All Shook Up – a Broadway hit musical – is a melding of elements from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with 24 Elvis Presley songs and it is clear from the fun and wit in the well-written script why it should be so popular. Even more importantly here, this American High School Festival production from El Camino High School, is itself rather delightful.
Unsurprisingly, given that this is a school production, there is a need for greater physical support for the singing voices and somewhat stronger acting ability, but this requires training beyond school level and the quality already on show speaks very well for the education these pupils have already received. There is plenty of effort, energy, spark and dynamism, with some fine natural voices and a few who have strong comic timing skills as well.
The tale involves the affect of an attractive Elvis-like ‘roustabout’ on a small town, challenging rigid laws imposed on relationships and entertainment. There are stock comic characters and a lot of unrequited love situations that involve misunderstandings, gender disguises and some moments of genuine pathos within all the comedy. The script cleverly uses Shakespeare’s incidents and sometimes assigns the modern equivalent of his lines to character’s other than the obvious ones, as when Dennis the future dentist speaks of ‘one that might love you’ to his love, Natalie the mechanic (well-played and sung by Helena Marie Woods), when she is in fact the equivalent of the character, Viola, that originally has this speech in Twelfth Night. Oh, and she is – of course – in love with someone else, and disguised as a boy. Naturally.
Decent choreography and singing – without personal mikes, which is pretty impressive and quite a relief – moves the action on well, and while a couple of the principals took some time to warm into their voices, characters are clearly portrayed and entertaining. Matt Berry truly shone as Dennis due to great comic characterisation and timing, along with genuine feeling, including while singing. Strong support with a charming ease was provided by David Eseroma as Natalie’s father and Jessica Duron, as the woman running the local Honky Tonk, combines witty delivery with a voice worth further training.
All Shook Up provides entertaining musical fun, is well written with some classic Elvis songs decently delivered and is a worthwhile achievement from a committed young company. The program notes include quotes on excellence that are definitely worth a read and this production shows that the pursuit of excellence produces fine results.
By Danielle Farrow
9-13 August (not 10), varying times (duration 1hr20) @ Church Hill Theatre