Have some fun, get 'All Shook Up'
Tri-Valley Rep cast's enthusiasm is contagious
Nothing is ever the same in one Midwestern burg once the "roustabout" Chad rides his motorcycle into town in 1955, guitar slung over his back. Is he the "Devil in Disguise" or a "Teddy Bear" or a "Hound Dog"? It depends who you ask. But the boring burg definitely gets "All Shook Up."
This is the name of the current offering of the Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre, a high energy parody that's a great excuse to perform the music made famous by Elvis. In this loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" by Joe Dipietro, the plot twists and turns as multiple romances bloom and meander, and love is discovered in strange places among unassuming people after Chad infects them all with love and life.
"It's great the way they used the songs in unexpected ways," said Christina Lazo, director/choreographer. "And some of the arrangements are so beautiful."
She said the highlight of the show is the talented cast -- the vocal talents realized as they sing the challenging and haunting harmonies.
"And the dancing, there's so much of it and it's so energetic," Lazo added. "It's really a goal of ours to keep this energy going."
First "Elvis" talks briefly to the audience, the usual information about turning off cell phones, etc., signing off with his familiarly slurred, "Thank you verrr much." The curtain rises to a stage full of characters clad in stripes, dancing on multi-level sets, for the first rousing number, "Jailhouse Rock."
The beat continues and doesn't let up. Presley's beautiful ballads dominate the second act as all those chasing romance begin to pair up and reflect on how they "Can't Help Falling in Love."
Tri-Valley Rep uses an optional ending after the curtain calls -- a rousing rendition of "Burning Love."
"I wanted to leave them with their toes tapping," Lazo explained.
"I'm so happy with this cast and the effort they put in," she added. "Their enthusiasm comes across, it's contagious. Their talent is extraordinary."
"It's a bigger musical than you think," she explained. "There's so much dancing, so much harmony work. It's a big show -- to look for performers was a challenge."
Fans of Tri-Valley Rep will recognize some of the actors. In each production, the audience discovers anew their singing, dancing and comedic talents. Two of the leads, Robert Lopez as the roustabout and Jeff Seaberg as a middle-aged widower, had the lead roles in "The Producers." "All Shook Up" doesn't compare to that Mel Brooks work of genius, but the actors played both their roles to perfection.
The female leads played by Morgan Breedveld as the lovesick tomboy Natalie and Christina Eskridge as the defiant teenager Lorraine were delightfully perky. Elizabeth Jones was no-nonsense as Sylvia, the owner of the diner, while Katie Pogue portrayed Miss Sandra, a sultry femme fatale with a fun side. The cast was rounded out by Kevin Hammond as Dean, a teen who refuses to return to the military academy after falling for Lorraine; his mom, Ali Lane playing the uptight mayor; Bob Stratton as Earl, the quiet sheriff with a burning secret in his heart; and Mike Verzosa, Natalie's good friend Dennis who finds love in an unexpected place, as well as a talented ensemble.
This 2004 musical may not be a Broadway masterpiece but it is certainly fun and entertaining as one by one the characters begin to don blue suede shoes. If you like Elvis songs, or just enjoy a little toe-tapping as you watch vivacious singers and dancers, don't miss this latest offering of community theater.
The performances continue this weekend and next at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. For tickets, $37.50, visit www.livermoreperformingarts.org, or call 373-6800.