All Shook Up – Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

Inge Bremnes as Chad and Kristine Humerfelt as Natalie

Inge Bremnes and Kristine Humerfelt in the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts production of All Shook Up at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool. Picture: Laura Ramsay

All Shook Up was performed by students from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool.

This was a superlative show. The cast was delightfully wacky, the choreography fresh and alive. I was riveted and enthralled.

There are 25 numbers in All Shook Up, mostly Elvis songs, from a dazzling ‘Jailhouse Rock’ to ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’, which rounds off Act I, and the sizzling ‘C’mon Everybody’ that makes a thrilling finale.

Everything gelled in this humdinger of a production, directed by Sam McKay, choreographed by Torie Holland and with music from Callum Clarke’s superbly honed, all-chaps band (with one exception, Laura Williams was a wow on the drums). Someone prepared the score and parts meticulously.

Once the band was fitted in, the acting space was tiny. Yet the scintillating dances and twirls McKay and Holland managed to work in were miraculous.

The leads were stunning. If the girls gained the vocal edge, no one was deficient. Matthew Parkinson, as Dennis, the patient nerd in the know, aching for the girl (‘It Hurts Me’), was funny, poignant and endlessly inventive.

Joshua Glenister, as soldier boy Dean, who strove to escape his ghastly, prudish Tea-Party mother (Siofra McKeon-Carter, gloriously awful and super on devilish high notes; she netted Stuart Cullen’s dark-horse Sheriff), was aptly appalled. Bradley Stokes, as the shy dad in search of a new relationship, blossomed into possibly the finest male vocalist.

Hurrah for the ensemble girls, who formed sundry trios. They could act, were funny, and – wow – their rhythms were perfect: Kayleigh Blackburn, Gwennan Jones, Alice Phillips. They each had singing voices and feisty personalities one could easily cast tomorrow. Rachel Altounian’s Miss Sandra revealed a lovely voice with rich low range (‘Let Yourself Go’), barmaid Sylvia (Erin Rowlands) tingled hearts (‘There’s Always Me’), and Leela Dawson (Lorraine) got her soldier in the end (‘It’s Now or Never’).

But it was Scandinavians Inge Bremnes (Chad, the mock-Elvis) and Kristine Humerfelt (Natalie) who carried this scintillating show. Bremnes is a charismatic actor, with spot-on timing and an amusing garageful of smirks and grimaces, who made Chad far more than a cardboard crooner. His randy, innocent promiscuity was touching. He was heartwarmingly honest. Three guitarists – Will Rogers, the splendid Kobi Pham and bassist Danny Miller – did the actual strumming. James Breckon on saxophone and second keyboardist Andreas Häverlin bagged the other musical honours.

Effortless star of this show – casting directors, attend – was Kristine Humerfelt. She even looked wonderful in car mechanic’s overalls. The Victor, Victoria sexual mix-up near the end (Chad falls for her as a boy, all the funnier as she’s visibly a girl) was joyous fun. She interacted fabulously (witness ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, with Bremnes). She sang (‘One Night With You’; ‘Love Me Tender’) like a true professional. She has a radiance in her eyes, and in every flicker, that screams the word ‘star’.

Hannah Clements, Helen Crilly and Katie Wood were credited as producers. They did a grand job.

Roderic Dunnett 

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