Snapping singers, electric guitar riffs and leather jackets set the tone for the high energy performance of “All Shook Up,” a musical comedy produced by the Belmont Musical Theatre program in the Troutt Theater.
Following the opening act where lead “roustabout” Chad is released from prison, all is dull and well in the small, unnamed town which served as the setting for the remainder of the story.
Town members ruminate over the lack of excitement in the town— much of which is imposed by the Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act, a mayoral imposition which prohibits “loud music, public necking and tight pants.”
Given the intensity of laughter, Belmont students certainly appreciated this sentiment.
Nevertheless, as rules are meant to broken, the lull is timely shattered as a the roar of a motorcycle in the distance introduces Chad to this small town. With a roadway and horizon projected behind a motorcycle set prop, Chad sings “and even if a pretty girl should catch my eye, I’ll give her a quick ‘hello’ and a fast goodbye”.
As the story progressed, this becomes its own form of irony.
Chad’s arrival sparks a series of lustful relationships, many overlapping and driving the humor of the performance. Natalie, a young mechanic, is secretly pursued by Dennis, an adolescent intellectual with no hope of winning affection from the rugged gearhead girl.
At the same time, Natalie— tasked with fixing the “jiggly-wiggly” sound on Chad’s bike— falls head over heels for him, while Chad attempts to win over the museum curator, Sandra, shortly thereafter.
With several other relationships and surprises scattered throughout, all forms of love–lustful, parental, and “forbidden”– drive the push and pull of the story. In the same way, the live instrumentation and interjections of humor rose and fell in syncopation with these plot points.
Attention to detail— a cigarette smoker looms in the darkness of one dialogue scene— and the aesthetics of the set construction and lighting choices all contributed to an emotionally-powerful comedy. As such, the audience howled and swooned throughout the performance.
Likewise, the instruments in the accompanying band gave soulful renditions of jazz-blues, and cajoled the audience’s attention with zestful versions of the production’s rock tunes. The music never ceased to play tag with the range of human emotions, pushing the mood of the scenes to a higher level.
By the end of the performance, a roaring ovation from a packed house indicated the audience had just walked a thousand miles in the blue suede shoes of an excellent show.
This article was written by Danny Zydel.