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All Shook Up Has Us Shook

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Photo by Scott Drynan

Photo by Scott Drynan

Photo by Scott Drynan

Carlos Nique, Staff Writer

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This year’s production ramps it up with more rock and roll, but does it hit all the notes?

 

As spring rolls around, it comes time for The Strawberry Hill Players to present their newest musical. I have been a fan of their past productions, but always felt that they were in some ways a little elementary (e.g. Seussical). So, this time around I was hoping to not only watch a good musical, but also see some more mature themes. All Shook Up not only delivers on a new level with music, but also tackles more mature themes, with love, racism and sexuality on full display. As we watch this musical inspired by the music of one Elvis Presley, we realize that we not only fall in love with these characters, but also become intrigued by their motivations and the paths that lead them to fall in love.

Anyone who loves the music made famous by Elvis will feel a rush of fun, and in some cases, nostalgia. Fans of Shakespeare will also get their money’s worth, as they’ll notice a familiar tale. As we listen and remember the music of Elvis, we also get a storyline that closely follows Shakespeare’s gender-bending play Twelfth Night. Both mesh incredibly well, and are performed with incredible quality by the cast and crew of The Strawberry Hill Players. Although operating as a Jukebox musical, this period piece also has great comedy and is filled with twists and turns that leaves the audience wondering what may happen next.

Although the play is a great time overall, with performances and music that should be lauded, All Shook Up does have some problems. For instance, although the play does talk about racism and sexuality, themes that can truly have powerful messages when done well, they sort of become subplots. We follow Chad and Natalie this whole time, while never truly seeing the importance of the (interracial) relationship between Lorraine and Dean. 

Also, while the entire play does have a rapid tempo and is fast-paced, the ending felt way too rushed, and in some cases, predictable. With so many twists and turns it felt kind of dissatisfying that we could have easily seen how the play would be ending. For instance (no spoilers), one character in the end makes the decision not to fall for a certain other character, and it seems ballsy and works very well. But the playwright instead decided to then go for a typical happy ending, which didn’t make the play feel as unique.

The cast and crew deserve tons of praise, especially the choreography director Jennifer Jonas and pit conductor George Beratis, who kept the audience entertained with dance numbers and music that was infectious. Also, lots of praise deserves to go to the cast, especially Jayce Schwartz who knocks it out of the park as Chad, the Elvis inspired “roustabout,” Cara Grasso as Natalie/Ed and Antonio (Griffon) Valerio as Dennis, who both play characters who are hopelessly in love with others, and Brianna Jean and Bryce Drynan, who play interracial lovers Dean and Lorraine.
Overall, even with its minor plot issues, All Shook Up is probably one of the best musical productions we’ve had in our school in a long time. Don’t come for just extra credit in a class you’re failing; come because the show is worth the money and you’ll leave extremely entertained.

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All Shook Up Has Us Shook