Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Every Christmas Story Ever Told
DiPietro sets his story in the 1950s, but the emotional climate is really more 1980s in the way characters behave and relate to one another. This felt a little jarring, at least until I began to wrap my brain around the mismatch midway through the first act. The storytelling is professionally handled all the way through, but a lack of top drawer songs in act two really dulls the impact. Perhaps these problems contributed to the musical's lack of Broadway success, although it shows up often in regional theatre.
The Players Centre gives All Shook Up everything it's got in an entertaining production headlined by Charles Logan as Chad, the Elvis stand-in. Logan really has the charisma necessary for this part. He sings, he dances, and the sex appeal reaches out to all in the audience. He makes it believable that a whole town could swoon. Caitlin Ellis is Natalie, the mechanic who falls hardest for him. Ellis has just the right rough and tumble aura for the part, and when she pretends to be "Ed," she shows great comedy chops. Our juvenile couple, Bailey Scott as Lorraine and Josh Devine as Dean, are more than solid. She shows great charm in a role that may be a bit blah, without a great center stage moment, and he is a sensational dancer and presence. Josh has a special place in my heart because I feel as if I have watched him grow up on stage, beginning as a young teen in a production of 13.
Kelly Leissler plays Jim, Natalie's father, and Phyllis Banks warmly plays Sylvia, Lorraine's mother. Another couple, mostly comic, is Dennis, in love with Natalie who doesn't reciprocate his yearnings, and Sandra, a voluptuous woman who makes all the men folks' heads turn. Jason Ellis (Caitlin's for real husband) and Vera Samuels play them with great appeal. Rounding out the cast as Mayor Matilda Hyde and Sheriff Earl are Debbie White and Jerry Rudd. (I really was imagining Ms. White stepping center stage and singing "Everyone hates me, yes yes. Being the mayoress, yes." Will someone produce Anyone Can Whistle for this very talented woman?) Both parts are a bit underwritten, especially the sheriff, so Mr. Rudd doesn't get much in the way of opportunities to shine.
Helen Holliday directs for high energy, and Brian Finnerty's choreography is the production's most valuable asset. Music director Berry Ayers keeps things lively, and the musical elements are solid. The set design by Kyle Ransbottom is particularly effective, especially for scenes set in Sylvia's Cafe, with a Chesterfield ad beautifully recreated. Ditto for David Walker's costumes, some of the best seen at the Players Centre recently. The dresses for the female ensemble seem right out of the period.
While not connected to a holiday theme, the upbeat spirit of All Shook Up makes it good for seasonal entertainment.
All Shook Up, through December 30, 2018, at The Players Centre for the Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.