By Pam Harbaugh
The Henegar Center has a hunk-a burnin’ love on its stage right now — its fun and endearing production of “All Shook Up.”
The musical was written by Joe DiPietro, the same man who wrote two very popular shows produced at the old Phoenix Theatre and at Melbourne Civic Theatre — “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Just like DiPietro does in those two, he brings wit and contemporary sensibilities into a neat little package of fun.
Here, it’s all about a dull mid-west town in the mid-50s. On an average ho-hum day, a stranger named Chad (Anthony Detrano) comes to town on a motorcycle, bringing with him rock n’ roll and a gyrating pelvis.
Of course, this is intended to be evocative of Elvis Presley, especially since much of the music in the show comes from the King of Rock ‘n Roll’s songbook. There’s “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and many more.
This is classified as a “jukebox musical.” To that end, the clever and effective scenic design suggests a jukebox, complete with brightly lighted arc running the entire length of the proscenium. Back onto the stage, a platform is made to look like a stack of records, with one being plucked for play.
Although on opening night, the show began with wobbly legs, it soon found its footing and delivered all the fun the enthusiastic audience expected.
Especially entertaining are Menasha Duchemin and Jarrett Poore who really summon the spirit of the music.
Ms. Duchemin is a singing delight as Lorraine. She’s got a powerful voice and her “It’s Now or Never” duet with Dean (Austin Nolder) is spot on.
And how much do we love Mr. Poore in the role of nerdy Dennis. This guy could make a show-biz living doing that stock character. He’s also got the goods when it comes to dancing and singing. We’re looking forward to seeing a lot more from him.
Debra Hart is a dancing and singing hoot as Miss Sandra, the lady who runs the museum and pines for a man with a cultured heart.
Which brings us to Natalie, played by Merissa Laite, she of beautiful soprano voice. Channeling the spirit of Shakespeare, Mr. DiPietro has written a sub plot reminiscent of “Twelfth Night,” in which a love triangle involves a man, a woman, and a woman disguised as a man. This is a delightful little piece of theatrical fluff and Ms. Laite, Ms. Hart and Mr. Detrano handle it with charm.
Director Steven J. Heron infuses plenty of opportunity for laughs. He gives lots of space to the funny lines (everything but a rim shot), so you can’t miss them. And there’s plenty of physical schtick as well, something for which Mr. Heron has a deserved reputation.
Deborah Rappa Crisafulli’s choreography pumps up the energy and sets the entire cast into entertaining, big dance numbers. Led by Susan M. Diebel, the 12-piece pit orchestra serves up some terrific music. Especially nice are the horns in “It’s Now or Never.”
The only nagging element is the lighting. The stage is just too dark. Having the object of secondary focus in the dark (Miss Sandra as she is being sung to or a character who runs on to deliver a message) is a no-no. Certainly, that may be the fault of there not being enough lighting instruments. If that is, indeed, the case, then one can only hope that those 50/50 drawings increase in popularity.
This show has a wide appeal. There were teenagers, parents, middle-agers and grand parents in the audience on opening night and, during curtain call, they all got to their feet to dance to the beat. It’s a fun, engaging way to bring the curtain down on the Henegar’s 2012/2013 mainstage season.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “All Shook Up” runs through May 12 at the Henegar Center for the Arts, 625 E. New Haven Ave. Melbourne. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. $16 to $23, handling fees may apply. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.henegar.org.