All Shook Up

Feb 15 2023 | By More

★★★★☆    Energetic

Church Hill Theatre: Tues 14 – Sat 18 Feb 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Bohemians Lyric Opera Company’s presentation of the Elvis Presley jukebox musical All Shook Up at the Church Hill is a riotous and fun-packed affair.

The 2004 show, with book by Joe DiPietro, has also appeared as Love Me Tender. It starts off as reminiscent of Footloose, as biker Chad shakes up a town where loud music and public displays of affection are forbidden.

The storyline then takes a sudden lurch into Twelfth Night as mechanic Natalie dresses up as a boy to gain Chad’s confidence, leading to a series of romantic misadventures.

A scene from All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography

The plot does not bear much examination; there are too many principal characters, with their motivations and actions beyond unbelievable. Much of the dialogue is used simply as an excuse to introduce another of the 30-plus songs (and sometimes it does not even manage to do that successfully).

Unlike most jukebox musicals, this is not really aimed at fans of the artist – unless they are those rare devotees of the Elvis ‘Hollywood period’. Even the numbers from the King’s early career are shorn of the dangerous charisma that made him such a star, instead turned into a series of harmony-laden examples of musical theatre.

The whole thing is so preposterously knowing and primary-coloured that it is unwise to approach it apologetically. Instead it has to be attacked with all guns blazing, and director Scott Coltman has done exactly that.

impossible to resist

There is an energy to the entire performance that is impossible to resist. Coltman and choreographer Fiona Burns marshal a 37-strong cast with extraordinary skill, with the Church Hill stage rarely seeming crowded and every number providing the maximum of visual variety from a tremendously well-drilled ensemble.

A scene from All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography

The staging of Can’t Help Falling In Love at the close of the first act is a particular triumph, and as good as anything you are likely to see anywhere this year.

Coltman’s direction is constantly inventive visually, and he also helps the talented cast to produce an impressive series of performances. There is genuine fun as well as musicality, with just the right amount of archness (including some judicious fourth wall-breaking) without the whole thing becoming self-indulgent.

The fact that the show features more principal characters than you can be reasonably expected to keep track of, does give a moment in the spotlight to the maximum number of performers. It is an opportunity they all seize.

Colin Sutherland is a tuneful and compelling Chad. Recreating the aura of a character that is clearly an Elvis substitute is always going to be a thankless task, but he has a creditable stab at it.

effective characterisation

Linzi Devers displays real comedic talent as Natalie, as well as possessing a commanding voice. Fraser Jamieson, as her best friend Dennis, turns a stereotypical lovesick dweeb into a more rounded and remarkably effective characterisation.

Christine Mills as Miss Sandra and Colin Sutherland as Chad in All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography

Christine Mills turns the museum curator Miss Sandra into a full-blown musical theatre diva, complete with huge voice and implausible manoeuvres, while Cathy Geddie’s bar owner Sylvia also makes use of her potent and emotional voice.

There is emotion, too, in Sean Quinn’s portrayal of Natalie’s father Jim, while Tara McCullough and Dean McAvoy give a pair of star-crossed young lovers considerable charm.

No comic stone is left unturned in Felicity Halfpenny’s uptight mayor, and the results are extremely pleasing. The contrast with her (largely) silent sidekick Earl, played by Neil Lavin, is an effective one.

MD Finlay Turnbull and his 11-piece band provide unflagging musical support to a production whose momentum never slackens, while the vocals are always perfectly audible above the band – something that has not always been the case recently in the Church Hill.


This is, however, achieved by having the volume at a level that would fill the Bohemians’ usual home at the King’s. It occasionally tips over into the raucous, and begins to grate over the running time of almost three hours. Although the full-on nature of the production is entirely appropriate, there are times where just a little more light and shade would have been welcome.

Technically, everything runs smoothly, with technical director Malcolm J. Burnett running a very tight ship. Scene changes are handled with the minimum of fuss, although some of the lighting tends to the over-emphatic.

The general absence of subtlety can easily be excused, however, in a production that is so deliberately over-the-top that the end result is so infectious and crowd pleasing.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 14 – Saturday 18 February 2023
Evenings: 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book Here

Bohemians website:
Facebook: @bohemiansedinburgh
Twitter: @Bohemians_Ed
Instagram: @bohemiansedinburgh

A scene from All Shook Up. Pic: Ric Brannan Photography


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