A little bit Bard, a little bit 'Blue Suede Shoes'
Mix together a dash of Shakespeare, a pinch of mistaken identity, a lot of dancing and a heaping helping of Elvis Presley music and what do you get?
You get the Penn Hills High School spring musical, “All Shook Up,” which opens Friday.
The plot blends elements of Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” with a 1950s story that draws parallels to the moral outrage some Americans felt when they saw the come-hither songs and dances of Elvis Presley.
Drama and music director Kala Lorey said those attending this year's musical “are going to want to clap and sing along.”
They also will view the show from a seat in the school district's brand-new, stadium-seating-style auditorium, which holds just over 1,000 people.
Getting acclimated to a new environment was a challenge for the cast and crew.
“In the move down (to the new high school), some tools got lost and we just had boxes and boxes of stuff,” said senior stage crew member Lyndon Johnson, who also plays the role of Jim.
Lorey said a big challenge this year was logistics. Producer Alicia Giove agreed.
“Everyone's working out the kinks on both sides, students and directors,” Giove said.
“This is all new to us,” said senior stage crew member Allison Welsh. “We've never had this much room before on the side of the stage!”
Senior Matt Fabrizi, who plays several male characters, said the cast was “a lot more motivated being in a brand-new auditorium.”
Both cast and crew said this year's production is a 180-degree turnaround from last year's “Beauty & the Beast.”
“'Beauty & the Beast' was all about the acting and singing,” said senior Eric Williams, who plays Chad, the “Elvis” character.
Katherine Rogers, who played Beauty last year and plays young mechanic Natalie in “All Shook Up,” agreed.
“'Beauty & the Beast' is classic musical theater, and this is very in-your-face,” she said.
One thing is the same, Fabrizi noted.
“People know Elvis, people know ‘Beauty & the Beast,' so there are a lot of expectations to live up to,” he said.
For Claire Davidson, who is directing the musical alongside Lorey and vocal director Barb Spiri, the sheer amount of music was a challenge.
“There's so many musical numbers, just one after the other,” Davidson said. “Last year, the kids knew Disney and the ‘Beauty' music; this was all new to them, even though they're actually somewhat familiar with it (from hearing it in pop culture).”
And while he's enjoying playing a character modeled on The King, Williams said he's had to get used to the dancing, a sentiment several other cast members agreed with.
“I just love that I can go onstage and be Elvis. It's a great opportunity to play someone I've idolized for 15 years,” he said. “But it's really hard to dance like a maniac for three straight minutes and then sing.”
Cast members spent the past two weeks combining the dances they've learned from choreographer Joe Nickel.
“There have been some crash-and-burn moments, but it's coming together,” Fabrizi said.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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