By Barry Reszel
With this summer’s Chicagoland musical theatre scene offering patrons an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, aficionados of Broadway-styled big production dance ought to head south, as in Munster, Ind. south, for the best regional company dance show in town.
Theatre at the Center’s production of Joe DiPietro‘s campy nod to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a goofy farce with an awesome Elvis Presley soundtrack. All Shook Up is a story of a chauvinistic, motorcycle-riding, Elvis-esque roustabout landing in a small, old-fashioned, moralistic, mid-1950s, Midwestern town to ultimately save all characters involved from their foibles and hum-drum lives.
A full summary and history of the 2005 Broadway production that opened in Chicago in 2004 may be read here.
Though the book can’t go more than two pages without adding yet another blue suede shoes gag, there’s an obvious charm in DiPietro’s over-the-top, small-town comedy. It’s largely pulled off in the local production by numerous rising stars in Chicagoland musical theater who are part of Directors Danny Herman‘s and William Pullinsi‘s immensely talented cast.
Backed by a score including 24 Presley classics led by Music Director William Underwood (“Heartbreak Hotel,” Burning Love,” Jailhouse Rock,” Blue Suede Shoes,” It’s Now or Never,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” Hound Dog,” and more) David Sajewich shines as the roustabout Chad who rides into town to shake things up. Smitten girl-mechanic Natalie, played by the talented Callie Johnson, is the female lead. Together again following last year’s tour of the forgettable Evil Dead: the Musical, Sajewich and Johnson’s terrific voices and splendid dance moves lead this production.
Bethany Thomas as Sylvia, the sanest character in town, delivers a stunning, powerhouse performance, particularly in Act 2’s “There’s Always Me.” Sylvia’s daughter Natalie is sweetly played by the exquisite Sharriese Hamilton, whose spot-on comedic timing and lovely voice is evident every time she’s on stage. Gorgeous Allison Sill as sexy museum curator Miss Sandra is smart and stunning; her “Let Yourself Go” raises the temperature in the house before Act 1’s terrific closing finale, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
In addition to these standout solo performances, and others, the great take-away from this production is the talented ensemble’s spot-on execution of Herman’s energetic, spirited, fun choreography. Led by Dance Captain Brian M. Duncan, the All Shook Up cast also includes Steve Silver, Justin Brill, Matthias Austin, Iris Lieberman, Patrick Tierney, Julie Baird, Johnson Brock, Cailtin Borek, Kayla Kennedy, Eric A. Lewis, Reneisha Jenkens, John Marshall Jr., Annelise Baker and Henry McGinnis. Their combined work in numerous all-cast and multiple-character song and dance numbers is, what folks talk about on the car ride home.
So this reviewer’s recommendation is clear:
Patrons looking for sophisticated comedy from an all-star cast should head up north to Marriott Lincolnshire’s City of Angels.
Prefer a deep drama, pre-Broadway preview with a soaring score and New York headliners? Then head to Drury Lane’s Beaches.
But for those looking to kick back, laugh, roll their eyes, while treated to a familiar soundtrack and the best Broadway dance in town? Shake it on down to Muster’s Theatre at the Center and get All Shook Up.
Embarrassing riches, indeed!
Theatre at the Center’s production of “All Shook Up” runs through August 16 at 1040 Ridge Rd., Munster, Ind. There is free parking. Performances are on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; and Sundays at 2:30 pm; and select Thursday and Sunday evenings and Saturday matinees. Tickets ($40-$44) are available via the box office at (219) 836-3255 or online here. Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more. For more information, visit here.