If you’re an Elvis fan, then “All Shook Up” is the play for you. If you’re not an Elvis fan, then “All Shook Up” is still the play for you.
“All Shook Up” is a jukebox musical—meaning the music is all Elvis, but the story, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” is all drama. The play was written by Joe DiPietro and made its Broadway debut in 2005. Now, the play is coming to the Pensacola Little Theatre Friday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
“The play is part ‘Pleasantville,’ part ‘Grease,’ and part ‘Happy Days,’” said assistant director, Kathy Holsworth. “The whole play takes its course in 24 hours. By the end of the play, we have three weddings; it’s Broadway magic.”
The show begins with Chad, the part Elvis part James Dean character, played by Zachary Holcombe, who just got out of jail. No song could fit the scene more than “Jailhouse Rock,” of course. At rehearsal, the dancers swing their hips in unison, giving so much energy you’d think it was opening night.
When Holcombe is on the stage, you know he’s not supposed to be Elvis. Holcombe is tanner, more muscular and his voice is higher, but he’s just as much the heartthrob as the King of Rock and Roll.
“He’s the spirit of Elvis,” Holsworth said. “He was a natural for the part.”
It’s the spirit of Elvis, but Holcombe puts his own “swing” into Chad. While the ensemble cast are practicing their parts, Holcombe is off to the side practicing spins so much it could make you dizzy. Singing and dancing is no easy feat, but Holcombe makes it look effortless.
“It’s a marathon from start to finish,” Holcombe said about the play. “It’s a pretty big beast.”
It’s a marathon just trying to keep up with the plot. In true Shakespeare form, the play has a “he loves her, but she loves another” storyline. When the character Chad lands in a small town after his motorcycle breaks down, he meets the town’s mechanic, Natalie, played by Sarah Javier. Natalie falls for Chad, but instead of just telling him how she feels, she pretends to be a guy and befriend her crush.
“I played the same role in ‘Twelfth Night,’” said Javier, who is a recent Tulane University graduate. “It was an interesting crossover. I really like the character; Natalie is one of the most honest, open characters.”
Javier is quiet and polite in conversation, but when she takes to the stage you can’t help but notice her. When she plays Chad’s friend, her deep voice and mannerisms are more alter-ego than male mockery. When she sings, the whole room is filled with her voice.
Another lovesick character is Lorraine, the daughter of Silvia, the owner of the local honky-tonk. She’s in love with the mayor’s son, but his family would never approve of her.
“It’s fun to play Lorraine because she has a lot of spunk and she’s not afraid to do what she wants,” said Amy Pearson. “It’s fun to be outspoken. I’m a little more introverted.”
It took two days to cast the play—a role the directors took very seriously. No part was overlooked.
“We were looking for experienced triple threats,” said director, Roy Bracken. “Even casting the ensemble was important. The ensemble is the heartbeat of any show.”
With a title like “All Shook Up,” you’d think there would be diehard Elvis fans lined up around the block to audition for the play. Instead, some of the cast are ambivalent toward the King.
“I have the same birthday as Elvis,” Pearson said. “I love his music, but on my birthday, I’d like it if the radio didn’t play Elvis all day long.”
“I wouldn’t call myself a fanatic, but I respect his musical career,” Holcombe said. “He’s an icon.”
By the time the cast had to learn Elvis’ 39 number one hits, the music started to grow on them.
“I’ve become an Elvis fan throughout the show,” Javier said. “I really like ‘A Little Less Conversation’—it’s definitely the grooviest song.”
By the end of the play, the whole cast is wearing blue suede shoes, and you’ll want a pair of your own. After 39 tunes, you’re bound to be humming one of them when you walk out of the theatre. An Elvis fan or not, this high-energy show will definitely shake you up.
“Enjoy the ride because it’s going to be a great one,” Holcombe said.
PENSACOLA LITTLE THEATRE PRESENTS “ALL SHOOK UP”
WHEN: Sept. 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St.
DETAILS: pensacolalittletheatre.com, or 432-2042