Review submitted by Ben Beriss of Montgomery Blair High School.
When guitar playin’ roustabout Chad comes to a small town more conservative than the one Ren McCormack moves to, he shakes it up with his funny, energetic brand of rock’n’roll. With their production of All Shook Up, Einstein High School does the same to the audience.
All Shook Up is a jukebox musical which features the music of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, It follows the crisscrossing love stories of various residents of a dreary Midwest town in which daily life is disrupted by the leather wearing, motorbike riding, pelvis gyrating Chad, who reminds them of the pleasures of love and music.
The production is anchored on Elvis’ show-stoppers, which Einstein pulls off with considerable aplomb and an energy which lifts their impressive performances to the raised roof. The King’s music is paid suitable homage by their skilled vocalists and inspired ensemble dance moves. The energy generated from these songs rarely dips, as the actors manage to reach the audience’s heart in both touching and hilarious ways.
The show revolves around Samuel Intrater’s capable performance as the rebellious Elvis look-alike Chad, which combines impressive singing with truly believable acting. He manages to portray Chad’s reluctant journey from cool and unattached to passionately loving while maintaining a consistently impressive sense of humor. Gabbie Ballesteros as his counterpart, Natalie, is similarly impressive; her singing and dancing is the highlight of several impressive show-stoppers, such as “Love Me Tender” and both renditions of “Follow that Dream.” Her portrayal of the directionless and idealistic would-be roustabout is heartbreakingly true to the experience of confused teenagers everywhere. That connection is shared by Philippos Sourvinos as Natalie’s friend Dennis, whose incredible voice and bashful acting painted a beautiful portrait of a hopelessly shy romantic who just wants love.
They are supported by a full cast of equally impressive performers. Devon Blackwell as Natalie’s mother Sylvia is subtly hilarious as she attempts to overcome her natural sarcasm to pursue love and delivers one of the strongest and most emotional vocal performances of the show with “There’s Always Me.” Tom Fulton as Earl, the town sheriff, is a comic gem, using exaggerated switches in the mood of his gestures to both crack up the audience and show his desperate desire to win the love of Mayor Matilda, played by Jordanna Peronico. The ensemble is similarly impressive; despite small mishaps with choreography, they provide the essential backdrop of a town swept up in a mad tide of dancing and music with impressively organized dancing. Notable among them are Elise Van Leer as Randy Female Towns person and Ella Kirkendall as Fainting Customer, but they all managed the difficult task of portraying unique stories while not upstaging the main narrative.
These performances were elevated by excellent sets and light design. The set was confidently campy, serving its function of cementing the play’s setting of 1950s Midwest and setting a goofy tone which allowed the show’s jokes to shine. Shout out to the moving telephone poles as the most creative way to show movement this critic has even seen. The light design was simply arranged around the needs of the show, but was consistently on-point, highlighting the action and subtly enhancing the mood of every scene. This effect was itself enhanced by the superb Bella Whiting, who as lighting manager made sure the lights ran as smoothly as in a professional production.
Einstein has embraced the show and created a production which manages to be truly hilarious while still showing the power of love to overcome all barriers.
The performance reviewed was from Saturday, 3/4/2017.
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