St. John Theatre production sure to ‘shake up’ patrons

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By David Vitrano

RESERVE—This summer’s production at St. John Theatre, “All Shook Up,” stands in stark contrast to last summer’s “Jekyll and Hyde.” Whereas the 2008 show made audiences shake in their boots, this year’s will make them shake, rattle and roll.

“At St. John Theatre we strive to provide the community with a variety, and because of that, we thought ‘All Shook Up’ would be a good choice,” said the musical’s director, Darryl P. Clement.

“All Shook Up,” a musical based around the songs of Elvis Presley, tells the story of Chad, a young ne’er do well who shakes things up in a small, conservative town in middle America. The show is studded with 24 musical numbers, mostly performed by a large ensemble. Those expecting something akin to last year’s “Always…Patsy Cline” are in for a shock. Where that show was low key and haunting, “All Shook Up” is all energy.

Befitting a show of such high voltage, the cast is mostly comprised of teenagers, a fact that is somewhat of a double-edged sword. The younger cast brings with it a youthful vivacity but many of them are stepping onto the stage for the very first time.

“There are 24 songs in this show, and most of them are backed by the ensemble.  Add to that the high energy dancing that must happen while singing and the fact that all of this is done by mostly high school age students with limited musical theatre experience, and that adds up to a very challenging summer,” said Clement.

Christopher Hanes, who plays Chad, however, is not one of the greenhorns. The LaPlace teen first stepped onto the stage at St. John Theatre at the tender age of 10 as the Mayor of Munchkin Land in “The Wizard of Oz.” Since then he’s appeared in numerous productions and has for the past five years been the director and choreographer for St. John Theatre’s Children’s Workshop.

His current role, however, has a special meaning for him. “My grandmother is a die-hard Elvis fan, and I wanted to dedicate a role I did for her and what better way than to play a young Elvis-type character,” said Hanes.

Scotti Beth Lawson, who plays Natalie Haller, the small-town girl who falls hard for the mystery man, also is no stranger to the stage. An audition earned her a spot in the Talented Theatre Arts Program in St. John. Additionally, she’s graced the stage at East St. John High School for many of their recent productions.

Cameron Turner, the Vacherie resident who plays Sylvia, owner of the local honky-tonk, is a relative rookie to the stage although she has spent most of her life singing.

One astounding thing about this production, though, is that despite the varying experience levels of the cast members, it all comes together seamlessly, something that, perhaps, can be attributed to the experience of the show’s director.

“’All Shook Up’ is a high-energy show, and Darryl is an amazing director that is perfect to bring this vision to life,” commented Hanes.

The thing that shines through the most when watching this young cast, however, is the sense of camaraderie among them. There are no superstars on the stage, and the lack of ego makes the production work.

According to Clement, “One of the rewards of directing at St. John Theatre is being a part of a nightly family of friends. And while the work can be frustrating at times, seeing the joy on the faces of the cast when things finally go right is priceless.”

The shaking begins Friday with subsequent performances on July 18, 19, 22, 23, 24 and 25. All shows start at 7:30 p.m. except the July 19 show, which starts at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. They may be purchased at Allied Express in LaPlace or at the theatre box office one hour prior to show time.