"All Shook Up" Pulls Out All the Stops

All Shook Up at the Wagon Wheel Playhouse

Every now and then, the rumor that Elvis Presley is alive  and well in Kalamazoo resurfaces. Make it Warsaw, and you’re close! The King has been reincarnated (with a touch of Brando) in the person of Chad, aka Roustabout, the leading character in “All Shook Up,” a musical that blends 25 songs associated with the late Pride of Memphis and a plot based on several works penned by the Bard of Avon, aka Will Shakespeare.

All Shook Up at the Wagon Wheel PlayhouseIt is the current production at the Ramada Wagon Wheel Theatre and, judging from the reaction of the nearly full house Thursday evening, it could stay on indefinitely rather than just the scheduled two weeks. Director/choreographer Scott Michaels has pulled out all the stops on this one. The energy level of the extremely talented cast generates enough amps to light a small city. From the opening “Jailhouse Rock” to the “Burning Love” finale, “All Shook Up” leaps from song to dance to song and dance, laughing all the way and, in addition, makes some very definite points about relationships — the good, the bad and the ugly. Michaels turns the small arena stage into a space that rivals an auditorium. His dancers do amazing things. . .and then do them again. Even the scene changes become terpsichorean interludes. There is something going on all the time! The same is true of the scenic design by David Lepor. In his WW design debut, Lepor had created several specific areas — a café, a garage, a museum — for the first act. In the second, the entire stage becomes an abandoned fairgrounds. There is so much attention to detail that it is worth second, third and even tenth looks to check out all the little things that add up to the big picture. Stephen  R. Hollenbeck’s ingenious  costume designs are eye-filling and right on the money. They are the obvious exteriors of some complicated characters. When the town turns from drab to daring, the clothes not only make the man, they make the women, too.  Thomas N. Sterling’s orchestra (nine pieces) again is a real joy, especially in a score with music and lyrics “by varied artists.”  The lighting design by Greg Griffin sharply  highlights the humor. But of course set, costumes, lights and music would not be enough if the cast was not up for the assignment. The young performers take a super-convoluted story line and make the audience able not only to follow each twist, turn and intersection, but love every minute! At the head of this joyous revolution is a leather-clad Jake Klinkhammer as Chad,  who hits town on his motorcycle, lights up the long-dead juke box.— “A broken down juke box means broken down people” — before leading the teens in a rainbow-hued  rock ‘n roll romp. Instantly love struck at the sight of Chad is Natalie Hammer, a lonely young girl in mechanics’ overalls. As played by Caitlin Mesiano, she is absolutely delightful and speaks to anyone who ever pined for a lover who is pining for someone else.  Almost everyone here gets love struck, a state signified by an uncontrollable outburst of the opening bars of “One Night With You,” aimed straight at the object of desire…whoever that may be. Tracking the mis-matched duos to their way to final perfect pairings is two-plus hours of absolute en joyment! With Klinkhammer and Mesiano leading the way, the amazing featured players are Katie McCreary and  Britney Coleman as café owner and daughter respectively; Tiffany Dissette as a museum owner right out of “Mad Men”;  Jennifer Dow as the uptight mayor;  Mike Yocum, as Natalie’s widowed dad;  Nick Laughlin as the perfect “sidekick’; Matthew Dailey as the mayor’s rebellious son; and Andy Robinson as the dorky silent sheriff. Along with the irrepressible ensemble (which NEVER stops),  they make “All Shook Up”   a wonderfully fun ride and a highlight of the season, no matter what comes next. And “That’s All Right” for any age.

“ALL SHOOK UP” plays at 8 p.m. Saturday and Wednesday through next Saturday, at 2 p.m. Sunday and Thursday and 7 p.m. Tuesday in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street in Warsaw.  For reservations, call  267-8041.

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