Audiences and classic ’50s tunes fill theater

By Kimberly Ortiz

Audiences found themselves dancing in their seats to the classic hit songs of Elvis Presley in Rider’s production of All Shook Up, a ’50s-inspired musical, directed and choreographed by Robin Lewis with musical direction by Nathan Hurwitz, starring a cast of musical theater majors.

The show, which ran April 22-26, opened with Presley’s feel-good hit song, “Jailhouse Rock,” led by junior Colby Dezelick with a chorus of fellow jailbirds who brought moves the audience didn’t know were possible to portray in a jail cell. With each dancer perfectly synchronized to the tune of the song, the theater was packed each night.

Dezelick portrayed Chad, a motorcycling and guitar-playing bad boy who comes to town in search of a mechanic to fix his bike. After the opening, his character is released from prison. Dezelick successfully brought a bad-boy attitude, making the girls swoon, as he entered as one of the main characters.

Before Chad makes his grand entrance to town, the audience is introduced to Natalie (freshman Kelly Prendergast), her father Jim (senior Travis Przybylski), Sylvia (sophomore Gabrielle Beckford), her daughter Lorraine (junior Milika Griffiths) and Dennis (freshman Matt Sweeney) in a local honkytonk diner, where they sing the blues of their hardships through a soulful and powerful rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Prendergast’s portrayal of the not-so-girly mechanic was both enjoyable and powerful to watch. While Natalie instantly falls in love with Chad, she still manages to care for those around her, even Dennis, who likes her, but whom she simply has no feelings for. Meanwhile, Sweeney’s portrayal of Dennis was one that allowed the audience to quickly fall in love with his sweet personality. After befriending Chad and becoming his sidekick, he is willing to do whatever it takes to help Natalie find her happiness, even if it means dressing her up as a man and taking on the alter ego of Ed.

While Natalie is in love with Chad, the feeling is not mutual. Instead, both Chad and Jim have eyes for Miss Sandra (sophomore Taylor Jackson), the newest caretaker for the town’s museum. Jackson’s sophisticated yet hilarious performance as the woman who was into no one but Ed showed the audience how stubborn, yet successful a character can be. This was especially true with her sassy rendition of “Hound Dog,” that she shared with Dezelick, who sang “Teddy Bear.”

Meanwhile, both Lorraine and Sylvia share the same likes but not the same man. Lorraine instantly falls in love with Dean (sophomore Aaron Miller), a white male and the mayor’s son who spends nearly his entire life at a military boarding school. Sylvia is in love with Jim, who does not love her back. Both these African American women struggle, living during the ’50s when interracial marriages are not allowed, and they are able to fight for what they want throughout the show with great perseverance and a whole lot of song.

One of the biggest struggles for Dean is hiding his love for Lorraine from his overbearing mother, Mayor Matilda Hyde, played by junior Rosie Webber, who bans the simplest of things from the town, like tight clothing and loud music. Miller’s sweet vocals and caring personality for Griffith’s strong yet sensitive Lorraine instantly allowed the audience to adore the character of Dean.

Through secret lovers, more big song and dance numbers that kept the audience hooked throughout the entire show, and sweet moments, the show was one which ultimately brought both humor and meaning to a story of hope and finding happiness.

Although the characters did not end up with the person they thought they would, they did find that one person to share the rest of their lives with. Lorraine and Dean are able to openly share their relationship with each of their parents, gaining their blessings. Sylvia and Jim happily marry each other, along with the sudden surprise of Miss Sandra wedding Dennis, Mayor Matilda Hyde marrying the town Sherriff Earl (sophomore Max Silverman) and lastly Natalie following her dream of taking to the open roads on her motorcycle with the man she truly loves all along, Chad.

As the theater was nearly sold out each night, it’s no wonder that audiences kept coming back for more high-flying dance moves and soulful tunes. Truly, All Shook Up was a great way to close out the semester for the School of Fine and Performing Arts.

printed in the 4/29/15 edition

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