Part of the post-Mama Mia wave of Broadway musicals built around well-known pop/rock tunes, All Shook Up constructs a nostalgic story around the hits of Elvis Presley. The idea of the musical makes sense: Elvis not only is the King of Rock & Roll, a lot of his '60s films weren't too far removed from the neutered, silly fluff of this nonsensical tale of mismatched lovers and rebellion in a nowhere town in 1955. Elvis tunes, primarily big hits but a couple of oddities (most tellingly taken from his '60s soundtracks) here and there, are shoehorned into this inconsequential narrative, and they're performed in a splashy fashion, sometimes engaging but more often overblown. The songs are given to a number of characters -- male and female, white and black -- and all of the cast wisely avoid an Elvis impression, choosing to sing these tunes with a Broadway flair, which means sometimes hamming it up for either comic or sentimental effect. Still, this choice points out that these songs, when not song by Elvis, lose their meaning, particularly when they're put into the service of a Grease-styled story that's not as clever or knowing as Grease. Still, this is professionally done, deliberately nostalgic, and shamelessly pandering -- three things that have kept the machine of Elvis Presly Enterprises humming along for many years. So, it may satisfy fans who worship Elvis the icon, those fans who prefer his movies to his recordings. But for fans of Elvis the singer -- whether it's the rockabilly wildman of the '50s, the impassioned country-pop stylist of the late '60s, or the operatic crooner of the '70s -- All Shook Up is a chore to hear, especially when "That's All Right" is given a cheeky, multi-character reading so kitschy and anti-rock & roll you can practically see Sam Phillips rising from the grave to exact his revenge.
All Shook Up [Original Broadway Cast Recording] Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine