Guest director Paul Bernier likes to think of Crown Uptown's new show, "All Shook Up," as "Shakespeare Meets 'Happy Days.' "
The jukebox musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2005, mixes plot points from The Bard's romantic comedy of errors and mistaken identities, "Twelfth Night," with the 1950s cultural ambience of the popular television show that gave the world The Fonz.
And, most important, it's all set to about 25 rock 'n' roll songs made popular by Elvis Presley, from "Jailhouse Rock" to "Can't Help Falling in Love."
"It's an updated look at Elvis' music, adapted for use on the musical stage to tell a story," says Bernier, artistic director for both off-Broadway and children's shows at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers, Fla. "It's not something Elvis would probably have done, but I think he would appreciate how clever it is."
Bernier, who appeared at the Crown as an actor in the 1990s, also brought a colleague from Florida, Amy McCleary, as guest choreographer to team with Crown's resident music director, Kimberly Dugger.
The musical stars Michael Karraker as Chad, a supremely cool, leather-jacketed roustabout who stops in a small, straitlaced Midwestern town for repairs and sparks a youth revolution when he encourages teens to cut loose and follow their hearts. With his dangerous good looks, he also creates a romantic firestorm among the town's female residents.
"He is clearly a stud but he's not looking for love himself. He's sort of a Cupid figure who encourages others to follow their hearts, even if it's against the rules. But love has a way of catching him off-guard," says Karraker, who has become a Crown favorite after the recent "Chicago" and "Boeing Boeing."
Shannon McMillan plays Natalie, a pretty grease monkey who works in her father's garage and is smitten with Chad. When she can't attract his attention by putting on a dress, she disguises herself as a guy named Ed to become his faithful sidekick.
Rachel Lomax plays town historian Miss Sandra, a pretty intellect who fends off Chad's smooth advances but throws herself at the quietly thoughtful Ed, not realizing that he/she is Natalie. Among townspeople are Timothy Robu as Natalie's lonely widowed father, Ericka Covington as wise owner of the town's only honky-tonk, Barb Schoenhofer as the self-righteous mayor and Craig Green as the secretly love-struck sheriff.