“All Shook Up” – Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ October 6, 2008


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Mesa, AZ

Mesa’s Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre has changed programming dramatically for its new season. Gone are the golden classic musicals of the past in favor of new shows the Valley hasn’t seen along with several modern shows that have had limited exposure here. The new attractions represent changing audiences and Broadway Palm producers hope that they can draw a different audience of younger theatergoers.

The first attraction of their new season is a pleasant, if undistinguished, “All Shook Up,” a frail show with a slim and silly plot but it’s filled with Elvis Presley song hits. There isn’t a Presley hit that isn’t used including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog,” “Fools Fall in Love,” and the title tune, among the two dozen songs.

It’s the summer of 1955 in a small, unnamed Midwest town. Chad, a hip swiveling Presley clone, arrives and falls in love with a female mechanic, Natalie. There’s an assortment of couplings and the show’s underlying message is acceptance of all pairings. Details of the romances and the fanciful conclusion are nonsensical and unnecessary but the songs, used like Abba tunes in “Mamma Mia,” allow several well staged production numbers featuring jivin’ ‘50s dances with the classic tunes. Buddy Reeder’s staging and choreography are elaborate and well executed by the spirited cast. The wonderful tunes are well played by A. Scott Williams’ small but swinging five-piece orchestral ensemble.

The cast is good but J. Michael Zygo is out of his league playing Chad, the lead. Zygo has neither the bright personality necessary for the role nor is his singing, while pleasant, that of a true rocker. An Elvis Presley clone Zygo is not. Cute as the female mechanic is April Monte, who has the vocal pipes to sing her songs with a swinging gusto. She plays a young girl who has trouble convincing Chad she’s a hot-too-trot woman. There’s a great soul singer in Chelsea Waller as a bar owner and mother of Lorraine, a young Black girl who falls hard for the uptight Dean, a white guy. Interracial romances were not the norm back then but “All Shook Up” says “why not.” The rest of the cast plays their one-dimensional roles with fire and conviction.

If you loved the ‘50s Elvis Presley rock-n-roll sound, “All Shook Up” will entertain you with its pleasant production as you remember these great tunes. “All Shook Up” continues through November 15. For tickets, call the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre box office at 480-325-6700 or go online at www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

Grade: C