Review: The Cecilian Society shake up the weekend

Published

Credit: Liz Mills

Kate Snowdon
Editor

All Shook Up, The Cecilian Society’s latest production, runs from 8-11 February at 7:30pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm.

All Shook Up tells the re-written story of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, smashed rather unceremoniously into Elvis music and small-town America, with surprisingly energising results. “Roustabout” Chad enters the local scene to find a decency act instituted by the local mayor preventing music, dancing, and “public necking”, without which he can’t imagine living. So begins the roustabouting through the lives of assorted locals.

Whilst the majority of the music was incredibly spirited, the first song fell a little flat, despite Chicago-esque staging and a huge number of dancers and chorus. Male lead Aidan Dobson appeared to find it hard to channel the ‘bad boy’ energy and quick tempo as Chad during Jailhouse Rock. The choreography also seemed a little slow for such a high energy score, although the addition of amazing swing dancing moves added substantially to the great rock ‘n’ roll vibe of the production. Thankfully the next song, Heartbreak Hotel, was signalled in with the most amazing intro by Christina Craven, who played Henrietta, her stunning vocals leading into the wonderful, chorus-heavy, jazzy version of the classic Elvis song. Mark Smith as Dennis also astounded with his vocals, completely taking me aback with the size of his voice compared to the shyness of his character.

The choreography throughout improved dramatically from start to finish, and was constantly complemented by the costuming, although did use a few moves to excess. The first instance of C’mon Everybody was introduced with a fabulous dance number and an ingenious costume design featuring colour-changing skirts. It was a vast improvement on the opening number, with much higher energy and more complex choreography. The costuming stayed vibrant and exciting all through the production, with wonderful coordinated costumes that admirably recalled the time period All Shook Up is set in. That’s All Right’s choreography really used the space afforded on Mitchell Theatre’s stage, including ingenious stage design elements, and did not disappoint.

Sylvia, played by Marnie Yule, was introduced with the most incredible comic timing which continued without fail, while seamlessly developing her character. Robyn Hunter, playing Sandra, also kept the bar high with her incredible voice and awesome characterisation, in keeping with the incredibly high standard of acting throughout. Olivia Attwooll-Keith’s Natalie shone throughout with amazing theatrics, particularly when she broke the fourth wall to talk to the audience, which never got old. Attwooll-Keith’s performance was excellent, but sadly fell flat on the more high energy songs, which thankfully did not take away from her overall excellent performance.

Other stars of the show included Lorraine and Dean’s amazing duets and Earl and Matilda’s hilarious duo. The musicians absolutely need a mention, coming in loud and proud and for the entire duration of the show. The sassy bass and wonderfully vibrant horn section in particular deserve a mention, including a crescendoing saxophone at all the right moments.

Overall, All Shook Up managed to make me laugh, cry, shake my head, and tap my feet within the short production. The actors all showed excellent skill at their craft, and the dancing was particularly admirable from the large chorus. The leads were dynamic and engaged with the characterisation of their roles, making me really care about how each of their characters ended up (spoiler alert: married). The Shakespeare references threaded throughout, alongside the constant refrain of One Night With You built up an amazing atmosphere of explicit humour mixed in with sly nods to the Twelfth Night-inspired plot, keeping the audience in stitches the whole time. Despite a few lacklustre songs and slight technical hitches, the overwhelming love and support for the production and The Cecilians shone through the audience’s reactions, not least in their standing ovation following two spectacular closing songs, and a spontaneous round of applause during a small technical error. Truly an absolute roustabout of a show.

You can get your tickets from www.ticketsource.co.uk/cecilian or talk to any member of the cast or tech team. You can also email [email protected]