Review by Danny Gaisin
Admission; I wasn’t always this handsome, charming and charismatic; truth be told – I was more like the character Dennis in Joe DiPietro’s ALL SHOOK UP. I was a rather geeky kid who tried desperately to be the wingman (sidekick) of my more appealing & attractive buddies!
This plot deals with an Elvis-ish catalyst disrupting a small town’s eccentricities and hang-ups in what might be called a plagiaristic ‘Footloose’, except this version is staged to the music of said Mr. Presley.
Stage West’s director Lee MacDougallhas previously received accolades from this critic for his perceptive and meticulous work on Sheridan’s “Once Upon A Mattress”; Aquarius’ “Glory Days” about a Stelco® strike; and his “Joseph etc.”, also at Stage West. This performance should come with a caveat…infectious; highly contagious; impossible not to sing along or especially on the way home!
The devil may be in the details but MacDougall’s attention to every little aspect of the play makes this as polished as it can be. The blocking; stage work; crew management and especially his cast selection are impeccable.
The lead role ‘Chad’ is portrayed by a most dynamic & compelling Michael Torontow. He exhibits all the vitality and magnetism the role demands in order to be credible. Whether he’s gyrating, singing, acting or just posturing for the audience, he’s the center of attention. His counterpoint is the Rizzo-type tomboy mechanic Natalie. Diminutive Marisa McIntyre has all the full-sized attributes to give full measure to this pivotal role. She sings up a storm; has an attractively-gamin facial expression, and can dance with the best of the chorus. McIntyre has some of the highlight duets as well as solo arias and belts them out almost outrageously. Bit of trivia – loved her as Sneezy (and Nadine Roden – Sleepy) in the 2010 Toronto Fringe entry of ‘Joe White & the 7 divorcees’!
The hilariously evolutionary role of Natalie’s widowed Dad, played by J. Sean Elliott, who was such a success as Jill Whelan’s husband in “Mrs. Markham”, again shows his understated comedic bent that works so well with audiences. His emulation of Chad’s cool is so ludicrous as to be instant ‘camp’. His nemesis cum girlfriend is the aforementioned Nadine Roden whose voice and style are remarkable. It is no wonder she earns such applause at curtain. Her on-stage daughter is played by Allison Edwards-Crewe proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Allison’s beau is a charmer and Graham Cardiff Parkhurst does the role with aplomb. Hopefully their ardour is stage only; Allison-Edwards-Crewe-Graham-Cardiff-Parkhurst is something of a mouthful!
There are a few other significant support roles. Karen Wood’s anal mayor; and Jamie McRoberts sexy Miss Sandra are intrinsic and are given full measure by their portrayers. Last, my favorite depiction: – wussy Dennis. Daniel Greenburg is bang on. Highly identifiable, his reading of the character is sympathetic and will glean a response from his viewers. At one point, schlepping Chad’s guitar, he smiles over the footlights and nasally utters ‘thank ya’. Before he could finish, our audience responded; also low key & nasal, with “thank ‘ya ver’ much”. The impulsive applause this bit received was deserved.
Stage West has a sure-fire hit with ‘ALL SHOOK UP’ …it’fun for everyone and fortunately will still be around during Spring Break. Adding in the delicious buffet for which Stage West is famous; this is a ‘cool’ way of spending a family evening.