All Shook Up appeared on Broadway in 2005, the first of Joe Dipietro’s works to do so. This charming musical is currently presented by The Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) at Northwestern University Aug. 4, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The lure of songs popularized by Elvis Presley filled the theatre and brought the audience to their feet, delighted by the performance.Coming from as far away as Tinley Park and Lombard, the audience was comprised of oldsters who may have seen Elvis and youngsters who left saying which part they liked the best.
Directed and choreographed by Jeff Award-nominated Matt Raftery and music directed by award-winning Northwestern faculty member Ryan T. Nelson, All Shook Up centers on a small Midwestern 1950s town, whose rules include no tight pants, no kissing and no loud music. When a rebellious musician rides into town, the ache of budding love is set into motion, bringing to life a broken-down jukebox and the residents’ dreams of bigger things. With book by Joe DiPietro, this outrageous love story is inspired by the music of Elvis and the mistaken identities of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
The more than 25 classic Elvis songs, including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” took on an entirely new meaning as they moved the plot forward. Raftery hopes that the color, dancing and playfulness of the show will appeal to the younger generation, and commented “I think this show will make them curious about theatre and leave them wanting to come back and see more”. Judging by the audience make up and overheard audience comments, he is achieving his goal.
Some of the themes include self-identity, acceptance and racial equality. “This young rock and roll guy brings a lot of life and color to the town. He shakes up people’s emotions to the point that they are really rediscovering themselves.” As Chad (Will Carlyon) say, “Ever since I came to this town, people are falling in love.
Full disclosure, the night my husband and I were married at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, Elvis Presley was performing. Though we never saw his songs were a part of our lives and seeing them in this musical was a delight. I found the production energetic, funny and charming. The staging (William Boles), costuming (Melissa Torchia) and lighting (William Kirkham) were outstanding but the performers outdid themselves. All the voices were right on and the dancing was terrific.
Will Carlyon was a convincing Chad. Betsy Stewart as Natalie moved in and out of her roles with perfection and Gabrielle FeBland was a very strong Matilda. Other cast members included: Zachary Piser as Dennis, Eliza Palasz as Sandra, Jake Perlman as Jim, Drew Tildon as Sylvia, Christine Jones as Lorraine, Charlie Oh as Dean and Alex Christ as Earl.
All Shook Up is a perfect opportunity for families to enjoy a live production of a Broadway musical at affordable prices, with easy parking and have some relationship themes to discuss at home.
Performances continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus