Getting All Shook Up

Once again, I’m on countdown to show week.  In one week, I’ll be at the Tower Theatre, Folkestone, for the start of technical rehearsals for All Shook Up.  This show is an insane comedy inspired by Shakespeare (largely Twelfth Night, but with dashes of the others thrown in for fun), with a score consisting of two dozen numbers from Elvis Presley’s vast repertoire.  ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and many more songs are merrily whirling around in my head, several freshly laundered shirts are waiting to be ironed before our first dress runs, and soon more than half of my waking hours will be devoted to the show, spent in the company of the good people of Lights Up Productions.

My character is Jim Haller, the father of the female lead.  He’s a widower who has (like most of the town) become stuck in a rut, only to be shocked into life by the arrival of a young roustabout, Chad, who kickstarts the town’s broken jukebox and manages to get everyone falling madly in love with each other.  Jim falls for someone who is a few thousand miles out of his league, but is determined to win her love and will do anything to impress her.

It’s a strange role for me, as Jim is relatively understated – although he does have his moments of utter madness, he’s nowhere near as zany as the characters I often play in comedies.  He is also a bass (or as close as this show gets to a bass, since it’s rock ‘n’ roll all the way), when I am most definitely a tenor.  This leads to some very schizophrenic moments when I’m involved with a full-company number.  For instance, I make an entrance part way though ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and sing some solo lines which take me very near to the bottom of my register, which makes the moment when I rejoin the ensemble singing very odd, as I sing the tenor line which at that point is warbling away in the rafters.  There is even one song where I am the entire tenor section.  We only have three tenors, you see, and we’re all principals, so when two of them are lead vocalists for ‘If I Can Dream’, this just leaves me singing heartily in the wings, hoping desperately that I don’t get sucked into one of the other parts.

And then there’s the dancing.  As ever, I struggle with the dancing, particularly since this is a cast full of genuine dancers – almost everyone else is trained to some level in dance, leaving me trying valiantly to catch up.  The director has very wisely ensured that I am not involved in some of the heaviest dance numbers, and I spend a lot of time going over and over the routines that I am in.  Whether I’m at a rehearsal but not needed for a scene, or standing in my kitchen, or occasionally even walking down the street, I’ll be going over my kick-ball-changes or what is known as the “hunka hunka” section of ‘Burning Love’.  I have had several moments where I’ve realised I’m practising the moves in public and people are watching.  Not good.

I am having a lot of fun doing this show.  The cast is very strong, and during the ensemble numbers, we seem to sound like more than the 20 people that we are.  The script is deliciously silly and the harmonies are an absolute joy to sing, particularly in ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’.  The dancing is a lot of fun, even though I’m finding the learning process frustrating.  Actually doing the dances is an absolute blast.  It is very, very hard work, but so worth it.  Rehearsals were really difficult at first due to the events occurring in the real world, but in many ways I think that being so busy has helped me deal with my grief – we shall find out once the show is over whether being busy was healthy or not!

Over the last week or so, promotional activities have kicked into top gear as we seek to attract as many people as possible.  So I have spent time singing and (more surprisingly) dancing on the streets.  Once on Saturday, when I was mostly supposed to be handing out flyers, but was occasionally persuaded to dance (the “hunka hunkas”, mostly) and once on Sunday, when the whole cast was out in costume to promote the show.  Given how tight my jeans are in the costume I was wearing, I felt somewhat awkward, but the shoppers who stopped to listen seemed to enjoy themselves a great deal.  It is my duty, of course, to say that the not-to-be-missed show runs from 11th-14th August and tickets are available from the theatre’s website.  A video of rehearsal footage (which, to my amusement, features two songs and stops just at the moment in each when I would become visible) has also been released :

The next two weeks are going to be thoroughly exhausting, and if I’m honest, I’ll be quite glad once I never have to sing ‘One Night With You’ again (for reasons that will become clear to anyone who sees the show).  However, the two weeks are going to be a lot of fun, and are I wouldn’t miss the experience for anything.  Up to twelve hours a day in the theatre, plenty of sweat and a costume change which manages to beat all of my previous changes in terms of speed.  But great music, camaraderie and the joy of performing.  Magic.

  1. Singer Librarian. Your “All Shook Up” post hits home for me. Thanks for the right-up. Not only will I have dance issues, as you mentioned, I have never been in a play. I am now 52 and just got a call back from the local theater company for the role of Jim Haller. At first it was just a whim, however now that I’m on track, I’d love to get the role. Any tips or advice for this newbee? Enjoy.

      • dgplugge
      • May 5th, 2014

      Write-up not Right-up.

  2. Hi. Jim is a great character to play. Probably the key thing about him is that although he ends up doing some rater crazy things, he is at heart a simple, loveable guy who cares deeply for his daughter and also for others around him. Play it “real” so that the crazy bits are then more notable by being so far at odds to his usual self. Luckily, in terms of dance, there is at least one number where Jim should look awkward!

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