Set your watches to nostalgia, as All Shook Up roars in to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week, courtesy of the Wolverhampton Musical Comedy Company.
Built around many of the hugely popular songs of Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel, Love Me Tender, Don't Be Cruel, Can't Help Falling in Love and of course the titular tune - it tells the story of how a sleepy 1950’s town in middle America awoke to the power of rock and roll with the arrival of mysterious leather-clad roustabout, Chad. One young female resident by the name of Natalie is especially taken with the newcomer, and sets about trying to win his heart by any means necessary, much to the dismay of forlorn overlooked best friend Dennis.
Liam Sargeant as the Elvis-inspired leading man Chad although baby-faced does carry the character with confidence beyond his years and engages with co-stars and the audience brilliantly, particularly with comedic moments in Act 2. Similarly Zac Hollinshead as Dennis and Katie Astbury as mechanic Natalie both gave assured performances, with a particularly impressive vocal performance from the latter. Slapstick moments and wacky expressions poured from Hollinshead’s loveable sidekick and quickly established him as an audience favourite.
A talented supporting principal cast offered interesting contrast and body to the central love triangle, with particularly good turns from lovestruck teens Jess Olford and Mike Astley as Lorraine and Dean. Colette Forsyth as Honky Tonk owner also demonstrates a powerful singing voice, particularly in her rendition of There’s Always Me.
The company as a whole were great to watch – the choral Can’t Help Falling In Love With You at the close of the first act was a highlight – and despite some pretty complex and vigorous choreography didn’t appear to tire or make hardly any noticeable mistakes at all; an impressive feat, especially for a cast so young.
Unfortunately the narrative moves at such pace that no character arc really gets to develop enough for believable relationships to build, meaning that the audience never really invests in any of the stories. And although packed full of snippits of hits you would expect from a jukebox musical, none ever quite reach the full musical potential and are often cut-off in their prime - through no fault of the company, it must be added.
That said, they had clearly worked incredibly hard to prepare a sleek and entertaining production and the show concluded with another well-moved and energetic performance, and was met with the rousing applause that the cast richly deserved.
If you’re looking for a fun night out then be sure to take a look.
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