Thursday, May 30

All Shook Up – Rainhill Village Hall

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the story is new and the hits are Elvis as Director and Choreographer Lucy Bradshaw takes us back to the summer of 1955 Midwest America in this heart-warming and feel-good musical, where we find Natalie (Sarah Johnson), a young mechanic, dreaming of love and adventure, without realising best friend Dennis (Ben Evans-Clarke) has a secret crush on her.

But things take off when Chad (David Stevens), a hip-swivelling, guitar-playing roustabout, brings more than the jukebox to life in Sylvia’s (Julie Gould) Honky Tonk, putting a spring in the step of Natalie’s father, Jim (Bryan Dargie) and more than a sonnet in Miss Sandra (Dawn Wright). Can it get any better when Sylvia’s daughter Lorraine (Bláthíne Maguire) is told she’s beautiful by Dean (Toby Abbott), or will it take a turn for the worse when his mother, the hard faced Mayoress (Julie Robinson), turns up with the Sheriff (Paul Robinson) to put an end to everyone’s fun?

The story is great, the music is infectious but you’ve still got to deliver and Rainhill Musical Theatre Company well and truly shook us up from any post-Covid slumber with an exhilarating performance from the cast with the support of an equally talented ensemble (Annie Topping; Ruth Gibb; Sue Horley; Megan Charlton; Pip Bradshaw; Charlotte Orme; Claire Jones) and a live 12-piece band (Craig Mann; Corey Gerrard; Jennifer Downing; Emily Farren; Jon Jones; Benjamin Richeton; Liam Ashbridge; Rachael Devlin; Kevin Bates; Mike Ciaputa; Ben Knowles; Amy Gray) conducted by the very capable hands of Musical Director Wayne Oakes.

Someone asked me at the end who I thought was the best: all of them, I replied; exactly, they agreed. So as much as it’s natural to focus on the lead cast, everyone – front and back of house – should be immeasurably proud of what they have achieved.

There is always a risk of Elvis impersonation which Stevens wisely avoided; better than that, he made the role very much his own and carried it off with glee, especially the comic moments.

Evans-Clarke and Wright were equally strong with their acting and singing throughout whilst Dargie delivered a faultless, all-round performance. Gould’s heartfelt ‘There’s Always Me’ was particularly moving.

Maguire and Abbott brought their talented acting and singing skills to the fore whilst I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of the Robinsons on stage relationship whilst delighting in their individual performances as well. Charlton shone in the ensemble and is one to look out for.

And Johnson? Well, what’s not to like – shrugging off a recent illness, she sang, danced, and performed to perfection: it was a pleasure to see her deservedly front and centre stage again.

The combinations worked well with the’ Teddy Bear/Hound Dog’ medley and ‘Let Yourself Go’ particularly memorable, and the full cast and ensemble closing pieces for both acts absolutely mesmerising in wonderfully choreographed routines from Bradshaw to equally superb live musical accompaniment led by Oakes.

The very nature of this play leads to multiple scene changes and Dargie’s subtle set design lent itself to relatively seamless changes by Jack Mottram and team. Add in the many clever comedy touches that littered this production and we really had it all: this is what happy looks like.

RMTC is a welcoming and friendly society who are always on the lookout for new members, front and back of house. For more information

All Shook Up performs at Rainhill Village Hall at 7.30pm through to 25th June 2022. Tickets are available by the website or ticket hotline 07399 031 655.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 23rd June 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★