Review: All Shook Up. LAOS. Loughborough Town Hall.

You know what its like when one of them leathered up motorbiking roustabouts rides into town with their snake hips, their Elvis songs, their come to bed eyes and their wayward ways with the ladies… You don’t? Well darn it, you need to get yourselves down to that quaint old Loughborough Town Hall and see what all the fuss is about. Take your smelling salts cos them young wimmin folk are prone to fainting every time the roustabout called Chad even breathes. All Shook Up? You will be!

I have to say, watching the LAOS production of All Shook Up on the Loughborough Town Hall stage is an enormous pleasure. It’s not just the show itself which is bustin’ with energy and mighty tuneful but the sheer joy emanating off that stage from the youthful cast is infectious. Not in Covid infectious way though. The solos and duets are brilliantly sung and, in some cases re-arranged, by MD Meng Khaw. The big ensemble numbers show a powerful reminder why the talented LAOS members love to perform and do it soooo well. Anybody would think that they have been starved of the chance to dance and sing, act and amuse for two years. Oh they have. Well dear readers, now they are back with a musical theatre vengeance and this reviewer and the surrounding audience love ’em for it. Yee ha!

All Shook Up is an Elvis songs based, rather tongue-in-cheek, romance based in a boring small town in 1950s America. Nothing ever happens there especially – it seems- in the field of romance. Sounds to me like them town folks need shaking up a bit plus given a lot of Elvis songs to sing. Now that’d make a fun musical. Throw in a bit of Shakespeare as well for the cultured folks.

Cue Chad (Josh Hill) fresh out of a short stay in gaol where he has even been getting love letters from the ladies he has left in his “love ‘n leave ’em” rogue trail. With a rousing version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ under his belt he heads off on his trusty motorbike and finds himself parking up in midwest drearyville (but not as rough as Coalville by all accounts). There the ladies swoon as soon as he plants his blue suede shoes on their soil and his roustabout ways in their super fast beating hearts. Cue actress Jenny Pilbeam expert fainter. Along comes the cute tomboy Natalie Heller (Nicole Ray) from the local garage to give Chad’s ailing motorbike a quick service and a brisk rub down. No innuendo intended. Ahem. Natalie is totally smitten and spends the entire show trying to get Chad to love her – even down to disguising herself as a fellow roustabout called Ed. In whatever guise she presents herself Ray is perfectly cast in her lead debut in All Shook Up and her singing voice is sweeter than Mom’s apple pie – as the Americans like to say. As a will- they- won’t – they romantic couple Hill and Ray are musical theatre perfection, have bags of onstage personality, great voices and super touches with the comedy and heartbreak. Heartbreak you say? I know a hotel for that. As with the whole cast you ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ with them. The sets are great; the costumes are wonderful; the lighting dynamic and the sound pin sharp.

And there’s more possible romance in the air for Dennis ( beautifully and amusingly underplayed by James Highton). There’s Sylvia who melts our hearts with ‘There’s Always Me’ (Jo Dring in fine voice), the big guy with the gentle heart Jim Heller (sympathetically delivered by Mark Chinnery). Strutting her stuff onstage and new in town is the blousy no-nonsense queen of the sculpture park Miss Sandra (Laura Kidger). Lorraine (Hannah Bailey) and Dean Hyde (Jack Cooling) are the cute love-smitten runaways and nosy judgemental Mayor Matilda Hyde (Clare Proctor) and the oh so quiet Sheriff Earl (Adrian Dobson). Twenty-one other talented ensemble members make up the cast. Their contribution to All Shook Up is total commitment and their joy in performing radiates from the stage. The company choreography is terrifically varied and faultlessly executed (choreographer Lesley-Anne Winnick); James Nelson’s professional direction keeps the show constantly moving on stage in and around the auditorium and involves some super comic touches and creative groupings.

Meng Khaw, a familiar personality around the East Midlands musical theatre scene, does an exemplary job with his LAOS debut as MD and his band are top notch musicians. Khaw says in the programme ” The commitment that everyone has given is truly remarkable considering that we were rehearsing during the height of the Omicron wave of the COVID pandemic. I will never forget the face masks and the rather over ventilated rooms during the winter months. Such dedication.”

So, what are you waiting for? ‘Come On Everybody’ ‘Follow That Dream’ ‘Let Yourself Go’ ‘Its Now Or Never’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ put on your ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ try ‘A Little Less Conversation’ and get those tickets booked for All Shook Up currently wowing audiences and this theatre reviewer alike at Loughborough Town Hall this week. Git on your throbbing motorbikes you roustabouts and git down there tout suite.

End note: In this show the spirit of Elvis has definitely not left the building. Huh huh.

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