Feel-good show leaves audience smiling

What: All Shook Up

Who: Blenheim Musical Theatre

When: Friday, May 2

Where: Lakings Rd Theatre Restaurant

Reviewed by: Rick Edmonds

All Shook Up, the Blenheim Musical Theatre show which opened on Friday night succeeds in delightfully evoking the sweet youthful rebellion of the 1950s; the T-shirts and leather jackets, the belted skirts and bobby socks, the rock and roll music and risking all in the name of love.

The 50s theme is carried beyond the stage to the decor of the venue, and the style and presentation of the accompanying meal/dessert.

But it is on stage that the show shines, and the corniness of the story is forgotten by the total commitment and enthusiasm of the cast who appear to be having a blast. And none more so than the leading man, Craig Bleakley, who whenever is on stage as Chad infuses the whole performance with sparkling energy.

Shelly Fraser, as Natalie, is stunning and comfortably handles spending half the show disguised as Ed where she has to speak and sing in a lower register than her natural voice. Nadene Maraku, Evelyn McLean, Linda van Kuyk and Gillian Miskell all competently fill out the other female roles. Wade Millar's Jim convincingly transforms from boring to cool, and Simon Hay and Kelvyn Mackie do a great job as Dean and Dennis, respectively. Ken Hippolite, as somehow both the town sheriff and a homeless drunk, steals each scene in which he speaks or sings; his voice is fantastic.

The set is minimal, with cut-out motorbikes, a guitar and a bus, and period photographic images indicating the various scenes. The museum exhibits with human heads are clever, as is the angels and devils tableau.

One or two solo performances look slightly stilted at times, but overall the colour, costumes, dancing, singing, comedy, one-liners, and romantic liaisons, some anticipated, and some not, are great.

The busiest person not on stage must surely be the sound technician with seemingly dozens of music cues.

It's nice to hear many Elvis Presley songs given new arrangements, and the stand-out song comes at the end of act one, where the whole ensemble bust out some awesome part harmonies for Can't Help Falling in Love.

This is a feel-good show which will send you away smiling.