“a spirited and fun production”
**** 4 Stars
Debuting in 2005 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway, All Shook up is a jukebox musical based on the Elvis Presley cannon and a book by Joe Dipetro blending together Shakespeare’s much ado about nothing, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a comedy driven musical that while successful in America never enjoyed a west end run but did have a Short UK tour in 2015.
Despite the musical not enjoying professional success in the UK, due to its story line being similar to the more successful Footloose, It is proving hugely popular with Am Dram companies with several productions popping up across the country, and now one of Edinburgh’s Longest serving companies the Bohemians bring a brand new production of the show to the stage of the Church Hill Theatre this week.
The Bohs deliver a spirited and fun production that embraces the comedy, telling the story of Chad (Colin Sutherland in sublime form) a drifting Roustabout recently released from the state jail comes across a Midwestern town where he interacts with the towns people, Natalie Haller (Linzi Devers giving an outstanding performance) who falls in love with Chad, he doesn’t love her back so she poses as “ED” cue comedic confusion and the chase for love!. Mayor Matilda Hyde (the comedy delights of Felicity Halfpenny) rules the town with an iron fist outlawing any sign of fun or being youthful as she lambastes the hen pecked sheriff Earl (Neil Lavin who turns in a dedicated performance given his lack of actual lines)except this sheriff has a passion in his heart for the Mayor. The Mayors son Dean Hyde (a charming Dean McAvoy) is back from military school and falls in love with Lorraine (Tara McCullough) the girl from the wrong side of the tracks. There is also Jim Haller (Sean Quinn in fine understated performance) Natalie’s dad who gets over the heartbreak of losing his wife by discovering his feelings for Sylvia (Cathy Geddie) and love blossoms. Finally the principals are rounded out by Dennis (a strong vocal and character driven turn from Fraser Jamieson) and the town tart who gets turned on by Shakespeare, Miss Sandra (an outrageous and brilliant performance from Christine Mills).
This production also boasts an impressive 28 strong ensemble which comes into its own when performing Fiona Burns Sparkling Choreography, its true triumph and the energy sparkles across the footlights. Director Scott Coltman returns to the show following a critically acclaimed abridged production at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, and he brings his magic to the full script and truly delivers a huge slice of comedy musical perfection aided by assistant director Ciara McBrien.
While the cast work hard, there are some issues in the pacing and scene changes leading to a long run time, which is hampered by missed entrance cues and it does begin to feel like its dragging at points, the show on press night came in at 70 minutes each act that should hopefully tighten as the show beds into its run. Some of the creative choices made for interesting viewing, as “Chad” comes to terms with the idea he might be in love with someone of the same sex, an outdated Gay reference is used that is more groan worthy than comedy. That said it’s actually totally in keeping with the time period. That aside Coltman truly understands his source material and how to eek out the best from what is in reality a lumpy script and all power him to for achieving that especially in two epic moments that truly thrill the audience!
Musical Director Finlay Turnbull and his nine strong pit band accompanied by the cast are the true jewel in the crown of this production, those classic Elvis songs are given full throated orchestrations performed by these accomplished musicians. When added to the peerless vocals of the cast that get up to eight piece harmonies it send shivers down the spine as the sound reverberate round the auditorium.
Scott Davidson’s Lighting design brilliantly brings to life John Urquhart’s Set and props which ensures there cartoonish nature beams out from the stage. Murray Armstrong also delivers the goods with a perfectly balanced sound design that ensure the band never overpowers the cast.
The Bohemians should be proud of this production, making the transition from the King’s (while its closed) to the smaller Churchill is a tough challenge and they have succeeded and you get excellent value for money in this affectionate tribute to a by gone era so why not get all shook up yourself and head for the Church Hill theatre this week!
The Bohemians present, All Shook Up, Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh Runs until Saturday 18th February 2023 for tickets go to: All Shook Up | Church Hill Theatre