The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title All Shook Up
Organization Whitney High School
Date(s) of show February 26 - March 11, 2015
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

As I drove away from the opening night performance of Whitney High School’s All Shook Up, I found myself thinking, “This show was inspired.”  Inspired by what?  Inspired by rock 'n' roll, that ancient musical form that made people happy, made them move and made the older generation cringe.  More than that, it was inspired by a cast and crew determined to do something special, something memorable, something excellent.

The show began explosively as Matt Dunn belted out “Jailhouse Rock” with confidence and style.  Matt was Chad, the Elvis Presley-style “roustabout” who comes into a small town and stirs things up.  The plot is essentially the ups and downs of four pairs of lovers, and it provides an excellent showcase for more than 20 of Elvis’ songs.  It’s billed as being inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  I didn’t get all the references to that play that might have been there, but one couldn't miss the familiar gender confusion.

There was a light, Thursday-night opening crowd, which made up for its size by its enthusiasm.  And we were inspired by the energy of the cast, which was over the top, especially when the full ensemble was on stage.  And that energy was in turn fed by the outstanding 12-piece student orchestra, which really produced a pulse-pounding, authentic sound or gentle support for a ballad as required.

In any high school production you’re limited by the talent available, and good as this show was, not every song was totally on pitch, not every dancer was in sync with the others.  But on the other hand, there was so much excellence on the stage, that it was easy to overlook the weaknesses.  There was certainly no weakness in Matt Dunn.  He was outstanding in his presentation of the Elvis Presley persona.  He had some great body language and displayed an excellent, powerful voice.  It seemed like he had seen some of Presley’s performances, and for these two hours, convinced himself that he was, indeed, “The King of Rock 'n' Roll.” And Matt was surrounded by many good singers and actors.  Casey Borghesi sparkled as Natalie (or Ed, in disguise).  It’s hard to imagine an actor more committed to her part, or more at home in it.  There were moments when she seemed “possessed.”  She was engaging to watch, and it was a pleasure to hear her singing.

One of the best parts of this show is the humor.  The writing itself is very clever, but so many of the characters have excellent comic timing and comic sense.  This was especially true of Jonah Petty as the nerdy Dennis.  He had some great lines, all skillfully delivered.  But that was equally true of so many of the main characters.  And then a lot of the comedy came in surprises in the staging.  I started to describe some of these gags, but there’s no point.  You have to see them unfold, and believe me, you’ll love them.

To me, the show is brilliantly conceived in the way it weaves in so many of Presley’s songs, and there was particularly good singing from Yulissa Torres as Sylvia and Midori Garman as Miss Sandra.  In so many cases, I heard, not just listenable voices, but voices loaded with personality and character.  I was impressed with the ensemble singing, as well.  Listening to them, I got the feeling that these kids loved this show and were putting their hearts into it.  That was true of the dance numbers, as well.  It was clear that not all the ensemble members were trained dancers, but there were many excellent dancers among them, and everyone brought their commitment to make the big dance numbers really sizzle with energy.  I’ll confess I was surprised by the complexity and cleverness of the choreography:  it was a delight throughout the show.  I’ve seen excellent (and terrible) choreography, and believe me, this was among the best.

Clever describes not just the choreography, but so many details of the show.  There was a constant flow of fresh ideas (in staging, blocking, sets and props – besides the choreography).  And the result of this creativity is that the show was constantly entertaining and never went stale.

Of course, there was a lot of talent on the stage, but I could see the evidence of good directing, starting with the casting, but also in the staging, and in lines delivered with spirit, even finesse.   As I understand, Director Julie Hilliker is new to Whitney High School this year, and she and co-director, Madison Bales, have worked magic with this production.

I was on my feet applauding with the rest of the audience, as the cast took their bows, and I thought the show was over.  But then (and I won’t describe it), they gave us a surprise that amped up everyone’s energy like an overdose of caffeine.  It was amazing.  And it was amazing because it all was, indeed,  inspired.

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