New York City Theater
"All Shook Up"
Elvis is ba-a-a-ck in the guise of a hunky clone whose energy level covers a lot of holes in "All Shook Up." Using songs associated with Elvis Presley to tell the story of a sexy outsider who upsets a town's uptight image, the show (a combination of "Grease," "The Wild One," "Footloose" and, believe it or not, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night") is a tourist-friendly musical that works best if not too deeply examined. But it's a hoot.
Our hero, the buff Chad (played in a star-making turn by Cheyenne Jackson) rides his Harley into "a small you-never-heard of it town somewhere in the Midwest." The stud with "jet-black hair and baby-blue eyes" finds villagers stymied by the censorious mayor's "Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act."
Soon, as in Shakespeare, Chad dispatches the lovestruck Natalie to woo Sandra (the town beauty and, incongruously, the proprietor of a traveling museum) in his place. Natalie, disguising herself as "Ed," finds herself the object of Sandra's attentions and, later, also pursued by a sexually confused Chad.
All is told to Stephen Oremus' arrangements of "Heartbreak Hotel," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Can't Help Falling in Love" and "Jailhouse Rock," among others. They're sung with full-throated gusto, ditsy good humor and not a small amount of irony by a humdinger of a cast, including Leah Hocking, Alix Korey, Jenn Gambatese, Jonathan Hadary, Sharon Wilkins and a funny dynamo named Mark Price.
Joe DiPietro's libretto is speedily directed by Christopher Ashley, with witty sets by David Rockwell, giddy lighting by Donald Holder and rib-tickling costumes by David C. Woolard. Although dumb as all get out, like all cartoons, it's of-the-moment fun.
-- David A. Rosenberg
March 25, 2005