Perhaps now is the wrong time to admit I’m not a big fan of Elvis Presley but a lover of the quiffed one or not, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the enthusiastic treatment given to his songs by the cast of ‘All Shook Up’ at the Maltings last Friday evening.
The musical was the first ever production to be staged by fledgling theatre group Black Waves Theatre and taking into account that founders David Robson, Megan Smith, Liam Mutch and Melissa Steven did absolutely everything themselves from choreograph to paint sets, they can be extremely proud of themselves.
The ambitious quartet were veritable elders of a cast that included many of the stars of spring hit ‘Our Day Out’ and from the first bit of opening number ‘Jailhouse Rock’ you knew this was a bunch of youngsters hell bent on ensuring the audience went home thoroughly entertained.
Never previously performed anywhere in the UK, ‘All Shook Up’ had a plot line not too dissimilar to fellow jukebox musical ‘Footloose’ and with the back catalogue of one of music’s biggest stars as a soundtrack there was certainly no shortage of crowd pleasers.
Very much like Mr Presley himself leading man Chad was a guy who had a passion for music and slipping on a leather jacket and blue suede shoes, Alan Rowland had the right amount of T-Bird style swagger to make the tole his own.
With so many songs packed into two halves of fast-paced action, the role of Chad demanded a fine singing voice and that’s exactly what Alan had.
And he wasn’t the only one amongst the ‘All Shook Up’ ensemble to have an obvious talent for singing. Group numbers like ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’ were as quintessentially 1950s as a circle skirt or hand jive and gave the likes of Nicola Mavin and Emma Beveridge a real chance to shine.
I first saw the girls in ‘Our Day Out’ where they made a fine first impression and as mother and daughter Sylvia and Lorraine they were once again on fine form.
Whether it was uptempo numbers like ‘That’s All Right’ or ballads like ‘Love Me Tender’ their voices were well up to the challenge.
As well as coming up with dance moves to complement the Presley repertoire, Megan and Melissa were also at the forefront of the plot as Natalie and Miss Sandra but their too roles couldn’t have been more different.
Natalie was a mechanic hopelessly head over heels in love with Chad while Miss Sandra, despite looking a bit Dolly Parton meets Jessica Simpson, was a poetry lover who couldn’t be less interested in the rocker’s advances towards her.
Desperate to get closer to Chad, Natalie became Ed and as well as sporting some drawn on facial hair the role also meant that Melissa had to call on the lower range of her voice for songs like ‘Blue Suede Shoes and ‘A Little Less conversation’.
Megan too had her fair share of rockin’ to do with ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Let Yourself Go’ two of her finest moments.
The show’s technical manager Liam Mutch made geek chic very much in trend as hapless Dennis, complete with great comic timing and some even funnier braces.
You could argue that compared to big theatrical numbers from the likes of ‘Les Mis’, Elvis songs gave the cast a bit of an easy ride but I’d argue that failure to do such well known songs justice would have seen ‘All Shook Up’ fall flat.
What I liked most about the way Black Waves went about their task was their eagerness to put their own slant on the legendary tracks, none more so than ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ which made for a rousing end to the first act with some fantastic harmonies.
David, Megan, Melissa and Liam are all flying the Berwick nest as they head to university as is Sarah Rooney who after playing one of the silly girls in ‘Beauty & the Beast’ was at the opposite end of the theatrical spectrum as straight laced and straight talking Mayor Matilda Hyde.
Another Rooney, Paul, once again proved he is a rising comic talent to watch as Jim while Damien Davidson made Dean the ideal love match for Emma’s Lorraine. The cast was completed by Patrick Davenport, Aimee Coogan, Kyla Dean and Rachael Johnston and the enthusiasm of all the actors on stage was utterly contagious.
Yes there were a few hiccups here and there but even these were dealt with with a smile and were hastily forgiven.
‘All Shook Up’ was a fine example of just what fantastic young talent Berwick possesses not just on stage but behind the scenes as well and all those involved can walk tall and proud in their blue suede shoes this week.