Now Playing: All Shook Up
Grab those blue suede shoes: The School of the Arts at Dean College is channeling Elvis for their latest production! Featuring the songs of Elvis Presley®, “All Shook Up” won a Theatre World Award after its Broadway debut in 2005. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” this heartwarming tale is underscored by music from the Elvis Presley songbook, and talks about following dreams, love and the power of music in a 1950s Midwestern town.
Benjamin Leblanc ’23 takes on the lead role of Chad, a “carefree man with ‘song in his soul’ and the hips to get him into trouble,” while Gia Chessa ’24 stars as Natalie Heller/Ed, a spunky, passionate mechanic who goes to great lengths to prove herself. Behind the scenes, stage manager Lucy Young ’24 is responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly during rehearsals and the show, which opens tonight and runs through Sunday, November 20.
“I’m in charge of managing the rehearsals, being the main point of contact for the actors and crew members, and most importantly, making sure that any technical aspects of a show happen during the show – which is referred to as calling cues,” Lucy explained.
All this behind-the-scenes work ensures that the actors can focus solely on telling their characters’ stories, which they’ve put a lot of preparation and effort into developing.
“With a lead role, my preparation has been hard and as thought out as possible,” explained Benjamin. “Although the character is very loosely based on Elvis...he very much is not. I have taken inspiration from him and the recent film, but I spend an uneasy amount of time with getting Chad in my body. I gave Chad a breath of fresh air for the audience that I hope they'll like.”
Gia agrees, as the role of Natalie is vocally demanding as she transforms herself into a man. “A lot of my prep has included figuring out which posture and voice worked for me with each character, along with keeping a journal for what she would write after each experience she has in and out of the play,” Gia said. “The rehearsal process has been hard work, but doing college theatre is so rewarding because you get to do what you love among the people you love.”
All this preparation is about to pay off, as the cast and crew are ready for the audience to see the world they have created, and most importantly, experience the music.
“I think everyone has wanted to tell this story with as much emotion and understanding as possible,” said Lucy. “It doesn’t feel like a jukebox musical. The songs will get you dancing, but the way the actors sing the songs make you almost forget that you are in a musical.”
“The music forces people to get out of their comfort zone in all aspects, and it is something beautiful to see everyone pushing themselves to be better,” Benjamin said. “Not just for the show, but also for themselves as artists.”
As “All Shook Up” gears up to transport audiences into the 1950s and the world of small-town love and rock-n-roll, Lucy and Gia are grateful for the opportunity to bring the show to life.
“I have loved getting to help build this world that the director and actors have created, and thank them for trusting me to do so,” Lucy said.
“My favorite part about participating in ‘All Shook Up’ has been getting to watch my friends and I grow into these characters with the help of our amazing director, Ali Angelone,” added Gia. “We have had the freedom to experiment so much with our choices and work off each other. It has been a fabulous thing to experience.”
And for Benjamin, the best part has been what the heart and soul of “All Shook Up” is all about – the power of music.
“I have done the show before, so I fell in love with the music,” he said. “I needed the music back in my life, and I had no idea until I had it.”
The Dean College production of “All Shook Up” will take place in the Main Stage in the Dr. Paula M. Rooney Student Center at Dean College, 109 West Central Street, Franklin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with matinee performances at 2:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit the Dean College Box Office.