“ALL SHOOK UP,” CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, Davis Center for the Performing Arts, through Aug. 4, $17-$20, 801-298-1302 or CenterPointTheatre.org
CENTERVILLE — Now’s the time to revisit the “let’s rock, everybody, let’s rock” era of sock hops, poodle skirts and blue suede shoes.
Just don’t step on those blue suede shoes.
Nostalgia is the order of the evening in “All Shook Up,” CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s crowd-pleasing mash-up of Elvis Presley hits. With a book by Joe DiPietro, a Tony winner for 2003’s “Memphis” and author of Broadway’s current “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” it’s made clear that tribute musicals can be witty — and enormous fun.
In typical “jukebox musicals,” well-established songs are crammed into plots that don’t advance the story line or illuminate characters, which can be compared to stuffing a marshmallow through a keyhole. But DiPietro knows the genre's limitations and teases them. This is best seen when the playwright has a grieving husband, just returning from his wife’s grave, checking into “Heartbreak Hotel,” an unlikely selection for one in mourning.
CenterPoint has assembled its best-to-date creative musical team of director Jansen Davis, choreographer Susan DeMill and music director JD Dumas to stage a swinging production. The three collaborate to bolster the talent of the show’s young cast members so they perform with confidence and vigor, and they hit all the right notes in the show-stopping tunes.
And in the case of Shae Wilson (as Sylvia) and Melissa Cecala (as Sandra), in the cast reviewed here, there is knock-your-(bobby)-socks-off vocal talent. Wilson’s solo in “There’s Always Me” and Cecala’s “Let Yourself Go” are surprisingly delightful. Just don’t confuse this “Let Yourself Go,” penned by Joe Byers, with another Broadway tune; Elvis is not well-known for covering the Irving Berlin songbook.
The two young leads are appealing and sing their hearts out. Heather White is winning in her role of Natalie, and Jake Taylor has all the hip-swiveling gyrations down as the Elvis-inspired character of Chad (“he’s got the moves like .” Sorry, let’s not confuse the Maroon 5 song about Mick Jagger with Elvis).
The show’s plot, loosely patterned after the character mix-ups in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” involves romantic entanglements of 10 characters in total, yet the reason to see “All Shook Up” is the rockin' performance of the show’s 25 (count ’em) chart-toppers that include “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender” and “Burning Love.”
Hearing a jiggly-wiggly in his motorcycle, Chad pulls off the highway into “a square little town, in the middle of a square state,” in which the mayor (Amber Glissmeyer) has banned rock ’n’ roll. Natalie is the coveralls-wearing girl mechanic who instantly falls in love with the roustabout — cue “Roustabout,” the title song of an Elvis flick. But the geeky Dennis, well-played with drooping shoulders by Austin Singley, is also in puppy love with Natalie.
“One Night With You” is a nice showcase for White, Taylor shakes up the show’s title tune and together they rock out “Burning Love.”
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” becomes a tremendous first-act curtain-closer, but the 11-strong ensemble dances in nice unison all the sock-hop moves with snap, crackle and pop.
And speaking of jingles for breakfast cereal, the two-story set includes a large, vintage-looking RCA television set on which actual 30-second, black-and-white commercials from the era are screened between scene changes. One of the best advertisements is the “Lifebuoy (soap) drives women wicked” spot, followed as a close runner-up by “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.”
When the on-set TV’s test card fades to black, entertained audience members leave the theater remarking to each other, “That’s Alright, Mama.”