"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Theater Review

Don't be cruel? Elvis is slighted

By Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer Theater Critic

It 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.


The 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.

His 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.

The 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.

In 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."

One 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 approach.

All 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.

All Shook Up Directed by Christopher Ashley, written by Joe DiPietro.

Starring Cheyenne Jackson and Jennifer Gambatese.

Playing at: Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway (at 46th Street), New York.

Tickets: $19.55 to $100. Information: 215-336-2000 or www.ticketmaster.com.


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