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All Shook Up as presented by Dundalk Musical Society

All Shook Up as presented by Dundalk Musical Society

Wednesday 18th October - Sunday 22nd October 2023, Tain Arts Centre, Dundalk.  

Date of Adjudicated Performance: Saturday 21st October 2023

All Shook Up is a story inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth night and follows a small dreary town that is thrown into a frenzy with the arrival of Chad, a good-looking hip-swivelling roustabout. 

Chad travels from town to town on his motorbike with a guitar on his back, blue suede shoes on his feet and a song in his heart. Repressed by their very conservative Mayor, the town comes alive once more with Chad's influence, lovers meet and fall in love, on that one zany night that will change the town forever. A beautiful heart-warming story about following dreams, opening your heart to love and the wonderful power of music. 

Dundalk Musical Society performed in the beautiful Tain Arts Centre and a full house eagerly anticipated this show. There was a distinct buzz around the theatre, and I immediately felt that I was amongst knowledgeable theatre friends.  

A bustling busy theatre with a bar/coffee area right outside makes this theatre front of house a vibrant busy meeting place which really adds to that musical night out experience.  I was very well welcomed by the large team and members of the committee and a big thank you to Maria Waring Chairperson for looking after me too.  

The show opens with a scene very similar to one of Elvis’ movies in a jailhouse and the tune of course was “Jailhouse Rock”. A great set and fine introduction to the main lead – Chad.  We were rocking already. 

Director Laura Kerr managed to get the most of this company.  It was slick and acting overall was very good.  A great cast allowed direction to thrive and there were some beautiful moments. 

Really effective freezes especially as each character fell for another – “One Night with You” was funny, effective and heart-warming all in one!  The statues in the museum were so well done and I felt that direction was in very safe hands throughout. 

I must mention that the choreography was very good throughout.  I loved that especially during full company scenes there was a range of ages I’m sure from 15 to 70 + and it was just beautiful.  Everyone supports each other and moves as a team.  The dancing and movement were on point and effective.   I always noticed that choreography and movement was full of energy and the on-stage smiles were infectious.  The audience were onboard straight away from the opening number and in no small part to the strength of choreography which always puts one at ease in a show like this when you see it done well. 

A beautiful quality live orchestra produced a great sound. They were very slick and most accurate in score interpretation. It had noticeable quality musical direction from Mr. Ronan Dennedy. This gentleman had his cast in the palm of his hand, his conducting and musical direction was managed meticulously and flawless. Well Done. 

The sets overall were very good, and set transitions were smooth and efficient.  Some fillers were used in between set changes, but this worked well and as an audience we were never waiting.

Sets and lighting combined very well in some scenes especially for example the opening Jailhouse number where lighting created the jail bars as well as the sets. The motorbike and workshop was super as well as the museum. Sylvias' Honky Tonk set was great and moved very smoothly. 

Colm Eaton on lighting design and tech should be commended for some excellent touches, and lighting was good throughout with lovely colours.  Well done to Stage Manager Niall McCooey and Asst Jennifer Clarke and all of the stage crew. You all did a great job. 

The sound was very good throughout and well done to McCusker Pro Audio the Sound Engineers for the show. 

Costumes were good and reflected that 50s 60s era in the USA. The principals all had Blue suede shoes as the show progressed and it became a badge of honour to be wearing them.  I loved it. 

The ladies were dressed well, especially the principal cast.  Natalie as Ed was very effective in her costuming  and I loved some of the dresses. Beautiful.  

Hair and make-up were very well done.  And it was very clever in parts especially for example when Ed goes back to being Natalie and her own removal of her Oil-stained face was particularly subtle and clever. Well done to the Visuals team under wardrobe mistress Phyllis Woods and team. 

We were introduced to Chad played by Aaron Mathews in the very opening number. Straight away this young man's lyrical Elvis-esque voice showed us immediately that this gentleman could sing and also act and dance. Mr Mathews had a great voice, and from the moment he takes to the stage, he has a colossal number of songs, no mean achievement, to sing each song so well, and not once waver. A great performance.  

The part of Natalie was played by Ms Chloe Copas.  I really enjoyed her performance.  There is something about Ms Copas and her portrayal of the smitten Natalie and it was very endearing. The audience just couldn’t help but want her to succeed in her love quest.  Her performance as Ed was really good. Movement and posture and small effective nuances just added to this. Very well done. 

Dennis was played by Max Valentine. Firstly, what a really cool name. It belongs on some Hollywood 50s film credits!  Mr Valentine was an incredibly good comedic actor. His timing was super as well as his movement. I really looked forward to his appearances each time.  His change of demeanour and confidence as he became Chad’s right-hand man was very well done as was his coy love for Natalie.  Another character I just wanted him to find his Love!  Very well played indeed Mr Valentine. 

Sylvia was played by Ms Medbh Burns. What a strong character this lady has with a great singing voice. You just knew instinctively by the strength of Ms Burns' acting that she was in love with Jim Haller but never had the confidence to say so. There were a couple of very strong musical numbers which were well sung and I really enjoyed this performance. 

Lorraine was played by Hannah Mullen.  A lovely part and well-acted and sung.  Her duets with Dean were beautiful and I loved her rebellious side.  Ms Mullen had great chemistry with both Natalie and Dean, and I liked her performance. 

Dean played by Cian Kennedy - the son of the Mayor and the Sheriff has such a clear speaking voice with wonderful diction and lovely acting particularly between himself and Lorraine as mentioned.  

Miss Sandra was played by Ms Fiona Mullen. What a strong character this lady has with an immense singing voice. I loved the contrast from when she arrived on stage in her straight-laced prim and proper very effective costume and her strict no nonsense aura with no time for Chad whatsoever – this in itself was quite comical between both of them, to her at the end of the show when she was in love with Dennis and her love of sonnets. Ms Burns has a truly lovely singing voice with great power and musicality and all-round great performance. Well done. Beautifully sung and acted.

Jim Haller was played by Brian Halpin.  A solid performance from Mr Halpin throughout as the caring still grieving widowed father of Natalie.  His comedic moments in his transition to blue suede teddy boy through Chad’s influence was very funny. 

Mayor Matilda – Patricia Savage and Sheriff Earl – Tim Ahern was a brilliant comedic duo which popped in and out of the show throughout.  Mr Ahern gave a great portrayal of the downtrodden in complement to Ms Savage’s great performance as the strict no fun Mayor and mother of Dean. Other smaller roles but equally well done were played by Caitlyn Carroll / Leah Kearney, Orlaith Harrison, Richard McCusker and Stephen Clarke.  Never a small part on stage – your contribution to the show was invaluable – well done. 

I loved the chorus I have to say. When the dark and old dusty juke box came to life it lit up the stage. “Come On Everybody” was great - Great singing, good lighting, clapping and stamping was so precise and the lovely choreography again that came from the stage was perfect.  Well done to Chorus Mistress Karyn Cooney who ensured that the sound emanating from the stage was of a very high quality.  

I loved your show, from start to finish. Yes, there were areas that could have been done differently but such is the way with any show. I just sat back and enjoyed. 

There were some highlights that I’d like to mention.  The end of Act 1 created a stunning picture with a wonderful sound. Opening of Act 2 Set was the Funfair with Chad singing “All Shook Up”. A lovely set with the Festival Lights of the Fairground. I particularly loved the two beautiful Carousel Horses in this scene. Magical. Red and White T Shirts and Towels with Dennis and the Men’s Chorus being very funny. Very well-choreographed and yet another lovely well directed and choreographed funny number in the show, and again the audience brought the house down.

The duet with Chad and Natalie, ‘A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action' was superb. With dancers and a ladies chorus coming in with “Satisfy Me” and ‘Baby My Love Will Never Get Away” was a powerful number. Beautiful duet between Sylvia and Jim on the two carousel horses. - “When The Evening Shadows Fall” gorgeous number sung very well. Chad's song, – “There Must Be Lights Burning Brightly Somewhere” was very well done. 

So many lovely highlights to mention, but I have to say well done to the ‘Elder’ statesmen of the show. It was just lovely to see you on stage taking part and well-done Dundalk on your inclusiveness.  

Thank you for a great evening. 

Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator

Some photos kindly shared by the society to accompany the review:


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