell’s much scaled down National Tour sets, used here, do not come up 
to the usual MTW standards.  (In one scene, the Carpenter Center’s stage is 
bare but for a lone Greek pillared museum façade stage left.)

But with everything else going for it, All Shook Up is a triumph for Musical 
Theatre West, for Executive Director/Producer Paul Garman, and for Steven 
Glaudini, director extraordinaire. Get your tickets for All Shook Up now. With 
the rave reviews and word-of-mouth this show is likely to inspire, and its three 
week run ending all too soon on March 9, many performances are sure to sell 
out. Trust me on this one.  Order now.

Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach.

–Steven Stanley
February 23, 2008
Photos: Ambrose Martin

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