Arts & Leisure

A rockin’ ‘All Shook Up’ at Gem

HAYDEN MAGNUM as Chad in “All Shook Up” at the Gem Theatre in Garden Grove (Ron Lyon photo).

By Thom deMartino/Orange County Tribune

You don’t have to be fans of “The King” to fall in love with this one.

Now playing at the Garden Grove’s renowned Gem Theater is something special: a Shakespearian comedy told through the music of “The King” himself, Elvis Presley. “All Shook Up” introduces the viewers to the 1950’s Midwest, and the colorful young roustabout that upends the traditions of one sleepy little burg.

Fresh out of jail, the handsome biker Chad (Hayden Magnum) rolls into town, in desperate need of a mechanic: and when Natalie (Giovanna Martinez), a talented local mechanic sets eyes on him, she is instantly smitten.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, if her best friend Dennis (Matthew Rangel) wasn’t already in love with her, and struggling to find a way to express it. When the affable Chad takes Dennis under his wing as his sidekick, the awkward young man thinks this could be the way to reinvigorate his image and finally find the courage to open up to Natalie.

But theirs isn’t the only complication for the lovelorn in this town: in the local honky tonk owned by the amiable and winsome Sylvia (Emily Guerrero), Natalie’s widowed father Jim Haller (Wyatt Buckle), can’t see that the proprietor and his good friend actually has eyes for him.

And while the domineering and no-nonsense Mayor Matilda Hyde may have the burly, mysteriously silent Sheriff Earl (Timothy Klega) enforcing her “Mamie Eisenhower Decency Act”, forbidding loud music and making out, it doesn’t stop Sylvia’s daughter Lorraine (Cassidy Love), a waitress at her mom’s honky tonk from finding herself mesmerized by the uptight mayor’s handsome son Dean (Aaron Gibbs).

Rounding things out in this connect-the-dots of relationships is Miss Sandra (Mary Desmond), the beautiful museum owner looking for some kind of distraction from the boredom of the town – yet somehow unfazed when the handsome drifter finds himself enamored of her and comes calling.

In a repressed little township, desperate to remain quiet, pure and “moral”, can the strengths of love and of music prevail?

“All Shook Up” is a really, really special something, even for those who may not be die-hard fans of Elvis Presley’s music. Audience members will find themselves unable to resist humming or even singing along with some of the tunes, the performances of which by the ensemble are magnificent.

Magnum has become an unquestionably luminous presence at the Gem with his portrayals in other shows, and the talented vocalist really gets to play the part of the rockabilly charmer: and it’s not only his singing, but his impeccable comic timing and delivery that really drives home what a performer he is.

This is, of course, par for the course at the Gem – several alumni of other productions appear herein, and as always, regular patrons can chart the honing of talents by regulars such as the singular Mr. Rangel, whose vocal skills are still deeper and richer than in previous shows, and the amazing Ms. Martinez and her remarkable power and range, both vocally and dramatically.

The chemistry between Love’s Lorraine and Gibbs Dean is palpable, accentuated by their stunning performances both together and apart; Klega’s portrayal of Sheriff Earl is an absolute treasure, from a sturdy fixture of the One More Productions ensemble; there’s a welcome return to the Gem by Gentry with her showing as the prim, upright Mayor Hyde; excellent song-and-dance numbers by always reliably skilled extended ensemble; and the newest additions to OMP, Desmond and Buckle, give outstanding performances in their first outings on the Gem stage, and surely not to be the last.

An amazing, energetic and all-around fun show for all ages “All Shook Up” is a masterpiece of a jukebox musical: “Don’t Be Cruel”, treat yourself to this fantastic production.

“All Shook Up.” Hayden Magnum, Giovanna Martinez and Matthew Rangel star in this Elvis-inspired take on classic Shakespearian “comedy of errors” love stories. Playing through July 9 at The Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call (714) 741-9550 x221 or email for ticketing information. Appropriate for all ages.


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