All Shook Up as presented by St. Patrick’s Choral Society
All Shook Up as presented by St. Patrick’s Choral Society
8th - 11th November, 2023
Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 9th November, 2023
St.Patrick’s Choral Society selected, for their 2023 production, the immensely popular All Shook Up, one of those feel-good, juke-box shows that is guaranteed to send an audience home with their feet tapping and their heads full of the wonderful songs that made Elvis the legend that he was. It’s mostly a comedic romp, but with tender moments of romance and a thread of class-consciousness throw in along the way. It has a delightful array of characters, familiar songs, plenty of dance opportunities, and a vibrancy that makes it appealing to most musical societies. It also has a surprisingly strong script, (not always the case with Juke-box shows) and with this production, I was left feeling that perhaps the characters should have relied more on that strength, and a little less on exaggerated physical comedy that was perhaps too close to pantomime in delivery. There were many moments of laughter and much comedic business, and indeed, a very talented cast, but I did feel that on too many occasions the comedy that comes from well-drawn characters and their relationships, got lost in the haze.
While Director, Simon Pyper, was blessed to have such a competent line-up of principals to bring this show to life, and while his production was certainly fast-flowing and filled with variety and energy, I did feel that several of the principals needed reined in and to be more aware of the nature of their characters. The thing about Chad, for example, is that he doesn’t have to try. He just IS the epitome of cool, the epitome of a love-machine, the epitome of self-belief. It is that self-confidence that stands him apart, from the other characters. While his comedy comes from suddenly being in a position where his mesmerizing charisma lets him down, and he is forced to reassess his self-confidence. I always had the sense that Sean Harkin, in this role, was trying too hard to be comedic. He is, as I have witnessed on so many occasions, a very fine performer and an excellent comedian, but perhaps his take on Chad was the wrong brand of comedy for a character who required more Cool than craziness. The knock on effect of this was that I found it hard to believe that the women of the town, and in particular, Natalie, would find him hypnotic. On a more positive note, he was on fire with energy and delivered his musical numbers with conviction.
Karen Hawthorn, as Natalie/Ed, got her character just about perfect, giving a performance that was delightfully insecure as a dress-wearing female, and comically macho as a male roustabout. This was a strong portrayal that showed the breadth of her talents, with secure acting and comedy and a very reliable vocal quality.
Aodhán Halfpenny took on the role of Dennis with nerdish glee. He was very believable in his love-sick adoration of Natalie and highly comical in his attempts to emulate Chad. His delivery of It Hurts Me was vocally strong and secure, and enhanced a very good overall performance.
Performance of the night, for me, came from Laoise Carney, who kept a level of mature control amid the madness around her, in the role of Sylvia. This was a delightful portrayal that oozed sincerity, combining a fine sense of comedy and a quality vocal display in There’s Always Me. Very nicely played.
Her love interest, Jim, was very credibly portrayed by Tim Pentland, who captured nicely the comedic struggle to reinvent himself, (the wig was very funny) in order to impress the new girl in town. His vocals were secure and with the exception of his pantomimed crying when
he saw Natalie in a dress and looking like her deceased mother, (a moment that surely should have been more tender than comical) this was a very enjoyable characterization.
Making a visual impact the moment she stepped on the stage, Jordan Rosborough perfectly captured the sophisticated lady that is Miss Sandra. Her Hound-dog mix with Chad’s Teddy Bear was a very well-performed number, and she carried herself with a delightfully vampish elegance. She displayed good comedic ability when she fell in lust with Ed, even if sometimes, over-exaggerating the physical comedy led to some very funny lines being slightly lost.
Adam Madine played young Dean with a lovely naivety and an equally endearing sense of adventure when he fell for the quirky charm of Lorraine. It’s Now or Never was a very well delivered number. He was well-matched too with Marissa McKittrick, who gave an effervescent performance as Lorraine. Their dialogue together had good pace, urgency and comedy, and her vocals were very secure.
Karen Turley was an appropriately cantankerous Matilda, adding comical vim and vitriol to the story. Devil in Disguise went a bit wayward in performance, despite her best efforts and a very capable vocal ability. Alongside her, Andrew Devonshire did all that was required of the apparently timid Sheriff Earl, who leaps into action in the closing scene to put Matilda in her place and to declare his love for her.
A talented group of musicians assembled under Musical Director, Wilson Shields, gave a pacy and energetic rendition of the score, and there was evidence of well-rehearsed harmonies throughout from the enthusiastic chorus and principals. Particularly impressive were Heartbreak Hotel, If I Can Dream and Can’t Help Falling in Love With You. The chorus were at their best during their musical numbers, displaying a good level of dance ability and strong vocal quality, but they did perhaps need to be more animated and involved in the scenes where they were on-lookers to the action. Choreographer, Alex McFarlane, had put a lot of thought into keeping her routines varied and energetic, and while the execution wasn’t always airtight, there was certainly a good level of enthusiastic performance, with several outstanding individuals being giving a chance to shine.
There was an issue with the sound system which seemed to be all treble and little bass, which gave the musical numbers, both orchestral and vocal, a tinny and uneven quality which didn’t improve much as the evening progressed. I have heard many of these good singers before and this system did little to enhance what I know to be good quality voices.
The lighting for the show was patchy and uneven, with an over-use of rotating gobos on the backdrop, which also spilled on to the set pieces. Some nice atmospheres were created, but I felt that an over-emphasis on effects lighting resulted in an unbalanced general lighting state, with many shadowy areas of action.
The set for the show was adequate, but might have been enhanced by being more abstract or neutral. The three trucks that spent a lot of time on stage were not particularly attractive. Act Two was more successful, thanks to being less cluttered. Stage Manager, Alex Simpson, did a commendable job of keeping things moving at a decent pace. While the majority of props were good, they could perhaps have been more abundant, particularly in the café scenes. Principals were well and appropriately costumed, and the chorus were comfortably attired. The angels and devils for Devil in Disguise were nicely outfitted, and the boy-band and backing dancers for It Hurts Me were a novel distraction. Make-up and hairstyles were, by and large, very acceptable.
Ironically, for a show for which I have made many criticisms, it has to be said that the sheer sense of enjoyment and dedication to their task exhibited by the whole company was heart-
warming and intoxicating to an audience who showed good appreciation of a very lively and entertaining show. I am grateful to everyone concerned for their talents, energy and enthusiasm, which should remain undaunted by the rantings of a crotchety old critic. Thank you for a most enjoyable experience.
Peter Kennedy, Gilbert Adjudicator