Tuesday, April 23

All Shook Up – Hyde Festival Theatre

“I gotta follow that dream” Elvis once crooned. Two years later than planned, Hyde Musical Society have finally realised their dream to bring All Shook Up, featuring the hits of Elvis, to the stage.

The musical is a frothy 50s comedy, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. ‘Bad boy’ Chad (who, thanks to the family-friendly stylings of the show, is about as dangerous as a glass of milk), swings into a small Midwestern town whose residents cower under the thumb of their very own Mary Whitehouse-type, Mayor Matilda – anything she considers immoral is banned.

With less a nod, more a vigorous headbang towards the plot of Footloose, Chad’s hip-thrusting dance moves and rock and roll songs soon upset the applecart as the townsfolk are encouraged to let loose. Local ‘grease monkey’ mechanic Natalie (like many of the other ladies in town) is soon smitten with Chad, sparking the start of not so much a love triangle as a love hexagon, as multiple characters fall head over blue suede shoes for each other.

Determined to get close to him, she disguises herself as ‘Ed’ and befriends our Roustabout, soon attracting some unexpected admirers of her own.

This easy-going plot allows for some of Elvis’ most popular songs to be nicely stitched together and provides plenty of opportunity for laugh-out-loud moments which Hyde Musical Society have definitely made the most of.

All of tonight’s leading players are excellent in their respective roles, with vocal styles that suit their characters, combining spot-on comic timing with the ability to tug the odd heartstring when things aren’t going their way.

Liam Bunka and Alison Ruck are well matched as Chad and Natalie, with strong vocals and an enjoyable grip on their ‘will they, won’t they’ storyline. Equally good are Alison Foy-Thackwell as café owner Sylvia and Kevin Siddall as Jim, Natalie’s widowed father. The former has a pleasing sarcastic streak that balances the saccharine romances popping up around her, and the latter’s attempts to channel his own inner ‘Chad’ are a hoot.

Stealing the show though are Tom Williams as Dennis, Chad’s eager sidekick, and Jess Bray as Miss Sandra, the local museum curator who has the townsmen falling over themselves to charm her. They bring some of the biggest laughs to tonight’s proceedings, with excellent characterisations and superb singing.

As is a hallmark of the shows the society produces, our principals are supported by a consistently good ensemble and a fantastic band under the skilled direction of Jeremy Sleith. Having the musicians in a separate room and ‘piped through’ means the sound balance is flawless. There’s not one moment where anyone isn’t clearly audible.

The set is well-executed – bright and eye-catching and simple enough to manoeuvre for each scene change without leaving the stage feeling barren. An excellent lighting plot brings depth to our setting, with the fairground scenes being particularly effective. Costumes are well thought through for each character.

Suzi Cleary’s choreography works well for the 50s storyline with some big, bold moves but if there was one thing that could lift this show into being a real knockout, it’s more energy in some of the numbers, particularly the big rock and roll songs. The movements are well-drilled but sometimes feel a bit restrained– it’s not clear if this is by design, given the storyline, or just that the cast are warming back up after their enforced hiatus, but they certainly are capable, so it would be nice to have a bit more vigour shining through to really sell the idea that the town are throwing their inhibitions aside.

Nevertheless, it’s a hugely enjoyable and vibrant show with some hilarious performances and it’s impossible to imagine anyone will leave the show feeling like it wasn’t worth the wait.

All Shook up is on till Saturday 9th April. For tickets visit https://hydemusicalsociety.org.uk/

Reviewer: Lou Steggals

Reviewed: 6th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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