NSMT’s ‘All Shook Up’ had them standing up

BEVERLY — Starting a musical with a parcel of Elvis Presley hits is like a baseball pitcher starting an at-bat with an 0-2 count on the hitter.
Now that that is settled, it’s time to move on to something else. For instance, what are we going to call the show and what’s it going to be about?
Does it matter? For the record, the name of the musical now playing at the North Shore Music Theatre is “All Shook Up.”

Twenty five — count ‘em, 25 — of Elvis’ greatest hits are included. Some of the song placements are a little awkward and not quite as seamless as, say the use of Abba’s songs in “Mamma Mia!”

Ryan Overberg and the ensemble in the North Shore Music Theatre’s
“All Shook Up.” Photo: Paul Lyden

And sure, there’s a story, by Joe DiPietro, a funny, pleasant and upbeat one that in some ways resembles the old Elvis movie plots and borrows liberally from “Twelfth Night,” among others. DiPietro, of course, got his start towards two Tony Awards and a slew of other baubles when he wrote the book and lyrics for “Memphis,” which had its world premiere at NSMT in 2003.
Here, there’s love, unrequited and otherwise, mistaken identity, a bit of cross-dressing and a slew of misunderstandings that DiPietro manages to tie up in a bow at the end. There are also subtle messages about social justice and tolerance that were also part of his book for “Memphis.”
“All Shook Up” is set during a 24-hour period in the summer of 1955 in a small Midwestern town, where a guitar-playing roustabout named Chad (Ryan Overberg) — who, strangely enough, resembles a young Elvis — arrives in town on a motorcycle to shake things up. Overberg has played variations of the same character three times this summer — he was very strong in Speakeasy Stage Company’s roller skating extravaganza “Xanadu” and looked more comfortable in this production that he did as Conrad Birdie in “Bye, Bye Birdie” at the Reagle Music Theatre.
Chad is enamored of the tall, sexy museum director Miss Sandra (Colleen Sexton), and brushes off the advances of Dara Hartman as Natalie Haller, the spunky female mechanic who longs for an adventure on the open road with Chad. Dennis (Paul Sabala) has long had a thing for Natalie, but has never had the courage to tell her.
In a bid to become closer to Chad, and with the aid of Dennis, Natalie decides to become “Ed,” a real “guy’s guy.”
Former “Three’s Company” star Joyce DeWitt is Mayor Matilda Hyde, the moral arbiter of the town, and has some nice comic moments with J.T. Turner as Sheriff Earl.
There are a series of subplots involving Natalie’s dad Jim (John Hillner) and Sylvia, the local bar owner (Jannie Jones), Sylvia’s daughter Lorraine (Laquet Sharnell) and Matilda’s son Dean (Eric Hatch).
Jones get her chance to shine with a rousing “There’s Always Me” that stops the show in the second act.
Director Russell Garrett’s inventive staging allows a a talented ensemble of dancers to strut their stuff. It’s all about the music and the dancing, and you won’t be disappointed in either.
A cast filled with fine voices puts their own touches on The King‘s greatest hits, and an energetic band led by Anne Shuttlesworth does justice to them, too.
The audience at Wednesday’s performance was not only all shook up, but by the end they were standing up as well.
“All Shook Up,” through Aug. 26, at the North Shore Music Theatre, Dunham Road, Beverly. For Tickets, go to ww.nsmt.org or call (978) 232-7200.