Reviews

The Kings and I: "All Shook Up," at the Timber Lake Playhouse

Written by Mike Schulz .

No one in his or her right mind could possibly think that the Elvis Presley pastiche All Shook Up, the new presentation at the Timber Lake Playhouse, is a stronger piece of theatre than West Side Story or You Can't Take It with You, the first two presentations in the venue's 2008 season.

But whatever you do, do not, for the love of Pete, tell this to the performers in Timber Lake's latest, who are attacking this goofy lark with such impassioned zeal that you'd think they were enacting Shakespeare. (And, it turns out, they oftentimes are.)

The show itself, which fashions a wildly complicated musical romance out of nearly two dozen Elvis hits, is a perfectly enjoyable piece of slaphappy silliness. Yet under the invigoratingly imaginative direction of Brad Lyons, the All Shook Up cast is less electric than thermonuclear; in comparison, Timber Lake's collective ensemble may as well have been performing Leonard Bernstein and Kaufman & Hart in straitjackets.

Despite the talents involved, I'll admit to being apprehensive about this particular offering, because not only (blasphemy alert) have I never been a big fan of the King's output, but the first few scenes here - well-played though they were on Thursday night - didn't exactly fill me with hope for All Shook Up as a whole. The show begins with the motorcycle-riding Elvis stand-in, Chad (Brandon Ford), being released from prison (cue the song "Jailhouse Rock"), and continues with the residents of a small Midwestern town bemoaning their romantic woes (cue "Heartbreak Hotel"), and continues with Chad's public explanation for his bad-boy attitude (cue "Roustabout"), and before the production was 15 minutes old, the cutesiness, to say nothing of the obviousness, was already tiresome; add the references to Chad's "burnin' love" and the sight of his blue suede shoes, and we seemed in for a two-act version of a rather lame theme-park revue.