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Ritz Theater’s “All Shook Up”: Elvis Has Left the Building, but fun with Elvis Presley's songs continues


Like most jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia and Bye Bye Birdie the songs have no real connection to the story, nor do they advance any of the characters. Instead, the story blossoms as a result of the songs, sometimes randomly and a bit awkward, sometimes predictably but in the all shook upcase of 'All Shook Up' almost always surprisingly fun!

If you’re looking for Elvis Presley, he’s not in this musical, but his tunes are sung by everyone. "Love Me Tender" is used as a dual "I Want" song for Natalie and Dennis; "C'Mon Everybody" is Chad's hip-swiveling introduction to the town; "It's Now or Never" is sung by a potentially parting duo; "There's Always Me" is sung for traditionally torchy reasons; and "Jailhouse Rock" is sung, well, so the cast can sing "Jailhouse Rock."

When Bye Bye Birdie covered this same territory 45 years ago, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams were able to devise a charming original score that melded the beat of rock with the utility of theatre music and a solid, funny book. Joe DiPietro's book is considerably less distinguished.

But let’s get to this production. The overall cast is polished with some terrific group vocals and dance numbers, thanks to vocal director, Andre Vermeulen and choreographer Dann Dunn, whose credits would be the envy of many a ‘step master’.

The story takes place in an unnamed town somewhere in the ‘middle of  the map’ in 1955. Here’s the lineup :There’s the girl who loves Chad  (Natalie, played by Anastasia Bokas and Chad, Steven Calkos), the guy who loves Natalie (Dennis, Caleb Whipple), the girl whom Chad loves (museum curator Miss Sandra, Kelly Rosado ), the young interracial  couple in love with each other but separated by intolerance (Lorraine
and Dean, Danielle Harley and Michael Angelini), and middle-aged interracial single parents who love each other but won't admit it (Sylvia and Jim, Ashli Rian and David M. Mooney), and how they all get, well, shaken up together.

The blue suede shoed cast shines as an ensemble vocally and dance moves are consistently impressive. Chad, AKA the “Roustabout” Elvis-esque character has the look, the moves but unfortunately not the vocal power to pull this off impressively. I was told he was babysitting strep throat on Opening Night, so that would account for some problems. Otherwise, Chad was a pleasant surprise.

However, the ladies take the lead in outstanding performances. The core character Natalie, played by Anastasia Bokas is a natural as the spunky little grease monkey who whenever she is on stage, is a delight to see and hear.

The mother and daughter team of Sylvia & Lorraine are the most pleasant surprise of all. Ashila Rian delivers a Dreamgirls quality “There’s Always Me” and Danielle Harley  Lorraine) could step right into the best production of Hairspray.

Of course, All Shook Up isn't about its performers, or their characters it's about Elvis Presley's songs. If that's what you want, nothing will stand in the way of your enjoying this production that runs at the Ritz until August 6th.

All Shook Up plays at the Ritz Theater, 915 White Horse Pike, Haddon Twp. NJ until August 6. For ticket and more information: www.ritztheatreco.org or call 856.858.5230

Cast Photo: From NJ.com 

Contact Pati Buehler at pbuehler@philly2philly.com
Philly2Philly.com, Entertainment & Cultural writer
Broadwayworld.com, NJ & Philadelphia regional events writer

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