Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Can't Help Falling in Love With "All Shook Up"

Saturday night was date night again at the Historic Palace Theater in Lockport. It was the last show of the 2015-2016 season, and it was a whole lot of fun. If you love the 50s, singing, dancing, and Elvis, then this was the show for you. Yes, "All Shook Up" was one of those shows that had your foot tapping and the audience singing along to the well known songs. Heck, even my Dad liked it, and he is definitely not one to sit through a musical.

Right from the opening note of the intro music, I had flashbacks from my youth. Those old Elvis Presley movies used to play on channel 29 on Sunday afternoons back in the 1980s. My grandmother loved Elvis, and Sundays were the day that we would try to visit both grandmothers. There were numerous times that we would show up to Meme’s house and Elvis would be singing “Blue Suede Shoes” from “GI Blues,” or “Rock-A-Hula Lullaby” in “Blue Hawaii.” This production transported me back to those days, rabbit ears included.

This show had a lot of new faces in leading roles. Emily Prucha and William Curr were the only ones I’ve seen regularly in those leading parts. The rest of the cast had a long list of shows they had been in, but most of their parts were in the ensemble for those performances. “The casting for this show was different for other shows we’ve cast. It gave us a chance to let some of the great actors who’ve been in the ensemble to take the lead and show us their talents,” said executive director Christopher Parada.

“All Shook Up” is a modern retake on the William Shakespeare comedy, “Twelfth Night.” It is a myriad of love stories with much of it being unrequited. Hilarity ensues in this musical. The laughs come from the lines as well as the facial expressions and body language. Some people might say this show was a bit “cheesy,” but it was definitely a whole lot of fun.

Steven Saelzler played Chad, the roustabout who ruffles the feathers of the small town after the mayor has enacted a Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act. Not only did he look the part of Elvis, he could really sing well. I looked forward to the songs where he would be singing. His comedic mannerisms reminded me of a young Jim Carrey. His timing along with his facial expressions and body languages were perfect to get across the inherent comedy.

The part of Natalie was played by Lindsay Andrews, another relative newcomer to the Palace. She had previously appeared as a mission girl in last year’s “Guys and Dolls.” She grabbed the spotlight with her performance in “All Shook Up.” In essence she played two distinct parts in this musical. The first, as Natalie, was as a teenage girl who was happier working at her father’s garage than wearing dresses. In the second case, as Ed, she disguises herself as a guy to impress the boy she thinks she wants. She nail both parts perfectly and then topped it off with a singing voice that had this audience member singing along.

Jessica Alexander and Hannah Keller played the mother-daughter team of Sylvia and Lorraine, respectively. Jessica captured Sylvia’s sarcastic cynicism and showed us her soft side all at the same time. She may have had the tough exterior, but expressions told the deeper story behind her character. Likewise with Hannah Keller’s portrayal of Lorraine. Initially, you think of her as a 16-year-old who expects the world to be handed to her. By the end of the show, you realize she has a firm handle on life. And boy, could Keller sing. It was a joy listening to her.

Nicholas Limina played the nerdy, unlucky in love, Dennis. His geeky mannerisms neatly complemented those of Saelzler’s Carrey-like visuals. HIs character comes full circle, from the absolute nerd on the way to dental school, to the leather-clad sidekick, and back to lovelorn nerd. Limina channeled the inner awkward that we all feel at some points in our lives and brought it out on stage. I think we could all relate to his troubles in the world of love.

Theresa Werth as the Mayor was probably my Dad’s favorite actress in the production. Her relentless drive for decency was often thwarted by her own narrow-mindedness. The harder she pressed to maintain a sense of decorum, the more she failed. The results were hilarious. Again, with comedy, timing is key, and she had that honed perfectly.

A couple of familiar faces in William Curr and Emily Prucha brought their best to the stage. Curr probably had the funniest scene in the entire musical when Chad was teaching him how to swing his hips and curl his lips. He puts himself completely out there, willing to sacrifice a little dignity to make the role work. That makes him all the more loveable. There was a theater full of laughs throughout that scene. It was definitely a highlight.

For the past three seasons, I’ve watched Emily Prucha portray character after character. For every show I’ve seen, she’s played a part that is fairly straight laced. She plays that type of character very well. It’s always a joy to see. For “All Shook Up,” however, she broke away from the mold a little bit and was a little more provocative in her pursuit of Ed. It was an exciting new direction to see, and hilarious funny as well. Probably because we hadn’t seen her pay a part in that way, it was all the more over the top funny.

“All Shook Up” was a tremendously fun show to watch. We knew all the songs. “Sometimes, when you go to musicals, you may know one or two songs, but you don’t know all the songs. This show has songs we all know. And you know each one,” said Parada after the show.  He was absolutely correct. All your old favorites by Elvis graced the stage Saturday night. I laughed, sang, tapped my foot, and thought back to those days of visiting Meme.

There was a lot of laughing in the audience Saturday. I even heard repeated cackling from the pit throughout the show. Everyone found scenes funny. The fact that my Dad really liked it should be a ringing endorsement. I would go back to see it again.

For those of you who missed it the first weekend, it will back at the Palace this upcoming weekend. “All Shook Up” will be playing Thursday through Sunday. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows are at 7:30pm, while the Sunday show takes the stage at 3pm. It is well worth it, so take the time to visit our hometown theater and watch out hometown actors and actresses channel the late, great Elvis Presley.

All Photos courtesy Christopher Parada - Lockport Palace Theater.

Craig Bacon just received his season tickets for the 2016-2017 Palace season, so expect to hear a lot more about theater for the next year.