be cruel? Elvis is slighted
Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer Theater Critic
disconnect continues with a treatment of "Heartbreak Hotel"
done by a chorus of drinkers in a bar who join in unison preposterously
to complain, "I feel so lonely I could die." And so it goes
in All Shook Up, a show to make any Presley purist feel like
a blue suede shoe that has just been stepped on. It is damning
with the faintest of praise to say that All Shook Up is not
the worst of the songbook musicals. There are strong voices
in the cast and some weird fascination offered by Joe DiPietro's
book. DiPietro, who is best known for I Love You, You're Perfect,
Now Change, is obviously aware of the many pitfalls that await
writers within this dubious genre.
takes only the opening number of All Shook Up to come
to the pained conclusion that Elvis is no longer in
the building, which is the Palace Theatre. The song
is "Love Me Tender," and in the new musical untimely
ripped from the King's legacy, it's offered by a hopeful
young woman who has yet even to meet the man who will
love her, tenderly or otherwise.
solution is a plot that combines elements of Twelfth Night
and a host of other Shakespearean references with the teen
rebellions beloved of rock-and-roll movies of the '50s. This
focuses the show in the era when Elvis did his groundbreaking
work and keeps the image of the obese Vegas caricature at
a welcome distance.
Elvis figure in the proceedings is Chad (Cheyenne Jackson),
a wanderer who arrives in a pelvically challenged rural town
with his motorbike and pompadour both carefully oiled. It
is Chad's mission to teach the town to boogie; he is, of course,
opposed by hidebound conservatives led by the mayor (Alix
Korey), who doesn't want the local youth corrupted. The principal
romantic triangle involves Natalie (Jennifer Gambatese), the
local mechanic who admires more than Chad's bike.
the evening's dopiest development, her rival for the sideburned
roustabout is the knockout blonde who runs the local museum,
housed in a trailer. No fewer than 26 Elvis songs are jammed
into Natalie's pursuit of Chad (she disguises herself as a
man and becomes his best buddy) and the other entanglements
of lovers. Whenever desire overtakes a character, he or she
erupts into a comic outburst of "One Night With You."
of the show's problems is that it tries to put a humorous
spin on original Elvis material that was utterly serious in
its expressions of yearning and vulnerability. It would be
too much to expect director Christopher Ashley to invest any
of this with coherence, but he at least encourages a lighthearted
Shook Up is a show for an undemanding mainstream Broadway
audience. Shaken Elvis loyalists, who cherish what their man
brought to every lyric, will think that only fools could fall
in love with it, that All Shook Up should be interred in a
quiet corner of Graceland.
Shook Up Directed by Christopher Ashley, written by Joe DiPietro.
Cheyenne Jackson and Jennifer Gambatese.
at: Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway (at 46th Street), New York.
$19.55 to $100. Information: 215-336-2000 or www.ticketmaster.com.