All Shook Up

May 3 2024 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆      Hugely entertaining

Pleasance Theatre: Thu 2 – Sat 4 Apr
Review by Allan Wilson

Queen Margaret University Musical Theatre Society’s production of All Shook Up, at the Pleasance Theatre for four performances only, is a hugely entertaining jukebox musical from the book by Joe DiPietro.

It skilfully combines numbers from the Elvis Presley songbook with a plot loosely based on Twelfth Night. Other Shakespearean references, from Romeo and Juliet to various sonnets, are thrown in for good measure and the whole thing is set in a small rural town in 1950s America.

Fintan McCarney as Chad

The opening number, Jailhouse Rock, gives a pretty good idea of what’s in store for the rest of the evening, with great solo, and ensemble singing and energetic dancing.

We see the release of handsome rebel, Chad, from a weekend in jail and the immediate impact of his arrival on a very conservative community, which is under the repressive influence of Mayor Matilda (Emily Bannerman) and the (mainly) silent Sheriff Earl (Fraser Langan). The Mayor has adopted the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, which bans loud music, tight pants and public necking.

Fintan McCarney’s Chad is a young man with a confident swagger but a hint of uncertainty about his role in life. He awakens the romantic feelings of the girls and young women in the town, most notably Natalie, the young daughter of the local garage owner, who has become a skilled mechanic. Sophie Taylor’s Natalie is a thoughtful, adventurous young woman, taking desperate measures to try to get her man, but finally realising there is more to life than the pursuit of romance.

interlocking whirlwind

The play is an interlocking whirlwind of often unrequited love involving Chad, Natalie and most of the other major characters. There seems to be no way through the barriers, until Sheriff Earl breaks his silence to confess his love for the Mayor, allowing the various potential romances to flourish.

Sophie Taylor (Natalie) and Fintan McCarney (Chad) Pic Janie Patterson.

With a score of 26 songs, it is clear that the music is more important than the intricacies of plot. The production uses an excellent pre-recorded instrumental backing track, to which the cast add their voices either solo, or as part of an ensemble, under the vocal direction of Gabby Blackie, assisted by Charly Grant (Sound).

The singing is generally very good, though the excellent work of Erin Cameron, Aimee Campbell and Fionn Cameron, playing Lorraine, Miss Sandra and Dennis, respectively, deserve a particular mention. Fionn Cameron also adds to her performance by playing live acoustic guitar on Love Me Tender.

new elements

The ensemble dance routines, choreographed by Taylor Kerr and Beth Key, are generally energetic, cleverly fitting up to 27 people into a limited space, and added new elements to familiar routines for songs such as Jailhouse Rock and C’mon Everybody.

Megan Alexander (Sylvia) with (L to R) Leah Morrison (Ensemble), Fintan McCarney (Chad), Fionn Cameron (Dennis) and Erin Cameron (Lorraine) Pic Janie Patterson.

Costume Supervisors, Catrina Fraser and Olivia Towart have created a genuine 1950s feel to the production with leather jackets, poodle skirt dresses, Blue Suede Shoes and other appropriate styles. The number of costume changes would have kept them busy, with Natalie, for example, starting in overalls, then an oil-stained dress, a clean dress, trousers and top, and finally back to a dress.

Kim Appleby (Sets and Prop Design) has created prison bars, simple signs (for the garage, fairground), a statue for Miss Sandra’s museum and many more props. Her tour de force is probably the cut out bus which moved across the stage carrying Mayor Matilda’s son, Dean, off to college, with Lorraine in pursuit on a scooter.

element of fun

Directors Katie Atkinson and Maddie Gilroy and the Stage Management team (Shona Menzies, Iona Baxter and Abbie Munro) do a magnificent job to bring together up to 27 cast members on stage at any time, to produce a show that looks professional, but retains an element of fun.

The first act is particularly challenging with several complicated set changes of scene, leading to a couple of awkward pauses accompanied by looped music. But the second act, with just one location, flows much more easily.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable feel-good production, bringing the music of Elvis Presley to a new generation of listeners, by means of a plot that is both credible and contemporary, despite being set in the 1950s.

Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including one 20 min interval).
Pleasance Theatre, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ.
Thurs 2 – Sat 4 May 2024.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

NB there is an element of role-switching across the four performances in the run, with some characters played by one actor in the first and third performances and a different actor in the second and fourth performances. References to individual performers relate to the person playing the part in the first performance.

The cast of All Shook Up. Pic Janie Patterson.


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