At first glance I thought this was going to be a concert production revolving around some rock ’n’ roll songs, but I hadn’t done my homework: I didn’t know that this is an established ‘jukebox musical’, with a book by Joe DiPietro, dating from 2004. There are better-known jukebox musicals using the songs of ABBA, Buddy Holly, Queen etc, but this one is based on the music of Elvis Presley, who died 40 years ago this year.
Although he (Elvis) wrote little of it himself, All Shook Up features well-known Elvis hits such as ‘Love me tender’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Hound dog’, ‘Teddy bear’, ‘One night’ and ‘Blue suede shoes’ as well as other, less well-known material. The story, on the other hand, owes a lot to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (though he nicked much of his own stuff from Boccaccio, Chaucer, Crétien de Troyes and others), including the comedic, gender-swapping confusion.
It all distils into a very coherent whole, which is excellently rendered by the P&P company, featuring Stephen Downey as Chad (the roustabout whose arrival in town is the catalyst for the action), Faye Sommerfeld as Natalie/Ed, Paul Simkin as Dennis, Rosie Luxford as Miss Sandra and a fine supporting cast. The action in the first act moves across the stage from right to left – the first scene belonging to the garage, the next to the museum and then to Sylvia’s café – while the second act takes place in the old fairground (complete with ‘tunnel of love’).
There is an excellent orchestra, who were apparently going to be ensconced underneath the stage but, due to technical complications, have to slum it with us members of the audience.
I noted the odd opening night microphone problem but on the whole I can’t praise this production enough. It is brilliant – very good indeed, with no weak performances among the majors, while the ensemble numbers in three, four or more parts of harmony fill the stage with people, sound and movement. There are many highlights, but possibly most memorable is the scene in the museum with the dancing statues. Top marks to the singers, musicians and the musical director, Adam Tuffrey, but also to the dancers (most of the cast) and debut director/choreographer, Kellie Blake.
The show runs until 13 May at 7.30, with a 2.30 matinée on Saturday. If you can – go and see it!