Musical ‘All Shook Up’ a celebration of being alive

Signature Productions’ “All Shook Up” is an orgy of fun for musical theater lovers.

This jukebox musical, with Elvis Presley hits set by Joe DiPietro to a loose adaptation of “Twelfth Night,” proves Elvis and the Bard a winning combination.

A sleepy 1950s town is forever changed when Chad (Adam Michaels) comes riding onstage with his motorcycle, leather jacket, jeans and blue suede shoes. He teaches the townsfolk music, sensuality, and pelvis-shakin’. By the second act, hormones have awakened, and the formerly frigid characters are eagerly pursuing the people to whom they are attracted. By the final curtain, after a few switches in partners, real love conquers all.

The script is a charming conceit, but sags at points. No one would call it clever. It’s made up of swatches of “Footloose,” “Hairspray” and “Grease.” But director Steve Huntsman understands that it’s all about the song and dance.

Musical director Shannon Winkel gets the best from her 31 constantly surprising cast members. Choreographer Keith Dotson highlights the story’s playful attitude. You always enjoy how his movements heighten the characters’ emotional exuberance.

There are so many individual performers worth special attention that it’s impossible to do them all justice here. You’re frequently taken aback by the powerful vocals that come out of petite performers like Laura Savage and Tavia Rivee. Andrea Connor, as the owner of the local watering hole, quickly wins you over as a comic character actress and vocalist, but she brings the show to new heights when she plunges into a late-second-act ballad. Amanda Terrill is one of many chorus members who command our attention in brief solos. And Michaels brings to the role of Chad the sort of self-mocking bravado that recalls the cockiness of not only Elvis, but James Dean and “The Wild One,” Marlon Brando.

As set designer, Huntsman wisely resists the temptation to kid the time-period with gaudy colors. Most of the time, we’re surrounded by worn-down dark browns. But things brighten up as the characters lighten up. A scene involving an onstage bus and bicycle are expertly conceived and staged.

Steve and Sandra Huntsman’s costumes likewise avoid overstatement. The threads are pleasing, but always in context of the characters wearing them.

“Twelfth Night” begins with, “If music be the food of love, play on,” and the people behind this show allow you to feel in your gut what Shakespeare was talking about. For all its entertaining silliness, the production is a serious celebration of being alive.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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