Elvis Meets Shakespeare in SLT's Season-Closing Show

Jun 1, 2018

"All Shook Up," Joe DiPietro's musical inspired by Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and featuring the music of Elvis Presley, closes Springfield Little Theatre's 2017-2018 season June 8-24 at the Landers Theatre.
Credit (Poster design courtesy Springfield Little Theatre)

The story is all new. The hits are all Elvis.  Featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, based on the book by Joe DiPietro and inspired by Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night," "All Shook Up" concludes Springfield Little Theatre's season at the Landers Theater, 311 E. Walnut, June 8-24.

Says director Chuck Rogers, "It's actually what we call a 'jukebox musical', like 'Mama Mia!' or 'The Taffetas' that we did years ago, 'Buddy Holly.' Pretty much, they take the music of a particular artist, and they then build a brand-new story around that music."  In this case, the storyline borrows from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" with, adds Rogers, "a 1950s/contemporary vibe to it, all built around Elvis songs--27 of them."  (Along with Tent Theatre's production of "Cry-Baby the Musical," Springfield  theater audiences are going to feast on '50s music and themes this summer!) "They pulled one tune from every one of Elvis's properties," says Rogers, whether hit songs from his movies or from the pop charts. "It's interesting, because you don't realize how associated we are with Elvis tunes.  And it's wonderful to hear 35 people sing them differently. The arrangements are quite different--a contemporary Broadway sound. But I think it's been really awesome to hear so many of our actors interpret these songs."  Lead actor Eli DePriest adds, "the arrangements are so much more full--they bring a new light to the songs."  Both Rogers and DePriest single out Micha Pelkey's performance of the song "There's Always Me" (a ballad from Presley's 1961 album "Something for Everybody"). "I love Micha, she's wonderful," says DePriest.  Chuck Rogers explains, "She's a local singer, does a lot of (commercial) jingles, and does just an incredible job of singing."

"All Shook Up" tells the story of Natalie, a 1950s small-town girl with big dreams, and Chad (Eli DePriest's role), the leather-jacketed, motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything through the power of rock n' roll.  Natalie is played by Gia Rose Henry. DePriest says he and Gia Rose have "become really, really close friends, just because we love these parts that we are playing.  It's really easy to play off of each other.

Director Chuck Rogers reminds us that "Twelfth Night" is very much a comedy of mistaken identity, and "All Shook Up" creator Joe DiPietro definitely incorporates an element of that.  In order "to get Chad's attention", the Natalie character "decides to dress up as a guy.  So she gets to know him (Chad)... and he gets to know 'him'!  So it becomes kind of a funny mistaken-identity situation. And I think the character of Chad learns a lot about himself."  "That's one way to say it, yeah!" adds Eli DePriest, laughing.

Somehow I greatly surprised--and gratified--Chuck Rogers when I asked about the scenic design of the show.  "You don't ever ask me that question!  I thought of a kinetic Route 66--my feeling of what Route 66 might have looked like in the 1950s in the Midwest.  An integral part of the set is a giant curved screen across the back of the stage--it "looks like a drive-in movie screen," says Rogers, "which will have all of these moving images all throughout the whole show, so that you get the feeling that you're driving somewhere in this town.  Then it's got--everybody calls it 'Sherbetville,' because it's got all of these bright pastel colors and stuff.  Then again, it's a very 'Shakespearean' style--I have lots of levels, and flat floor space.  It has a very traditional feel to it."

The production features a cast of 35 and a 7-piece pit band.  Tickets range from $15 to $36.  Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:00pm, June 8 through 24.  For information call the Landers box office at 869-1334 or visit www.springfieldlittletheatre.org.