The Booker High School VPA Theatre Department will present its spring musical, “All Shook Up,” from April 11 through April 14 in the VPA Theater, 3201 S. Orange Ave.
The musical, which features the jukebox tunes of Elvis Presley and a book by Joe DiPietro, follows the story of the leather-clad, motorcycle-riding Chad (Brian Finnerty), who rides into a conservative, middle-American town. His presence stirs passion and delight in the town’s repressed citizens, whose revelry has long been forbidden by its strict cultural purveyors.
The musical contains many Shakespearian elements, namely mistaken identity and gender-bending devices attributed to some of Shakespeare’s comedies, and focuses on a handful of townspeople who find love in unexpected places.
VPA Lead Teacher Scott Keys, who directs the show, said the department chose the musical for a variety of reasons, one of which is the sheer joy the musical inspires. It’s loaded with fun songs audiences would recognize from Elvis’s catalogue, plus high-energy dance numbers that will keep crowds tapping their feet throughout the show.
“The exuberance and energy of the show will be infectious,” Keys said.
The show also offers a nice contrast to the VPA fall musical, Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods,” as it is contemporary and rockabilly, offering theater students different material to work with, broadening their range and experience. Typically, when high schools venture into the contemporary and youthful musical terrain, “Grease” or “Little Shop of Horrors” are standby material, but “All Shook Up” is lesser known and has more opportunities for fresh ideas.
Plus, it proved to be easier for Keys to cast. With nine principal roles, it gives many talented students a moment in the spotlight and gives the department flexibility with regard to putting together an ensemble. In all, there are an impressive 42 cast members, an important aspect for a school program that strives to offer real-world opportunities to as many students as possible.
As much fun as the show is, it also delves into some deeper themes, namely trusting your heart and allowing yourself to discover the true soul within yourself and others. Love blooms between unexpected couples, and ideas of challenging the status quo are presented. This may be especially relevant to high school students, whose teenage experience is all about soul-searching discovering the path that really is right for them.
“It’s all about love and acceptance and following your heart,” Keys said. “It is full of ideas of what it means to be true to yourself and not allowing society to repress whoever you might be and whatever your dream might be.”
Musical director Johnnie Mnich and choreographer Cynthia Howe, along with technical director Ken Wiegers, all theater faculty members, join Keys in creating this energetic and exciting show. The show stars Brian Finnerty, Shannon Cantalupo, Bianca Sumter, Ryan O’Dell, Robbie Eginton, Siki Kote, Parker Lawhorn, Lauren Pagano, Cooper Voss and Connor Davis.
Tickets may be purchased online at vpabooker.com
or by contacting Judy Piercy at (941) 355-2967
. Prices are $15 for the general public, $5 for students and $10 for senior citizens. The show runs April 11 through April 14 at 7 p.m., with a matinee performance on April 14 at 2 p.m.