Elvis meets the Bard as San Diego Musical Theatre gets set to stage ‘All Shook Up’
As that pop-culture scholar Mojo Nixon (he of such immortal tunes as “Jesus at McDonald’s”) once put it in song: Elvis is everywhere.
Mojo’s maxim is proving pretty much true on San Diego stages just now: The intrepid (if currently still dead) Mr. Presley is at the center of Lamb’s Players Theatre’s just-opened “Million Dollar Quartet” in Vista. And he’s also about to make his presence known in San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of another Broadway-certified jukebox musical: “All Shook Up.”
Speaking of which: If you don’t recall Elvis ever appearing in any works by the Bard, better brush up on your Shakespeare.
“All Shook Up” unabashedly mashes up such Presley classics as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender” and the title tune with elements of mistaken identity and romantic turmoil drawn straight from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Twelfth Night” and their illustrious ilk.
“It just becomes a sort of comedy of errors, and love,” says SDMT newcomer Jesse Harris Bradley, who slyly name-drops another Shakespeare favorite as he talks about playing the show’s Elvis-esque character, Chad. “It’s about pining for people (you) can’t have.”
As Bradley explains it, Chad is “basically a little bit of a caricature of Elvis. He shakes his hips and everybody goes crazy.”
And though he was born long after Elvis’ 1977 passing, Bradley adds: “I grew up on this kind of music — my parents loved all the classics,” which has given the singer-actor-guitarist a jump on performing the tunes.
But not quite so much of a leg up as Krista Feallock, who plays the show’s motorcyle mechanic and major Chad fan Natalie: She appeared in a high-school production of “All Shook Up” in Coronado, playing the villainous town mayor, whose ideas about “indecency” extend to interracial dating.
“I loved the music, and I loved how heartwarming (the show) was,” recalls Feallock, who’s also making her SDMT debut in director Robert J. Townsend’s production. “But in the same vein, there are definitely some serious issues the musical is touching on: interracial relationships, and being able to love who you want to love.
“Through the songs, the cast is able to speak truth to that. I hope it affects people.”
Feallock’s key connection to Elvis is through a grandmother who was “obsessed” with the singer; she even had an Elvis-themed phone with a doll attached that would shake a leg, Presley-style, when it rang.
And Feallock’s connection to fixing engines? “I have no idea what makes a motorcycle work!,” she admits with a laugh — although “I’ve seen my dad work on his cars and dirt bikes and stuff like that, so I’m pulling from that mostly.”
For Bradley, the elemental emotions are what make “All Shook Up” work: “The best songs are just these simple tunes that hit you in the heart, and I think all those Elvis songs do that,” as he puts it.
And with the Bard along for the ride, “this show does that too.”
‘All Shook Up’
When: Opens Aug. 2. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Through Sept. 1.
Where: San Diego Musical Theatre at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter.
Phone: (858) 560-5740
Did you know?
The original 2005 Broadway production of “All Shook Up” was directed by Christopher Ashley, now La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic chief. And the show was written by Joe DiPietro — Ashley’s collaborator on such Playhouse-launched musicals as “Memphis” and this year’s “Diana.”
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