There’s something about Music Theatre of Denton’s staging of All Shook Up that feels like the 1998 film Pleasantville.
There is a whiff of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, too. Oh, and a dash of Footloose, too.
The jukebox musical is set in a Midwestern town in the 1950s. Mayor Matilda has outlawed all the good stuff in life: music, dancing and canoodling in public. A super-cool roustabout named Chad changes all that with his swiveling hips, his croon, his ride and a je ne sais quois that makes the ladies a little hot under their Peter Pan collars.
Director Richard Blake, a professional Dallas-Fort Worth actor, said that when the audience meets the residents of this ho-hum town, things look pretty vanilla.
“Before Chad comes to town, there’s no color. Everything’s black and white,” he said. “The show opens in the town honky-tonk, where there’s no music and everyone is just sitting there.
“Chad notices a jukebox and the people tell him it hasn’t worked in years. He does the Fonzie thing. He walks up to the jukebox, but his hands on it and moves his hips. The lights come up, the music starts and the colors come up.”
Blake is making his local directorial debut with Music Theatre of Denton. He said he got interested in working with the company when he reviewed its staging of Avenue Q for The Column, an online magazine dedicated to theater in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding communities.
“The show was excellent,” Blake said. “You could have taken that show and that cast and put it on Broadway or on a national tour. It was just amazing. After I saw that, I started thinking I needed to work with this group.”
Blake said he was in line to direct All Shook Up — a 2004 musical that borrows 28 songs from Elvis Presley’s songbook and sets it to a story by Joe DiPietro — for another group a few years back. That group didn’t get the rights to stage it, and Blake said he was left with his research and concept. He made his pitch to Music Theatre of Denton.
Blake brought in his own team of designers: Scott William Davis is the lighting designer, Mikon Haaksman designed the video projections for the show, Rochelle Hudson designed the costumes, and Kevin Brown designed the set.
Blake said Elvis might be the King of Rock, but that doesn’t mean his memorable songs are easy.
“I split the music direction into two parts,” he said. Elizabeth King has worked with just the singers as a vocal coach, and Amy Wyatt directs the orchestra.
“Some of this music is like Sondheim. It’s not easy to sing,” Blake said. “You really have to work on this music to get it. And there is a lot of it.”
ALL SHOOK UP
What: Music Theatre of Denton presents a jukebox musical with the music of Elvis Presley and book by Joe DiPietro
When: 7:30 p.m Friday and Saturday and May 10-11; and 2 p.m. Sunday and May 12
Where: Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St.
Details: Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors 62 and older, and $10 for children. For reservations, call 940-382-1915.
On the Web: www.musictheatreofdenton.com