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Review: ‘All Shook Up’ an encore-worthy show at Ohio State

Courtesy of Ivan Locci

If you take Shakespearean storylines and mix them with a bunch of hip-swivels and ’50s music, you get the musical “All Shook Up.”

Off the Lake Productions, an Ohio State musical theater student organization, put on its production of the Elvis Presley tribute musical, “All Shook Up,” this weekend at Hitchcock Hall. The production’s live orchestra pit, passionate performers and excitement from the audience helped Off the Lake put on an enjoyable performance for just about everyone in the audience.

“All Shook Up” which is based on William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night,” tells the story of main character Natalie (Danielle Richman) disguising herself as a man and falling in love with the male lead, Chad (Nick Beecroft). The musical is filled with love triangles, heartbreaks and star-crossed lovers all set within a 24-hour time period that keeps you on your toes the entire time.

As someone who had never been to an Off the Lake production before, I was intrigued to see how a student-run organization puts together a musical on its own. When I walked into Hitchcock Hall, I noticed the stage was all set up with hand-painted props and other wooden structures. The vibrant, eclectic patterns of the props were fun for the eyes.

The musical starts in the jailhouse with the opening song “Jailhouse Rock,” a classic Elvis favorite. The audience meets Chad, who is known as the roustabout, or laborer, throughout the musical and is released from jail to restart his life. As Chad and the prisoners break out into song and dance, I was all smiles. 

Coming from a dance background, I was pleased to see that the choreographer, Brandon Gano, a third-year in biology, had shaped the choreography to best fit the abilities of the performers. While there were a few flexed feet and arms out of place, I realized I couldn’t criticize the performers’ dancing because their singing abilities were way above average.

The scene then transitions to the small Midwest town where the remainder of the musical takes place. The audience is introduced to Natalie, the female lead; Dennis, who loves Natalie; Sylvia and Jim Haller, Natalie’s father. 

I immediately picked out Dennis (Danny DiMarino), and Sylvia (Hannah Schwieterman), as my favorites because they played their characters extremely well. Plus, Sylvia’s voice was just so absolutely beautiful that it gave me goosebumps multiple times throughout the show. 

Chad then enters the scene and brings the power of love to the townspeople through his suave dance moves, good looks and charming personality. Here’s where the love triangles begin. Dennis, the shy, nerdy character loves Natalie, who falls in love with Chad, who doesn’t love her back. Natalie tries her hardest to make Chad fall in love with her and decides to disguise herself as a man to show Chad that they can be friends. 

Dennis’ storyline started to tug on my heartstrings and even caused a tear to jerk from my eye as he saw that he was losing his chances with Natalie. (Thank you for slightly embarrassing me, DiMarino.) He really sucked me into the pain he was feeling of not being loved back by his true love, so I was rooting for him to get the girl the entire show. 

For the remainder of the musical, each character is practically fighting for the one person he or she loved, making it more than entertaining to follow. There was never a dull moment as an audience member because you were constantly following another love story. 

My absolute favorite musical number was a tie between “Can’t Help Falling Love” and “Devil in Disguise.” In “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” I was beyond amazed at Sylvia’s singing. I also thought it was a great way for the company to regroup and all come out together to give the audience another summary of the love complications taking place between all of the characters. 

“Devil in Disguise” was also one of my favorites, purely for the background dancers. In the number, three male dancers come out dressed as angels, leaping and twirling all over the stage, and I almost died from laughing so hard. It was a perfect example of non-typical Broadway humor that was actually funny. Kudos to you boys.

The second act begins and ends too quickly. The final part of the musical takes place at the old fairgrounds where everyone confesses their love for one another, which was a nail-biting experience. I was just happy that Dennis ends up with a new girl, Miss Sandra, because he deserves it. Sylvia also ends up with Natalie’s father, Jim, so I was pleased with the outcome. 

The final song, “Burning Love,” is a wonderful way to end the musical. It’s upbeat, the dances are lively and the audience began clapping and getting involved. As the performers took their final bows, the audience gave them a standing ovation that was well deserved. 

Off the Lake has another weekend of its “All Shook Up” production Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in Hitchcock Hall, Room 131. Admission is a donation of one canned food item.

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