The Musical Theatre Society will perform a rendition of “All Shook Up,” a jukebox musical based off of Elvis Presley’s life and music, next week.
From Thursday, April 4 through Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 7 at 2 p.m., the musical will be performed in the Sheehy Theater at the Maltby Center. The venue, which features professional lighting, is a very intimate and vulnerable space in which the audience can be up close and personal with the show.
Set in the 1950s, the performances will also incorporate themes from William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and “Romeo and Juliet.” The plot explores issues in the show’s set time period that translate to and are relevant today.
MTS has been working on the production for a while now. Before casting and rehearsing, it had to obtain the musical’s rights, a legal requirement involving contracts that the club’s executive board handles. Last semester, auditions and call-backs were held before finals week.
The play has been advertised by members as being one that will feature characters and situations that an audience will find easy to empathize with. Director A.J. Sansonetti describes the show as a “beautiful chaos” and an accurate depiction of life.
The main narrative in the play involves Chad, an adventurous, itinerant troublemaker who just got out of jail and arrives when his motorcycle breaks down, and Natalie, a naïve, small-town girl that works in her dad’s garage. The two roles are played by senior Broderick “Brody” McKenna and junior Olivia Freed, respectively.
Things get interesting when the 18-year-old tomboy mechanic soon falls for the new guy. She devises a plan and pretends to be a boy named Ed in hopes of befriending and making him notice her romantically. An entire entanglement of love triangles involving the lead characters follow.
Another love story includes characters Lorraine and Dean, star-crossed darlings played by seniors Bailee Smoot and Patrick Freed, respectively, who are from different classes of wealth and opposite sides of town.
By the end of the first act, Sansonetti explained, almost everybody is in love with someone who isn’t really right for them.
“It’s everybody going in a different direction to then end up exactly where we knew they would have ended up in the first place,” said Sansonetti, a senior theatre major that grew up listening to the music of the production.
Over the month of winter break, the actors and actresses listened to and gained an understanding of the production’s music and were implored to read “Twelfth Night.” They returned for the new semester for a read- and sing-through. Within approximately four weeks of rehearsals, the cast learned both acts. It has been polishing and adding new elements ever since.
“I really think the audience will appreciate the different take on classic Elvis songs,” said Sydney DonGiovanni, president of MTS and a member of the show’s dance ensemble. “A lot of people aren’t generally fans of musicals that cover songs from famous people because they’re always afraid it’ll ruin the original song, but I feel like this musical enhances the messages Elvis meant for his listeners
Sansonetti enjoys seeing the progression of his actors and actresses finding their reservations and who they are as individuals while they embrace their roles. Outside of rehearsals, he made sure to meet with each lead for at least an hour to talk about their character and how they relate.
“There are some characters where you wouldn’t think that you relate,” Sansonetti said. “But we have an almost-20-year-old girl relating with a 35-year-old single mother that runs her own business. You’re still able to find the parallels between fiction and reality.”
Freshman psychology pre-physician’s assistant major Steven Abbott will fill the role of Dennis, who is best friends with Natalie but also has hidden feelings for her. In studying his script and considering the meaning behind his lines, he’s gotten to know his emotional and awkward character better.
“I found that I have a lot of traits in common with Dennis, which made some aspects of the show easier,” Abbott said. “But at the same time, we are different, which allowed me to discover new things about Dennis and even myself.”
“I see a lot of myself in Natalie when I was her age, and even sometimes now, too,” said Freed, an early childhood and special education major. “I’ve learned a lot from her about self-confidence and being comfortable in my own skin, along with knowing what I’m capable of and what I deserve in life.”
Through all the meticulous, exhaustive work and long nights spent perfecting the show, Sansonetti reminds his cast that it will be worth it in the end.
“I do it to stand in the back and watch them absolutely fly and soar [come first show],” Sansonetti said. “I have my ‘proud mom’ moment and just watch. Because then my job’s done. Whatever they put up there is good enough. Because that’s what they have to offer.”