Here's a Great Way to Shake Up Your Evening!
Somewhere in the Midwest in the 1950s, Chad, a hip-swiveling, guitar-playing roustabout, is being released from prison.
ALL SHOOK UP, the 2005 Elvis Presley-inspired pre-fab musical that’s pumping its pelvis at the GEM Theater for five more weeks, is a rocking, heartwarming tale about following your dreams, opening up to love, and the power of music. As one of the most upbeat and riotous musicals within the last couple of decades, the show features more than 20 hit songs immortalized by Elvis Presley, among them such iconic classics as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Can't Help Falling in Love,” and the unforgettable title tune.
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and written by Joe DiPietro, ALL SHOOK UP concerns a small, pleasure-challenged Midwestern community that is thrown into a frenzy with the arrival of a good-looking, motorcycle-riding roustabout who may best be described as an airbrushed, edgy composite replica of young Presley and Marlon Brando when he starred in “The Wild One.” Chad nonchalantly cruises into town with a guitar on his back, blue suede shoes on his feet, and a song in his heart and immediately instigates a series of love triangles.
While Chad wiles away time at the local bar, grease monkey Natalie (portrayed by the young and vibrant Giovanna Martinez; “One Night with You”) works on his bike. Natalie is immediately smitten by Chad, and theirs is the primal love story of the production.
The bar is run by the tough-talking Sylvia, played masterfully by Emily Guerrero, possessing both a hard outside and soft-hearted inside. The hefty gravitas of Ms. Guerrero is one of the show's true joys, with her bluesy inflections to power ballads like "There's Always Me" and her hard-driving rock hit,"That's All Right." She also produces dead-on comic timing, rescuing some of DePietro's corniest laugh lines. One of her regular customers is Natalie’s widowed father Jim Haller (Wyatt Buckle; “Don’t Be Cruel”), who routinely shares life’s laments with old friend Sylvia.
Dennis, the socially awkward, lovesick wannabe boyfriend of Natalie, is played by the multi-talented Matthew Rangel. Dennis always gets looked over by everyone and is constantly trying to tell Natalie how he feels about her throughout the show. He becomes quite jealous of the new roughneck in town stealing away all of Natalie’s attention, but quickly forgets about it by becoming Chad’s sidekick, loving the validation of someone finally noticing him. Mr. Rangel definitely steals his moments, and is completely adorkable in the part, showing off his singing prowess in “It Hurts Me.”
Chad (Hayden Magnum; “C’mon Everybody,” “Follow That Dream”), who can bring a broken jukebox to life with a simple touch (à la The Fonz), has a beautiful baritone crooner voice, but finds himself tongue-tied when he sees the dazzling Miss Sandra (played marvelously by Mary Desmond; “Let Yourself Go”). Sandra is the vivacious and highly intelligent manager of the local museum, and is attracted to anyone who can quote a sonnet from Shakespeare.
Learning of The Bard’s spell over her, new sidekick Dennis volunteers to deliver a Shakespearean sonnet to Sandra on Chad’s behalf to win her heart for the roustabout. But before he can do that, Natalie arrives in the guise of “Ed,” dressed like a boy so that she can at least mingle with Chad, even if he finds her unappealing. But strangely enough, Chad finds himself surprisingly attracted to “Ed.”
Meanwhile, Dean Hyde (Aaron Gibbs; “It’s Now or Never”), the upper-class son of the town’s mayor, has quickly fallen for 16-year old Lorraine, Sylvia’s daughter (played by Cassidy Love; “If I Can Dream”). Their love story portrays the “forbidden” boundary-crossing of socio-economic status (Lorraine being the lower-class and Dean being upper-class). Mr. Gibbs lights up the stage with his effervescent smile, fine singing voice, let-loose dance style, and spot-on character development. And his scenes with the equally talented Ms. Love is charming and one of the show’s highlights.
Dean’s mother, Mayor Matilda, is constantly puppy-dogged by Sheriff Earl, with both attempting to enforce the po’dunk town’s puritanical Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, which prohibits most of the frivolity for its denizens. Yes, it’s “Footloose” all over again as the town finally comes alive when Chad teaches the squares to swing. Tim Klega plays the good Sheriff, and while he is mute for most of the show, he is incredibly endearing with a number of very funny bits. Matilda, played by Nickie Gentry (“Devil in Disguise”), teeters somewhere between a cartoonish villain and someone you love to hate.
The musical's high point is a cellblock fantasy sequence for "Jailhouse Rock," which borrows imagery straight from the Presley film of that title. This may have been the most genuine homage to the King, as endorsed by the hepped-up audience in the jailhouse sequence.
So, if you’re keeping score, Chad wants Sandra but is intrigued by Ed; Dennis yearns for Natalie; Sylvia finds herself falling for Jim, who is spurned by Sandra; and Mayor Matilda’s son Dean avoids returning to military camp after meeting Sylvia's daughter Lorraine. Everyone heads for the abandoned old amusement park outside town to hide from Mayor Matilda and to pursue their happiness. Love, it seems, will conquer all this time. But what really conquers the audience are those big, fun-loving, pulse-pounding numbers that still enthrall us with the same menacing sex appeal that melted hearts a half century ago — the same ones that made Presley appear so dangerous to parents of teenagers all over America.
CELEBRATING THEIR 100TH YEAR IN GARDEN GROVE — THE GEM THEATRE, ONE MORE PRODUCTIONS — PRESENTS, ALL SHOOK UP; a 2004 American jukebox musical with music from the ELVIS PRESLEY songbook and with a book by JOE DIPIETRO. Director/Musical Director DAMIEN LORTON; Producers NICOLE CASSESO, DAMIEN LORTON & DAN BAIRD; HAROLD MENDENHALL Technical Director; BRIAN BOLANOS Make-Up Lead; JEFF SEGAL Musical Lead; JON HYRKAS Resident Lighting Designer.
WITH: HAYDEN MAGNUM as Chad; GIOVANNA MARTINEZ as Natalie Haller; EMILY GUERRERO as Sylvia; WYATT BUCKLE as Jim Haller; AARON GIBBS as Dean Hyde; MARY DESMOND as Miss Sandra; MATTHEW RANGEL as Dennis; CASSIDY LOVE as Lorraine; NICKIE GENTRY as Matilda Hyde; TIM KLEGA as Sheriff Earl. ENSEMBLE: DEREK ISAZA; JULIA IACOPETTI; ERIK DIAZ; COURTNEY HAYS; KATHY LAWSON; LIANDRA BENOIT; KARA DILLARD; MAX SEIGEL; PETER CRISAFULLI; NATE NOLEN; TROY OZUNA.
ONE MORE PRODUCTION’S “ALL SHOOK UP” runs Thursday, June 1st through Sunday, July 9th with performances at The Gem Theatre in Garden Grove. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8PM and Sundays at 2PM. Running Time with intermission approximately 2 Hours. Tickets may be purchased at www.thegemoc.com/
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report
Photo Credits: Ronnie Lyon