2005 – the year the jukebox musical nearly imploded, until one worldwide mega hit brought it roaring back to life.
OK, that show was not All Shook Up, but the point is that the fabulous All Shook Up, which ran on Broadway March – September 2005, was lost amidst a couple of other sub par shows as the whole genre fell into disrepute. In another season this peppy, feel good musical, featuring the songs of none other than The King – Elvis Presley, could have easily been another Mamma Mia!.
The idea was simple – create a show that was the type of Broadway show Elvis would have starred in had he been a young hip Broadway star today. So if the story sounds like the plot of an Elvis movie that’s the point. Roustabout Chad wheels into a Midwest town where excitement has been outlawed. A touch of class is added to proceedings by the fact that the story is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Lonely Natalie dresses as “Ed” to get closer to Chad, causing some gender confusion and misplaced love before the triple-wedding happy ending.
Crowding up the jukebox stage in 2005 were two duds, also ostensibly based on classic back-catalogues of hits:
Lennon was strangled by the tight rein of Yoko Ono and ran little over a month. The concept of having around nine actors, both male and female, all play John Lennon at various stages in the show didn’t help.
Good Vibrations sullied the treasured memory of The Beach Boys with a lame show that was blasted for its superficial, predictable plot that was just an excuse to cram in as many Beach Boys songs as possible.
All Shook Up rocked Broadway’s Palace Theatre for nearly seven months and created stars out of a number its cast. Hunky leading man Cheyenne Jackson minted his star as Chad, going to star in the hilarious Xanadu, also with director Christopher Ashley, then the gorgeous revival of Finian’s Rainbow. Jackson, out and proud before it was the fashion, has also been seen in TV’s Glee and 30 Rock. Jenn Gambatese followed her role as Natalie by playing Jane in Disney’s Tarzan but is yet to really make her mark on Broadway.
A subplot related to the wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance between 'good military boy' Dean, the Sherriff’s son, and Lorraine, daughter of barmaid Sylvia. Nikki M. James (pictured right) was barely known when she played Lorraine but this year has hit gold with the uber-hit The Book of Mormon. James won the Best Featured Actress Tony as naïve African girl Nabalungi who dreams of a place called “Sal Tlay Ka Siti”.
The real star of All Shook Up is the music. The songs fit naturally into the storyline and the orchestrations are wonderful. Check out “Can’t Help Falling In Love” in the YouTube clip below. Has it ever sounded this good? Apart from fabulous versions of classic hits, the show also featured some lesser-known Elvis gems. One of the best of these is Sylvia’s Act Two show-stopping ballad “There’s Always Me”. Have a listen to that as well if you get a chance. Don’t you love a key change on big belted note?
Previously in this column I have pondered whether the shows being discussed will ever get an airing. Fortunately Melbourne theatregoers will not have to wait too long as CLOC have announced All Shook Up as their second show for 2012. See you at the National!
But wait, I hear you cry, what was the worldwide mega-hit that ended 2005 by bringing the juke box musical roaring back to life? Just a little story about how four blue collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history…
Man In Chair previously presented: