Theatre

Porchlight Music Theatre continues its fifth season of Chicago’s “lost” musicals in staged concert series with Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing Our Song, starring Sharriese Hamilton and James Earl Jones II, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and book by Neil Simon, with direction and choreography by Christopher Carter and musical direction by Andra Velis Simon. Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing our Song is presented for three-nights-only Tuesday, March 6 through Thursday, March 8 at 7:15 p.m. and is performed on the set of Porchlight’s Merrily We Roll Along (previews begin January 26) at Porchlight’s new home, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street. Tickets for They’re Playing Our Song are $35. All tickets include access to the popular pre-performance event, Behind the Show Backstory, a multimedia presentation, created and hosted by Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber that discusses the evening’s production including the show’s creative history, juicy backstage gossip and the state of the art on Broadway that season. Single tickets to They’re Playing Our Song and subscriptions for the entire series are available at porchlightmusictheatre.org or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office at 773.777.9884. 

They’re Playing Our Song is a romantic musical comedy about the affair (both professional and romantic) of a wisecracking composer and an aspiring, offbeat lyricist. Creatively, their relationship works great, but personal trials and tribulations lead them toward finding a new way to make harmonious music together in this laugh-a-minute romantic charmer. The show features musical hits “Fallin’,” “If He Really Knew Me” and “Just For Tonight.”
 
The cast of Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing Our Song includes: Sharriese Hamilton (Sonia Walsk), James Earl Jones II (Vernon Gersch) and Anastasia Arnold, (voice of Sonia Walsk); Kiersten Frumkin, (voice of Sonia Walsk); Yando Lopez,  (voice of Vernon Gersch); Billy Rude, (voice of Vernon Gersch); Tyler Symone, (voice of Sonia Walsk) and Koray Tarhan, (voice of Vernon Gersch).

The production team includes Christopher Carter, director; Andra Velis Simon, music director; Lucia Lombardi, stage manager; Joaquin Gomez, assistant stage manager and Samantha Treible, wardrobe supervisor.
 
The musicians are Chel Hernandez, bass; Tony Scandora, drums and Page Kallop, guitar. 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Throughout the years, we have seen all kinds of homages to Elvis Presley whether it be Elvis impersonators, biographical films, Elvis night at U.S. Cellular Field and, of course, theatrical productions. Of these few tribute samples, some are serious and sensitive while others more tongue-in-cheek. “All Shook Up”, a musical using the music of Elvis, is definitely the latter. Now playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, “All Shook Up” is a story about an Elvis-alike roustabout who comes across a square town where the tightly-wound mayor has unjustly imparted laws against innocent activities such as kissing in public and dancing or the interracial mixing of partners. Though the plot line is as silly as it gets with unlikely, but still predictable love stories breaking out everywhere, it is hard not to be entertained by the music alone.

David Sajewich plays our hero Chad, the leather jacket clad bad-boy drifter with greased back hair who hops from town to town via his motorcycle with the purpose of challenging authority by infusing fun and excitement into boring and restricted communities. Sajewich is very funny in the role, ever so naturally delivering spot on physical comedy and one hilarious line after another. He also sings several Elvis classics with a good deal of enthusiasm, his vocals finding suitable range for each number despite not having the most powerful of voice. In the show’s opening number, “Jailhouse Rock” we quickly realize Sajewich will not be attempting to sound like Elvis Presley opting to use his own singing voice (writer or director’s choice?), leaving a small amount of disappointment for those who had hoped the story’s character so obviously designed around Elvis would kind of sound like him, if even in a comical way.

Like Abba’s music in Mamma Mia! or Green Day’s in American Idiot, the music of Elvis Presley is transformed into massive stage numbers with changing leads, large choruses and big time dance choreography. It was also refreshing to see such an obscure choice of Elvis Presley songs used for this production rather than only the obvious choices. “All Shook Up” included favorites like “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, Can’t Help Falling in Love”, "A Little Less Conversation” and “It’s Now or Never” but also added lesser known songs (at least outside the Elvis world) such as “Follow that Dream”, “C’mon Everybody”, “Devil in Disguise” and a heartfelt rendition of “If I Can Dream”.

Outside of the campy over-the-top story that is on the borderline of ridiculousness, despite its borrowed storylines from Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night," "As You Like It" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream", “All Shook Up” includes several likeable characters that are fun to watch and listen to, especially Bethany Thomas (Sylvia) with her gutsy and very impressive singing voice. Callie Johnson also shows off her comic and singing ability as tomboy motorcycle mechanic Natalie Hallow who is crushing hard on Chad while Justin Brill as the geeky, love stricken Dennis is also enjoyable to watch. Matthias Austin gets some of the biggest laughs as Natalie’s square turned rocker father Jim, as deserved, but Sharriese Hamilton (Lorraine) might just have the best comic timing of the bunch.

Cheesy story and all, “All Shook Up” is a very entertaining show with great music, charm and lots of very funny moments. It’s always nice to see the music of Elvis passed on to new generations and this show is a perfect tool for doing so, as it is a production suitable for all ages alike.    

The rock n’ roll hit Broadway musical “All Shook Up” is being performed at Theatre at the Center through August 16th Wednesdays through Sundays, including weekend matinees. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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