may be rock 'n' rolling over in his grave
high school choir practice, some friends and I would
amuse ourselves by trying to imagine, and imitate, how
Ethel Merman might have reinterpreted U2 songs.
point, of course, was that artistry celebrated in one
style or genre doesn't necessarily translate to another.
I suspect this joke, however obvious, would have been
lost on the producers, casting agents and others involved
in the new Elvis Presley homage All Shook Up (* out
of four), the latest professional karaoke contest to
masquerade as a Broadway musical.
what you will about Mamma Mia! and Good Vibrations, two other
greatest-hits showcases designed to tap into the growing nostalgia
and burgeoning bank accounts of aging pop fans. However off-putting
their opportunism and lack of imagination, both at least aimed
for musical authenticity, drawing on the expertise of insiders
such as ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson and Brian
Wilson colleague Van Dyke Parks, and enlisting performers
with a passing affinity for rock 'n' roll textures.
contrast, most of the game young cast members of All Shook
Up, which opened Thursday at the Palace Theatre, sing and
act as if they just stepped off a Marvin Hamlisch tribute
tour. There are some pretty and potent voices here, to be
sure; but their approach to the material tends to range from
painfully self-conscious to outright clueless.
calculated growls and mannered sneers that sometimes embellish
golden oldies such as Hound Dog, Don't Be Cruel and That's
All Right only add to the false, sterile feel of the numbers.
Joe DiPietro's book is even more tone-deaf. The plot, an unlikely
and idiotic hybrid of Grease, Footloose and Twelfth Night,
involves a tomboyish mechanic who falls for a guitar-wielding,
hip-swiveling, motorcycle-riding drifter with long black sideburns.
dark and hammy, Cheyenne Jackson plays the Elvis-like leading
man with all the sincerity of a Chippendale dancer trying
to bilk a drunk matron. Even at his most kitschy, Presley
projected a certain earnestness; irony was the last quality
you would associate with him. Yet like many contemporary shows
that have nothing new or interesting to say, All Shook Up
revels in winking jokes and self-reference - even as it makes
lame attempts to touch on issues such as racism and homophobia.
Cutting social satire is provided by way of a female mayor,
played with cartoonish haughtiness by Alix Korey, who runs
around lecturing everyone on moral decency.
Elvis fans, you may ask, will want to witness this strange
marriage of snark and schlock? Some of the same ones, I suspect,
who were drawn to Las Vegas toward the end of his life - not
to catch a glimpse of his former glory, or even to mourn its
loss, but to celebrate the same triumph of excess over substance
that, come to think of it, has increasingly characterized
Broadway musicals in the decades since.
one number, If I Can Dream, "angels" emerge on motorbikes
suspended in midair by wires, sporting shiny suits and pouffy
white wings. The person accompanying me remarked that it was
a horrible thing to do to that song. And to all the others,
he should have added.
Review, Source: USA Today)