When an actor finds a role that seems to be tailor-made for his temperament and talent, the effect can be magical. But when others in the cast don't quite rise to his level of energy, the results can be a little off-balance.
Such is the case with Crown Uptown's new "All Shook Up," a clever romantic comedy set in 1950s small-town USA that mixes Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" plots and ploys with Elvis Presley's legendary music.
Created by Joe DiPietro, this frothy, nostalgic and sometimes just plain sweet concoction is full of starry-eyed dreamers, star-crossed lovers, lovelorn loners, cross-dressing disguises and mistaken identities — all set to about 25 of Elvis' sometimes smoldering, often hip-swiveling songs.
Michael Karraker, a Hutchinson native who has become a Crown fixture and favorite over the past two years, plays Chad, a leather-jacketed, free-and-easy hipster who is riding his motorcycle across America when he needs a repair and stops in a small, sleepy town. By his very presence, he stirs up youth rebellion and causes a tidal wave of "Burnin' Love."
Karraker is exactly right as the core of this show. He's smooth, handsome, and dangerously sexy. He also has a strong sense of comic timing, which helps him walk the fine line between cocky and arrogant. And he's got a great strong voice that serves him well in recreating the Elvis aura without trying to copy or parody him.
Shannon McMillan, who is from Minnesota, plays Natalie, a pretty grease monkey working in her father's garage who falls hard for Chad. When she can't get his attention in a dress, she disguises herself as Ed to become his sidekick to figure out what he wants in a woman. McMillan has a pleasing voice but had trouble projecting at times to mesh with Karraker and shoulder her share of the show.
Brittani Richardson and Ericka Simone Covington have powerhouse voices as a mother and daughter who each find themselves separately caught up in unexpected and, for the 1950s time, forbidden romances.
The show is guest-directed by Paul Bernier from Florida in broad comedic strokes — including exaggerated double takes and pratfalls — that give it sort of a live-action cartoon feel. It's often very funny but a little overdone for my tastes.
The smart, lively, inventive choreography is by Bernier's colleague Amy McCleary, who also choreographed the touring Theater League show of "The Wedding Singer" that came through Wichita last week. In both cases, McCleary got the joint jumping.
If you go
'all shook up'
What: Jukebox musical mixing Shakespeare plots with Elvis Presley's music
Where: Crown Uptown Theatre, Hillside and Douglas
When: Runs Thursdays-Sundays through April 4
How much: Tickets $26.95-$33.95 (plus tax); call 316-681-1566.