Performing Arts

All Shook Up

All Shook Up Matt ByrnePresented by Matt Byrne Media
Reviewed Thurs 8th July 2010

Venue: ARTS Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 17th July 8pm and Sat 17th 2pm
Duration: 2hrs 55min incl interval
Tickets: adult $30/conc $25/groupf of 10 or more $28/$22
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

The show also plays at the Shedley Theatre, Elizabeth from 22-24 July and at the Chaffey Theatre, Renmark on July 31.

Joe DiPietro’s musical is a merry romp, infused with some ideas loosely taken from Shakespeare’s plays but, for those who find Shakespeare’s language daunting, don’t worry; apart from the first three lines of Sonnet XVIII (Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day?) it is all in 1950s American English, with the music of Elvis Presley linking it all together. There is plenty of music, too, with over two dozen numbers ranging from ballads to good old rock ‘n’ roll, all of which you will know.  Musical Director, Mike Pitman has put together a very solid band who are positioned at the rear of the stage.

Chad, an Elvis look-alike, arrives in town on his motorbike. Needing some work done on it, he takes it to the garage where tomboy Natalie is the mechanic. She is instantly smitten. He barely notices her, falling instead for the curvaceous Miss Sandra, the curator of the museum. Miss Sandra takes an instant dislike to Chad and rejects his advances. She also rejects Natalie’s widowed father, Jim. Dean Hyde and Lorraine fall in love, but his mother is the town’s puritan mayor ands she is from the wrong side of the tracks, the daughter of Sylvia who runs a bar. Sylvia has loved Jim for many years, but he thinks of her as his best friend. The ineffectual Dennis loves Natalie, but has never been able to tell her. There’s also a surprise romance that is revealed in the closing scenes.

From here it begins to get a little complicated, as Natalie cross-dresses as ‘Ed’ to be close to Chad. Miss Sandra falls for ‘Ed’. Chad also finds himself strangely attracted to ‘Ed’. In good Shakespearean fashion, there are plenty of knotty problems to be unravelled before the final curtain falls. To find out how all this mess is resolved and who gets who, however, you will need to buy a ticket.

Producer/ director, Matt Byrne, who also plays Sheriff Earl, has assembled a great cast who all clearly enjoy the music and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the production. Gavin Cianci, as Chad, and Melanie Smith, as Natalie are well cast and make much of the confusion their characters cause. Dominic Hodges and Rebecca Plummer, as the star-crossed lovers Dean and Lorraine are convincing, looking as though they hate to be parted for a second.

There is good work too from Gareth Wilkins, as Dennis, Russel Ford, as Jim and Maggie Wood as Sylvia, with Chris Bussey and Byrne generating laughs as Mayor Mathilda and her pet law enforcer who cannot get a word in sideways. Heidi-Rae Abbey shines in a standout performance as Miss Sandra, with huge stage presence and confidence born of her considerable experience in musical theatre.

It is the technical side that lets this production down, with haphazard lighting cuing, follow spots that roam the stage like searchlights seeking their targets then, having finally found them, they forget to follow the performers when they move, a sound mix that, while acceptable in the quieter numbers, doesn’t increase the level of the soloists’ voices accordingly when the brass section plays. The vocal mix also needs a bit more mid range and bass in the voices, as the singers currently sound rather thin and reedy and tend to fade away when the singers use their lower registers. The singers could also use some fold-back speakers to help them hear themselves over the onstage band and prevent them drifting off key.

The many long, slow set changes also contribute to the length of this overlong production. At every scene change there is a short pause after one scene ends before anything happens, then there follows a rather casual changing of the set, then another short pause before the next scene begins. This slows the pace of the performance and, if these changes can be made much quicker it could easily take 15 minutes off of the running time.

The costuming, by Anne Humphries, is great and Sue Pole’s choreography, although somewhat raggedly executed at times, suits the period beautifully, Matt Byrne’s comic book set looks good and there is plenty of enthusiasm and energy. Hopefully, a few more runs will get the set changes running more smoothly and the lighting and sound people will get on the ball. This is a good night out, in spite of the technical shortcomings.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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