It’s great to see Elvis’ music still as relevant to today’s audiences as they were back in his heyday and the kids of the Big Bad Wolf Children’s Theatre Company really brought it to life on Tuesday in Falkirk Town Hall.
I was mightily impressed with the talent on show in All Shook Up, the group’s ninth annual performance, all carried off with enthusiasm, vigour, sharp choreography, brilliant singing and a good few laughs.
It’s a musical comedy and love story set in middle America in 1955 when rock’n’roll was banned for being “indecent”. However, leather-clad biker Chad (Daniel Louis) rolls into town and changes everything through his “jiggly wiggly sound”.
He’s a romancer who has been with a lot of women, “a lot of women”, he reminds us on more than one occasion, but is experiencing problems in that department for the first time.
Now let’s see if I can get this right with all the love action involved – Natallie Haller (Claudia Anderson), a female mechanic, is in love with Chad; her father Jim (Ryan Young) lost his wife a few years back, but he is now thinking about moving on and has fallen for Miss Sandra (Alexandra Kerr) from the museum – as has Chad lest we forget – but Sylvia (Eva Caie) is in love with Jim, much to her surly surprise.
The hapless Dennis (Luc Liddell) has been in love with Natallie all his life; Sylvia’s daughter Lorraine (Heather Watkins) and Dean Hyde (Lewis Dawson), son of battleaxe Mayor Matilda Hyde (Kristen White), are planning to run away together, while the silent Sheriff Earl (Ian Williamson) professes his love for the Mayor.
Daniel Louis is superb as the main protagonist with a great voice that can thankfully carry an Elvis tune effortlessly. As a big Elvis fan, this was one of my concerns but I needn’t have worried, the whole cast really made the songs their own. Even the chorus singers were amazing when they stepped in.
Eva Caie gets most of the laughs with Sylvia’s Southern Belle accent and catty putdowns to everyone and had the audience eating out of her hand with a solo just before the interval – a hard character to play which Eva did remarkably well.
Heather Watkins and Lewis Dawson play love’s young dream perfectly as Lorraine and Dean who are very sweet together, standing up to their overbearing mothers.
Claudia Anderson has a terrific voice and a real homely presence the audience connected with as she chased her dreams. Luc Liddell played the bumbling Dennis to a tee and could also hit the right notes with his voice.
Ryan Young as Jim was solid throughout, turning from dowdy dad Jim to cool hipster to attract the ladies, while Kristen White as the Mayor gave an absolutely brilliant account as a stern stickler for decency.
She had a kind of Inspector Clouseau-Cato relationship with long-suffering sidekick Ian Williamson – not now Sheriff Earl! – until he finally talks, tells her to shut up and reveals his undying love for her.
Alexandra Kerr was a genuine red-headed siren, whose voice reminded me of Duffy who sang Mercy a few years back, a real powerhouse with the looks and attitude to match.
I loved the costumes and was also absolutely gobsmacked at the choreography. There must have been about 100 dancers on that stage and they all worked extremely well together, keeping their moves crisp and clean in tight quarters. From the little ones to the older ones, they all did it with a smile, athleticism and grace beyond their years. Fantastic.
Prinicipals: Chad, Daniel Louis; Sylvia, Eva Caie; Lorraine, Heather Watkins; Natalie Haller, Claudia Anderson; Dennis, Luc Liddell; Jim Haller, Ryan Young; Major Matilda Hyde, Kristen White; Dean Hyde, Lewis Dawson; Sheriff Earl, Ian Williamson; Miss Sandra, Alexandra Kerr.
Cast roles: Governor, Callum Allan; minister, Kirsty Coleman; female townsperson, Lisa Keeley; fella, Robbie Allan; bus driver, Josh Stewart; Henrietta, Jasmin Milne.
Pit singers: Jennifer Anderson, Abi Clark, Sophie Kennedy, Caitlyn Malloy, Jasmin Milne, Ceara McAteer, Hannah Parsons, Holly Smith, Lucy Smith (twin).
Dance core: Kirstin Bell, Kirsty Coleman, Mia Findlay, Rebecca Hall, Lisa Keeley, Roni Louden, Hannah McGowan, Lois McKean, Sarah Nisbet, Eve Pearson, Abby Renwick, Millie Wright.
Chorus: Amy Allan, Kayleigh Alston, Ben Anderson, Euan Arthur, Eilidh Black, Karis Black, Lochlan Black, Megan Broadley, Rowan Brockie, Duncan Brown, Daisy Campbell, Katie Craigen, Layla Crombie, Ella Dowell, Emily Fawkes, Holly Findlay, Amy Gallacher, Chloe Gallacher, Jennifer Hall, Vicky Hall, Aidan Harland, Isla Houston, Miya Johnston, Zoe Johnston, Iona Kelly, Casey-Jo Kennedy, Jennah Loutfi, Kai Mungall, Holly McDonald, Blair Reid, Jessica Riddoch, Kara Russell, Ross Sinclair, Lucy Smith, Alessandro Sportelli, Abbie Stewart, Shelby Stewart, Finn Williams, Sarah Williamson.