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All Shook Up - WOW, Witham

Photo Credit: Richard McNeill

By Guest Reviewer - Christine Davidson

It is always a pleasure to come and review shows produced by WOW. They never fail to deliver a really fantastic production and this one was no exception. I was not sure what to expect having not seen this show before but with the full house giving a standing ovation at the end, this was definitely one of the best youth shows I have seen in recent times.

Director Robyn Gowers has produced a superb show with some great choreography. At the end of Act 1, when the whole cast were singing ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’, I was able to see every single person. A great feat with 27 on stage. This last number of the1st act really left me in tears, at the beauty of the singing, I loved Robyn’s vision for the show, visually it was really impressive.

Based on Twelfth Night, “All Shook Up” takes us to a small town in the US during the 1950’s. Opening the show is Chad, a sexy, guitar playing ex con. What a fantastic start to the show, with red lighting, energetic dancing and fantastic singing to “Jailhouse Rock” All the cast were in black and white striped tops and black jeans, which really gave us a fantastic vision of what we had in store. Chad changes everything for the town bringing rebellion, music, dance and romance to this staid American neighbourhood.

Chad played by Jenson Bacon is a star of the future. With his handsome, slim looks and his fantastic voice, the confidence he shows on stage is astounding and anyone not knowing this was an amateur production would think him professional. Dancing just like Elvis he wooed the cast and the audience alike. A superb performance from this very talented young man.

Chad visits the garage where ‘grease monkey’ Natalie/Ed (Rhianna Gregory) is working. She immediately falls in love with him but he only has eyes for Miss Sandra (Liv Possee). Rhianna was a sheer delight on stage. With a fabulous voice and a face that lights up the stage, she made us all root for her as she tries to win Chad even though she was dressed as a boy. Rhianna again is someone who I feel will go on to do more as she really was a delight on stage.

Liv as Miss Sandra was the sexy siren who makes not only Chad but Natalie’s father Jim (Ben Rolph) fall in love with her but she only has eyes for Natalie who she thinks is a man - Ed. (Yes keep with me – like Shakespeare all’s well that ends well!) Liv had a very special walk which really amused me and gave her the characterisation she needed for this role. One of the highlights for me was her rendition of ‘Let yourself go’.

William Hackett, as loveable, dimwit Dennis, delivers well, showing his joy at being on stage, with comedic characterisation and a great singing voice. His energy and commitment to his character gives us such a loveable character and he was a pleasure to watch.

Sylvia, played by Madison Austin, showed pure maturity in the role. I actually had to check in the programme just how old she was and was surprised to see she was only 15. Playing the owner of the local honkytonk bar and mother to Lorraine, she did a sterling job. I loved her rendition of ‘There’s Always Me’.

Jim (Ben Rolph) - Father to Natalie – again had the maturity of the part that was needed. With a deep voice and showing his awkwardness trying to woo Miss Sandra, he did very well in the role.

The young lovers Dean (Kieran Wingrove) and Lorraine (Poppy Taylor) were well suited and worked well as a pair. Poppy really does shine on stage and her enthusiasm and happiness of acting and singing certainly show. With her lovely singing voice, she is someone who will go far.

Kieran as Dean gave us a quiet, unassuming young man, struggling under the thumb of his domineering mother. I just would have liked to have seen a little more physicality in his show of love for Lorraine but this role is a hard one to do as he has to play the underdog so I understand how difficult it must be to get this balance right.

Hattie Phillips as Mayor Matilda Hyde was a joy. Mostly acting throughout, she gave us a monster of a woman, keeping the strict old fashioned ‘Mary Whitehouse’ character alive. This is until we see her soften at the end when Sheriff Earl (Luke Roberts) who has not said anything throughout the whole play, explodes in anger and tells her what he thinks of her, then he asks her to marry him!!! (Yes I did say keep up with the storyline!!)

A nice little cameo from Cleo Gunn as Henry/Warden. She has a good persona on stage and dances really well.

The whole of the ensemble, which ranged from aged 11 to 20 did well. Their exits and entrances were smooth, as were all the scene changes. Well done all the back stage crew. Lighting and sound were excellent. Stage set was rather simple but effective and room was given for all the large cast to move around.

Costumes and makeup were excellent. Loved the blue suede shoes, leather jackets, fifties dresses, even the front of house had dressed up. This company have a wonderful family feel and the welcome in the foyer is always really special. What a truly lovely company. Huge congratulations for one of the best shows that I have seen in a while. I can’t wait for the next one.

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