All Shook Up, directed by Steve Gillard, sets a premise of an Elvis Presley jukebox musical-comedy, heavily inspired by the twirling and unrequited lovers of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. On paper, this is a very quirky concept – two stimuli which have very little in common. Joe DiPietro’s book is jam packed with cheeky one liners and an ultimately heart-warming storyline, and tonight, LAODS theatrical company bring to life a beautiful and inspiring show.
The danger of jukebox musicals is the potential to become karaoke-like, but this diverse cast (of a few generations!) are an absolute marvel, working so cohesively as an ensemble where not one cast member is overshadowed. The cast boasts a high number from the Lincoln community, and the spirit is so evident to make this a stunning performance. You can see how well rehearsed the show is, which no doubt will encourage so many audience members to be more involved in amateur dramatics. After seeing All Shook Up, it’s impossible to not feel truly inspired, and desperate to get up and dance, especially the gentleman by us tapping his feet, the audience enjoyment is so clear to see.
Elvis isn’t simply just a singer, but The King of Rock’n’Roll, famed for hits such as Hound Dog and A Little Less Conversation. As an 18 year-old, Elvis’ legacy goes beyond my experience of growing up, but it is undeniable that he has the power to charm anyone, leaving you desperate to get on your feet and dance. To my knowledge, I am the youngest in the audience, but I’m really enjoying seeing how his music can reach and connect such a wide variety of audiences. Elvis has generated a huge influence on American culture, and in All Shook Up this is so evident through the costume styling, adaptation of music and dance styles, in an almost nostalgic feel. It really celebrates a period in time where love blossoms and rebelliousness paves the way for positive change.
I certainly recognise a few songs, although whether you know just one or twenty Elvis songs, they are interweaved expertly around the action, and sometimes adjusted to suit the tone of the show, to the point where it feels like an original musical over jukebox. I can’t help myself constantly smiling through the musical numbers, even during the orchestral interludes I find myself still smiling. The positivity is electric!
The Lincoln Arts Centre is a gorgeously colourful venue with a really inviting and homely atmosphere. Stepping into the auditorium, we are greeted with classic tunes of the 50s era, which really sets the timely vibe for the evening. The set design (Alexander Kent) immediately strikes you, with the classic prison cells set for Jailhouse Rock, and very impressive set changes, from roaring motorbikes to a quaint shoe shop, LAODS promise to never provide a dull moment.
Linda Wilson and Andrew Ness’ costume design is wonderfully done. In some scenes we see the typical 50s fashion, ¾ length skirts which compliment the fast paced choreography, which is divinely led by Ruth Perry to make some real showstoppers to remember for years. Though I also find the occasional abstraction of costume to be really fascinating, even with angels and demons to reflect the moralities of love, going beyond simple relationships.
Spacing is used consistently well, and despite a large cast, the stage is always balanced to never look clunky. Worth a mention are the younger girls of the cast who fill into the auditorium and onto the stairs beside us in a cheerleader inspired routine to round off the show with an ultimate feel good extravaganza. You can really see the joy on their faces, a happiness which isn’t acted but truly felt. Moments such as this (and the phenomenal end of Act 1) even make me tear up, which rarely happens when I watch a show! When a musical can evoke such strong emotions, there is no doubt it is a tour de force of a performance!
The plot follows Chad’s (Simon Calver) wild new start to life after a spell in gaol, raring with energy and passion into a dreary conformist city. Calver is absolutely spot on with the Elvis-esque mannerisms. The hip thrusting and soulful tones resemble The King himself, without becoming a tribute act. With the slicked hair, leather jacket and wicked charisma, any fans of the hit show Grease will see many similarities with Danny Zuko’s swagger. He makes all the women swoon with his dulcet charm, especially the delightfully naïve Natalie, portrayed by the outstanding Rosie Brown. Natalie’s unrequited love forces her to make reckless decisions, turning the tide of love in very modern and profound ways. She transforms into her alter-ego Ed, in a very comical masculinity to win over Chad’s friendship whilst longing for his heart. Through these swirling attempts at love, many new romances blossom, with Nicola Calver’s stern yet sultry Miss Sandra is really solidifying as my favourite character. Calver turns blonde seductress to the max as she makes the whole audience wail with genuine belly laughter. Richard Lynch’s Dennis is far from forgettable, where you really sympathise with his plight for love and adorable awkwardness, and boy can he pack a punch with his vocals!
Both individually and collectively, the vocal training of this ensemble is out of this world, the harmonising and belts guarantee goose bumps from the sheer power of the voices as well as finding the subtleties in more emotional moments. Body percussion is marvellous in inventing new ways of creating sound, and interjections of One Night With You act as a constant motif that never cease to give a chuckle. LAODS are an absolute powerhouse when it comes to performance, and I’m really grateful for East Midlands Theatre for giving me the opportunity to experience such a talented and feel-good performance. In All Shook Up, music acts as a catalyst for love between the characters, and equally you will be a victim of the rock’n’roll charm, and instantaneously fall in love with everything about this production. I seriously think this whole production and cast wouldn’t look out of place on a national tour and has to go down extremely well in LAODS’ history!