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‘All Shook Up’ Mixes Elvis And Shakespeare

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San Diego Musical Theatre just opened the jukebox musical "All Shook Up" that pays tribute to Elvis Presley.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego musical theater, just open the jukebox musical, all shook up that pays tribute to Elvis Presley. KPBS arts reporter, Beth Hock Amando speaks with director Robert Jade Townsend and choreographer, Michael, Ms Ronnie about the show and the lasting appeal of Elvis.

Speaker 2: 00:18 Robert, you are directing all shook up for San Diego musical theater. Uh, let people know what this play is about and it's, it's considered a jukebox musical. So what does that mean?

Speaker 3: 00:28 Yeah, so jukebox musical, they started in the early two thousands and basically people would start compiling lots of songs from a particular composer or band and they would set a loosely based storyline to these things. I think jukebox musicals get a bad rap. This one in particular, it's sweet, it's touching, it's heartfelt, the music, it's Elvis. How can you lose? But the arrangements of these songs are incredible, both from a band aspect and a, um, ensemble singer aspect. It's just incredible music and it's set to Shakespeare's 12th night. So that sounds like a crazy mix up, but I'll tell you, it really, really works. It's incredibly funny and a guaranteed have a good time.

Speaker 2: 01:13 And Michael, you are doing the choreography for this now. Elvis is someone who is famously known for a particular style of dancing for him, but what's the choreography like in this play? Well, I definitely take his moves. I take the pelvis thrust, I take the rubber legs, I take the I'm sliding scooch and that's all in there button. That was magnified a lot. So there's lots of activity, there's lots of turning and kicking and jumping and leaping and lifting of girls. So it's very much in the jitterbug and swing dance type of style. And in this plate, do we actually get to see Elvis or is it only Elvis music? I would say it's an Elvis persona. A person who is like Elvis, but not Elvis, but he has the magic, he has the magic in the hips. He has the magic in the touch. Literally. Yeah. Yeah, he does. He does. Girls swoon, they faint, but then he falls in love. Are there also some kind of more serious elements to it? I understand that there's some issues with segregation and race that comes into this play.

Speaker 3: 02:11 Yeah, absolutely. So when we come into this sleepy little town, everybody's been sort of pushed down by the mayor. The mayor is a very moral character and she feels it's her job to make sure that everybody is acting appropriately. And part of that means there's this segregation, literal race segregation that's happening in the town. This Elvis character comes into town, reawakens the town, the sets them all spinning off into love triangles Galore. But at the same time they also start realizing that communities community and so they start bonding together, integrating and um, everybody falls in love with everybody. There's no longer any barriers of race or culture or class.

Speaker 2: 02:47 So this draws on Elvis's famous songs. One of my favorite Elvis movies is jailhouse rock. And, and it has, and it has a brilliant dance number in that, but I understand that that song does figure into this play. It does, is it opens the show. And again, there are iconic moves in there, but I sort of, I'll make it my own. And so there are lots of turns and kicks and leaves and some really incredible lift work from the guys and girls in the cast and they are athletes. They are so on it and so technical and it's aerobic and they just amaze me every time I watched the show. People are probably very familiar with Elvis's rendition of jailhouse rock, but just so people can get a little bit of a flavor of your show, we're going to hear a little bit of the Song Jailhouse rock from this production

Speaker 4: 03:35 one through a potty in the county jail prison man was ever, they began to, well there was gentleman and the joint began swinging shooter who is knocked out jail. Oh baby. Let's rock. Ever body in the wholesale box. We'll pick daisy to the jailhouse rock spot among the all the town of show, the blowing on the side, trombone trauma, both a meal and Nautilus crash, Boom Bang. Whole rhythm section was up. [inaudible] oh baby. That spa day. Every body in the whole film, we'll pick 10 to the jail house. Rock

Speaker 2: 04:22 smooth was the gas is part of the storytelling. It's not just, Oh, I'll break from the storytelling. It's part of it. And that's why I like to work with Robert because it's part of the scope and the idea and the concept that dance is part of the story. Tell you, yeah,

Speaker 3: 04:35 just a break from it. When we started crafting the show, I think everybody was surprised with how integral the dance is to it and how, how much there is. It's just a ton of dance and a ton of music. Um, it's almost tied together with these scenes as we go and the storylines. But a dance is imperative. It's an integral yes. In, I'm, C'mon everybody. That's where that happens. And so we, we see the, um, separation of races. And then at one moment in the dance, they all come together and mix and they stay there and it subtly you, you might not see it, but, but if you watch in the middle of the dance, they all come together and they're one unit. They're one town and not separate anymore.

Speaker 2: 05:15 All Chicago revolves around Elvis. What is it about him and his music that you think has made it so popular? Oh, across generations and you know, we still want to listen to that music today. I think alive. It's speaks

Speaker 3: 05:29 to the heart. It's like a visceral emotion reaction. All this stuff I feel like comes from his heart. All the songs are felt and song with emotion and not just the notes. Maybe something also interesting is Elvis, although we think of him as this iconic rock star, he was actually a rabble rouser. He was actually challenging authority and breaking the rules in a v. Now what we, it seems very subtle to us now, but at that time it, it meant a lot. What he was doing was, you know, almost offensive to people. So I think it speaks to people being individuals and speaking out and being who they are even against the grain. That's what sort of the theme of this show is. In a way. It's like everybody's like the mayor is telling us what to do and it's like, well we don't want to do that. We want to be us and we want to be with each other. So I think that's why this Elvis musics work so well with this piece because he's doing his own

Speaker 2: 06:25 and it's really beautiful. I liked that answer. I'm teaching my answer to Robert [inaudible]. That's a better answer. And there's a piece of music you would like to go out with. Can you tell me what that is?

Speaker 3: 06:34 Ending of act one. I can't help falling in love. Now. We've all heard the song before, but when you hear this arrangement with this cast singing this choral number and you're sitting in the audience, it's like this wall of warm, buttery sound flowing over you. That's a great image. Yeah, it is. And it is your tingle.

Speaker 2: 06:57 All right. Fair warning to everyone listening out there. Prepare for some warm, buttery feelings coming out over the radio for you. All right. I want to thank you both very much for coming in and talking with me. Thank you, Beth. My pleasure. Thank you. Yes.

Speaker 5: 07:11 Ah, Nice.

Speaker 4: 07:14 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:16 holy [inaudible].

Speaker 6: 07:19 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 07:23 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:23 I can tell folio.

Speaker 6: 07:30 Um,

Speaker 4: 07:34 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 07:37 Ah, oh,

Speaker 2: 07:43 that was Beth. Armando speaking with Robert Townsend and Michael. Ms Ronnie about all shook up the San Diego musical theater's production continues through September 1st at the Horton Grand Theater.

Speaker 4: 07:59 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.