Review of All Shook Up – Beeston Musical Theatre Group
The Duchess Theatre Long Eaton – May 9th 2017
The audience at last night’s opening performance of their 50th Anniversary year from the highly regarded Beeston Musical Theatre Group were suitably “All Shook Up” from the start of the show to its excellent finale.
The production team of Chris Collington (Director), Jodie Cresdee (Choreographer), Nathan Truesdale (Musical Director) with Lisa Smith and Gary Smith (Staging) are to be congratulated for a show of the highest quality in all departments.
All Shook Up is a 2004 American jukebox musical with Elvis Presley music and with a book by Joe DiPietro. The story is very loosely based on William Shakespeare’s 1602 play Twelfth Night. There is only a little of Shakespeare’s original story in it, although it pays homage to some of the universal themes, and is a very witty and well structured musical in its own right.
It uses many of Elvis’ hits such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” Heartbreak Hotel,” Blue Suede Shoes,” plus the title song “All Shook Up.” I thought they were very well adapted to help tell what is a good story of love in a small American town. The story concerns Chad, a hip-swivelling, guitar-playing roustabout, being released from a short spell in prison and what subsequently happens to him and the people he meets – many of whom find love unexpectedly!
The standard of singing of both the principals and the excellent ensemble was very high indeed. Accompanied by the great orchestra conducted by the musical director, Nathan Truesdale, the cast excelled and filled the theatre with the great melodies and toe tapping tunes made famous by Elvis Presley.
I have never seen this show before and I thought it was very well written, had a solid story and the various themes came together well at the end. It was also very funny in parts and laughs at itself; it is obviously a show that the cast really enjoy performing.
The principal cast was very strong with Chris Bryan as a confident and beguiling Chad, David Hunt as the perfectly pitched nerd Dennis and Laura Such as a delightfully endearing Natalie. Abby Riddell is a warm and feisty Sylvia, John Hand a naïve but self aware Dean and Claire Rybicki a sweet and lively Lorraine. Keli Wain plays a deliciously vampish Sandra, Simon Owen a gruffly lovesick Jim, Cat Tuckey a wonderfully uptight Matilda and Rob Holsman a hilariously vacant Earl. All excellently characterised and fully believable, with the power and projection to keep the audience fully engaged.
They were supported by an outstanding ensemble that sang and danced with conviction, precision and joy. Well done to Ronja Breitkopf, Andy Bulmer, Jennifer Chatten, Jane Cottee, Daniel Da’Bell, Alex Grosse, Martin Holton, Mariko Jones, Mina Machin, John Maddison, Cheryl Mills, Rachel Maddison, Ruth Norris-Maddison, Lottie Valks and Christine Walton.
The imaginative direction and tight choreography ensures that every song is enlivened by movement and each scene is visually interesting. The show moves with considerable pace and this production has capitalised on that with energy and excitement – and a knowing self-deprecation. Breaking the fourth wall doesn’t always work, but in this show the nods to the audience and the sheer delight the performers have in their characters’ foibles add a lot of fun.
The choreography is so evocative of the time in which the action is set and each move and every hand gesture beautifully thought out. Comic highlights abound: a scene with the Mayor and several bearded elderly ladies of the town brought the house down; it isn’t just the youngsters in this group who can dance and sing up a storm!
The lighting by Dave Martin and the sound by Harry Greatorex (tonight controlled by Chris Collington) were very good and the theatre’s new sound system worked well.
The show was stage managed by Lisa Smith and Garry Smith and their stage crew changed the set with speed, efficiency and near invisibility. The set itself was simple but appropriate and was used well to enhance the story and keep the action moving. Well done also to Mina Machin for the colourful and hugely evocative costumes, which add so much to the overall look.
The band was excellent and given that the show has an often powerful rock and roll sound, the balance between them and the performers was very good.
I loved this show from start to finish and would be very happy to see it again! It ended with one of the best managed finale/ curtain calls I have seen for quite a while, performed with huge energy by the entire cast. Many in the theatre tonight stood up at the end (including me) and gave the cast a prolonged and enthusiastic ovation, which they so richly deserved.
I am delighted that BMTG’s next production is ‘Spamalot’: from what I have seen tonight their talent for energetic high comedy will ensure that we are in for another treat.
I have no doubt that you too will be genuinely “All Shook Up” if you go and see this excellent production, but you need to get your tickets quickly as it is “Now or Never” – well certainly after Saturday evening!