Musical has sweet sounds by ‘The King’

The Claremont High School Theater Department will shake up Bridges Auditorium on Friday, May 25 when students debut a popular, Elvis-themed juke box musical.

More than 70 student performers hailing from Krista Carson Elhai’s musical theatre class will take the stage in a production cleverly entwining a 1950s setting with Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” With colorful costumes, vibrant lighting and lots of song and dance, “All Shook Up” is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

The musical, which made its Broadway debut in 2005, takes place in a Mid-western town ruled by bland conservatism, with restrictions on tight pants, public kissing and loud music. When a roustabout named Chad (played by Shade Tramp) rides into town, he challenges the rules, causing the local girls to swoon and the town to become—you guessed it—all shook up.

Chad’s revved-up libido and relish for rock ‘n roll prove infectious, with several young people succumbing to love of both the requited and unrequited varieties. Add some Shakespearean cross-dressing as one female character, Natalie (Kristina Leopold), who’s besotted with Chad, comes up with a male alter ego to be close to him. Add a couple dozen Elvis Presley songs, stir, and you’ve got a winning story. 

As Chad, Shade exudes quite a bit of Elvis-inspired attitude. He is decked out with a pompadour and sideburns, has a touch of a sneer, and is prone to the pelvic-thrusting dance moves that shocked the country when The King first rose to fame.

The show’s musical director, CHS instructor Joel Wilson, said the score of “All Shook Up” posed a challenge for Shade and other male students with bass or baritone voices because Elvis songs like “ “That’s Alright” and “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” have been arranged to suit a high alto in keeping with the current Broadway trend of showcasing higher male vocals.

Of course, covering Elvis songs would pose a challenge in any octave, Mr. Wilson said. “It’s Elvis. Everyone has a preconceived notion of how it should sound.”

Despite the unfamiliar octave, Shade is pulling off the role with panache, Mr. Wilson said. So are actors like Kristina, in the role of the tomboyish ingénue, and Mina Bloom, who has become known as a strong character actress and who has taken on the role of the prudish Mayor Matilda Hyde. The students, Mr. Wilson notes, have been working on the production since December.

“They are an extremely talented cast, and they’re working very hard,” he said.

Along with mastering a number of Elvis Presley songs, Shade also had to make Elvis’ signature hip-swivel his own.

With “All Shook Up,” Ms. Elhai is continuing her tradition of reaching out to theatre professionals to mentor students, who are responsible for staging the show in a learn-as-you-go manner.

These include Jamie Brown who, while overseeing costume production aimed for a classic silhouette rendered with modern colors and patterns that “pop.”

“It was super fun,” she said of the costuming, which featured items from the school’s prop department and clothes found while combing local thrift stores.

Also adding to the production values are hair and makeup designer Sam Euper and choreographer Daniel Smith, who, when he isn’t working with the CHS cast, is playing Greg in a production of “A Chorus Line” being staged at the Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton.

Mr. Smith had lots to do with the staging “All Shook Up,” which is jam-packed with dancing, but it’s a role he relishes.
“High schoolers are fearless. The egos aren’t there, and they’re completely committed to each scene, which makes everything really believable,” he said. “I think we lose that as adults sometimes.”

One such fearless student is senior Austa Clausen, who—along with taking on a role with lots of singing and dancing—is serving as assistant stage manager and publicity director for the production. She urges the community to turn out for the show, which she says looks surprisingly professional considering being staged by students.

“It’s a really fun, colorful musical,” she said. “It’s age-appropriate for children to adults and the music is music everyone knows.”

Along with putting on a good show, the cast and crew of “All Shook Up” are taking the opportunity to engage in some philanthropy. At the end of the production, the cast and crew will collect donations to offset the medical expenses of COURIER Sports and Education reporter Landus Rigsby, who had stage 5 kidney failure in March.

Ms. Elhai notes that Mr. Rigsby (who is currently on dialysis and will need a kidney transplant) has been generous in his coverage of the CHS theatre department.

Performances will be held Friday, May 25 and Saturday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a matinee on Saturday, May 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets, which are $15 or $10 for children, students and seniors can be purchased through Claremont High School by calling  (909) 624-9053 ext 30463. A number of tickets will also be available through the box office 2 hours prior to performances.

–Sarah Torribio


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