‘All Shook Up’ impresses – review

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It’s always nice to go to amateur theatre and be blown away by the standard of local talent.

Showbiz Queenstown continues to deliver with its latest Elvis Presley-inspired musical comedy All Shook Up, which opened at the Memorial Hall last night (Thursday).

Set in the 1950s in a jaded mid-west American town called Hicksville, 24 Queenstown actors play drab, eek-through-life characters. Their town gets turned upside-down when roustabout Chad, admirably played by James Stephenson, comes along and breathes life into their lives – aspiring some to love, others to lost opportunity.

Featuring 26 classics by The King, the music instantly grabs attention and whisks the audience back in time. The musical arrangement is top-notch, with some songs blended together for an interesting take on Presley’s music. The band – at times a tad loud – delivered fantastic performances which enhanced some superb harmonies by the singers.

The singing itself brought raptures from the audience, particularly the stand-out voices of Wakatipu High student Emily Burns, who played Natalie Haller, and Julie-Anne Molloy, who played Sylvia. The ensemble was also very strong.

The entire cast performed brilliantly – without any evident first-night jitters. Top performances include Wakatipu High’s Caleb Dawson-Swale, who delivered a comical, believable rendition of geeky Dennis, Showbiz veteran Jo Blick’s hilarious interpretation of Mayor Matilda Hyde, plus Burns and Molloy. Other noteworthy performances include Chris MacKenzie, who played the bumbling and lovable Jim Haller, and Paul Halsted, playing Sheriff Earl, whose outburst at the end was worth his silence for the rest of the show.

Costumes and set were bright, simple and effective, and scene changes flowed with ease. Choreography was polished.

Described as a “cross between Mamma Mia and Grease”, Joe Dipietro’s All Shook Up storyline was fairly simple – even a bit weak. But that didn’t matter because the show is meant to be bright and breezy. It’s a welcome change from the last two heavier Showbiz musicals Les Miserables and Oliver! And what it lacked in plot, it was made up for by excellent performance.

All Shook Up runs till May 28 at the Memorial Hall.