Review by Nathan Top
Combine “Bye Bye Birdie” with “Footloose” with Shakespearanly complicated plot with the greatest hits of Elvis Presley and you get “All Shook Up.” For two hours, a bodaciously bubbly cast fills the stage, sings, swings, and swivels their hips to catchy tunes with sexually ambiguous (and often unambiguous) lyrics.
With book written by Joe DiePietro (“Memphis,” “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”), “All Shook Up” begins when the magnetically handsome rock-and-roller Chad rides into a small, dreary town with his motorcycle and flips its citizens on their heads with his Elvis-like songs, dances, and persona. While Chad finds himself smitten with the town’s new museum care-taker Miss Sandra, his charisma attracts local mechanic Natalie, who is unaware her best friend Dennis is in love with her. Love triangles become more tangled as the hilariously messy plot ‘yes-and’s itself in surprising and charming ways, eventually culminating in a surprising yet inevitable conclusion.
Filled with the “King of Rock and Roll’s” greatest hits, one of the most welcome surprises is how cool the musical arrangements are. While jukebox musicals can often resemble karaoke with a plot, arranger/orchestrators Michael Gibson (“Grease” 1978 film music arrangements) and Stephen Oremus (“Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots” vocal arrangements) do clever original settings to the iconic numbers and music director Greg Dastillung’s vocal chorus makes the vibrant harmonies sparkle. Maggie Perrino’s hip-thrusting choreography is jovial and memorable and the technical aspects of the show make for a seamless production.
Leading the cast as the attractive and engaging Chad is Matt Kreig, whose physical comedy and incredible voice are more than adequate to fill the vocally demanding role. Kyle Taylor (playing Dennis) and Leah Hall (Natalie) have wonderful best friend/unrequited crush energy (I sorta wanted them to end up together). Diana Hutchinson (Lorraine) and John Dastillung (Dean) are adorable discovering what first love is while Tia Seay (Sylvia) and Justin Glaser (Jim) give compelling performances of what love can develop over a long-time friendship. Honestly, listening to Tia Seay perform the moving ballad “There’s Always Me” is worth the price of admission alone. Katie McCarthy is outstanding as the seductive yet elusive Miss Sandra and duo Michelle and Gregory Shaffer are hilarious as the prudish Mayor Matilda Hyde and her sidekick Sheriff Earl.
The show left me drunk on laughter and exhausted from the overwhelming energy of the cast. For anyone desiring a captivating night of light-hearted fun, don’t miss out on “All Shook Up,” running now through November 14th. Tickets can be purchased here.
Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups throughout Cincinnati.