"All Shook Up" at Chanhassen is a hunka hunka the King

Categories: Theater
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Act One, Too Ltd
That's some jail: Chad (Rico Heisler) prepares to break out
The all-Elvis musical All Shook Up opened at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres on Friday night, and we were there. Persnickety journalistic ethics precluded putting on the feed bag (hence no review of the food), but we caught every minute of the show: a nearly three-hour, 24-song trip through the Presley back catalogue.

All Shook Up is among those creatures of relatively recent inception known as the jukebox musical. Patsy Cline, the Who, ABBA, Franki Valli--they've all gotten the treatment (shows that string together big batches of their hits). 

The thing is, jukeboxes are capable of dispensing a lot of cool-sounding tunes, but they tend to be thin on plot. All Shook Up is no different: it's the preposterous story of Chad (Rico Heisler), a motorcycle-driving roustabout who shows up in a small town and proceeds to get everyone riled up (including the fetching town mechanic, played by Laura Rudolph). What follows includes broken hearts on the mend, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings (spoiler alert: everything turns out all right in the end).

So I can't claim to be a fan of the play itself, which evinces about as much depth as your average Elvis movie (albeit with commendable themes of gender bending and interracial romance that would have made Col. Tom gag on his julep). Still, Chanhassen knows how to put on a show, and this one is no exception. The cast is huge, there are plenty of funny moments, and the thing is delivered with a knowing sweetness that tends to override plot deficiencies.

Heisler doesn't attempt an Elvis impersonation, gamely tacking the various numbers like a musical-theater belter. Which was a bit of a disappointment to an Elvis fan such as myself--but then, a bad Elvis impersonation would have been the main thing that would have grated worse than none at all.

Really, All Shook Up is a diverting night out that doesn't pretend to be anything else--it pretty much defies you to take it too seriously. If you're an Elvis fan, you'll either be transported by spirited renditions of his classics (including the great, soaring "If I Can Dream." Or you'll yearn instead for the harder rocking side of the King. Either way, you won't complain about not getting your share of Elvis tunes.

All Shook Up plays through January 29 at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. For ticket information click here.

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