For many people the mark of a good musical is the ability to come out afterwards humming the songs. With jukebox musicals such as All Shook Up (the current attraction at Stage West Dinner Theatre) you’ll be humming the songs going in since they are all drawn from the catalog of hits introduced by Elvis Presley. Songs like “One Night with You”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender” and “Hound Dog.”
The book Joe DiPietro has woven around these songs is serviceable at best, and the song cues can be heard from miles away. Nevertheless when director Lee MacDougal sets his enthusiastically energetic cast loose on stage the show comes to vivid life and ultimately proves to be a great deal of entertaining fun.
When a hip-swinging, guitar-playing motorcycle-riding roustabout namedChadroars into a dreary mid-western town he creates a good deal of excitement. The town’s mayor has passed strict bylaws prohibiting loud music, public kissing and tight pants and Chad almost immediately challenges all three. Natalie, the local mechanic is a wiz with engines but not so lucky in love. Chad prefers a more feminine kind of woman, and to learn what he wants Natalie disguises herself as a boy named Ed who becomes Chad’s sidekick. As Chad finds himself inexplicably attracted to Ed it sets up a good deal of confusion in his head and heart.
Michael Torontow make’s Chad’s confusion amusing while avoiding homophobic stereotypes. He has the requisite looks to make such a charismatic character plausible and he sings with a fiery passion that does the classic songs proud. As Natalie, Marisa McIntyre serves up some touching pathos as the motherless girl searching for love and adventure.
There are a number of sharp bright performances by the ensemble cast members notably Allison Edwards-Crewe as Lorraine, and Nadine Roden as her mother Sylvia. Roden makes a meal out of this supporting role. Her snappy retorts are delivered in sass and class making you eagerly await her ever appearance.
Daniel Greenberg brings touching sincerity to the role of the studious Dennis who has a crush on Natalie. He watches forlornly as she falls for Chad, but in consolation winds up with town librarian Miss Sandra played with spunk by Jamie McRoberts. The supporting roles are all performed with this kind of conviction. It is as if the cast were playing Shakespeare, which indeed they are since certain elements of the plot are borrowed from the play Twelfth Night.
We have seen other story elements before in everything from Bye Bye Birdie to Footloose, however, the bouncy staging serves the story and the music well. Music director Anthony Bastianon keeps the energy level high and also helps the cast deliver an especially gorgeous choral arrangement of “Can’t help Falling in Love” to conclude the first act.
If the mere mention of the song titles gets you humming the tunes, All Shook Up is a show for you.
All Shook Up runs at Stage West Dinner Theatre until April 20. For information or to book the dinner & show packages go to www.stagewest.com or call 905-238-0042.