“All Shook Up” has just a few more days left in Chicago on its pre-Broadway tryout schedule. Do not feel bad if you have other plans. Puttering in on a wink and a prayer, the musical is an Elvis movie, minus Elvis. What’s the point in that? The story, as crafted by Joe DiPietro (“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”), is just as dopey as any of the King’s best-known flicks. A small town goes kablooey when a leather-jacketed roustabout (Cheyenne Jackson)—sideburns and pelvis at the ready—rides in on his motorcycle and, pardon the pun, shakes things up. It’s all very “Footloose” until he catches the eye of Natalie, a tomboyish mechanic (Jenn Gambatese), who disguises herself as a guy, “Twelfth Night”-style, in an effort to win her man’s heart. But who cares about the story? This is about the music, man. And here, the Elvis catalog is watered down and sanitized for your pleasure. If that doesn’t quicken your pulse, at least you can set your watch to the two-two time signature that renders each tune indistinct from the next. Sure, part of the joke is the squeaky setting—“a square little town, in a square state, in a square decade”—but c’mon, what’s with the square musical arrangements? Say what you will about “Mamma Mia,” at least it captures the melodrama and cheesy exuberance of Abba’s greatest hits. In “All Shook Up,” the playful danger and sexual leers that defined the Elvis delivery have been wiped clean. Even the finger-snapping funkiness of “A Little Less Conversation” is pounded into squareville. Don’t be cruel, indeed. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.