All Shook Up

Written on February 20th, 2012

All Shook Up

Book by Joe DiPietro
Featuring the music of Elvis Presley
Directed by Lee MacDougall
Choreographed by Mike Jackson
Musical direction by Anthony Bastianon
Performed by Michael Torontow, Sheldon Bergstrom, Allison Edwards-Crewe, J. Sean Elliott, Daniel Greenberg, Marisa McIntyre, Jamie McRoberts, Graham Cardiff Parkhurst, Nadine Roden, Karen Wood, and ensemble.
Stage West, Mississauga
February 9 to April 20, 2012
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Fun with Elvis on Twelfth Night

When you tell people you’re going to see a show that is a modern version Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with the music of Elvis, you are apt to get eye rolls. Shakespearean purists wonder why you would sully Twelfth Night with the likes of Elvis, while rock and roll fans wonder how you could ruin The King with a Shakespearean story. Well, not to worry, somehow the combination of the two works very well.

All Shook Up is now at Stage West as part of their dinner theatre package. The juke box musical (meaning it features pre-written pop music, not new songs) provides great fun, and the timeless plot, though predictable, offers lots of laughs. Joe DiPietro, well known for writing the Broadway hit Memphis as well as regional theatre favourites such as I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Over the River and Through the Woods, wrote the All Shook Up story.

Like Twelfth Night, it features a young woman trying to pass herself off as a guy, in order to get closer to the guy that really interests her. Along the way there are many cases of unrequited love. But unlike Twelfth Night, this comedy is set in the 1950s with a main character more reminiscent of Fonzie than Elvis. It has also borrowed the idea of reforming small town prudishness and dullness from Footloose.

Chad, the Fonzie-like character, rides into town on his motorcycle, and gets Natalie, the tom-boy mechanic to work on his bike. Natalie falls for Chad, but he only has eyes for Miss Sandra, the museum curator. Natalie’s Dad, a widower, is also smitten with Miss Sandra, but Sylvia, the restaurant owner, is interested in Natalie’s Dad, despite her protestations. Then there’s Dennis the nerd, who is Natalie’s friend – but while he’s romantically interested in her, she has no interest in him beyond their friendship. There are other romances, too, typical of Shakespeare’s comedic mix-ups.

Michael Torontow is excellent as Chad. While he can sing all Elvis hits with great intensity, he is not an Elvis impersonator. He makes the songs better suited to the story. Marisa McIntyre as Natalie enthralls us with her acting, and belts the Elvis hits. She gets the laughs, using her sundress as an oil rag, and then pulls off the transformation into a boy. Daniel Greenberg is perfect as Dennis – a complete nerd who comes into his own by the end of the show. His rendition of “It Hurts Me” is one of the show’s highlights.

Karen Wood adds comedy as the stuffy Mayor Matilda Hyde. Watching her strike fear in the hearts of the townsfolk is hilarious, especially as she is leading Sheldon Bergstrom as Sheriff Earl around. Bergstrom adds to the comedy with a surprise revelation in the second act. Allison Edwards-Crewe is a delightful 16 year old Lorraine, while Nadine Roden is charming as her mother, Sylvia. J. Sean Elliott shows excellent comedic timing as Jim Haller. His “Don’t Be Cruel” duet with Chad is hilarious. Graham Cardiff Pankhurst is a nervous young Dean, and Jamie McRoberts is the museum curator turned siren. Special mention goes out to Dawn Bergstrom for her surprise big belting voice early in Act I. Credit for making this show enjoyable goes to the ensemble of 10 with their enthusiastic dancing and dynamic singing. Choreographer Mike Jackson deserves recognition for the vibrant and energetic dance numbers.

All the Elvis favourites are included: Hound Dog, Teddy Bear, Blue Suede Shoes, Don’t be Cruel, All Shook Up, A Little Less Conversation, and more. “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” is excellent with the full company on stage for the end of Act I. Then “Burning Love” wraps up show.

It’s a great musical for just having fun, and a talented cast makes for a very entertaining evening. Plan a weekend get-away at Stage West. For $279.99 per couple, you can spend Saturday night in a suite, and enjoy a buffet dinner and the show as well as breakfast Sunday morning.

All Shook Up continues at Stage West dinner theatre in Mississauga until April 20. For packages including hotel suite, buffet dinner, show and breakfast see or call 1-800263-0684.

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