‘All Shook Up!’ — An Insider’s Review

By Christopher Matthews ’20

In June of 2019, Ms. Wolanin announced to the LCDS Theater Company that the winter musical would be “All Shook Up!” We were excited to perform whatever she could throw at us, but nobody had heard of this musical before. Little did we know, “All Shook Up!” would change all of our lives for the better.

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As auditions approached, our excitement was through the roof. We learned a grueling dance routine (which later became the dance break of “Jailhouse Rock!”) and had to memorize multiple songs, all in a few short days. The days before the cast list’s release are always some of the most stressful times in the company, and this show was no different. Tensions ran high until the 22 cast members accepted their roles with glee.

From the beginning, everyone in the company knew that “All Shook Up!” would be one of the biggest productions that the Steinman Theatre had ever seen, but after a few rehearsals, we truly realized the massive scale of the production.

Typically our shows take place on one set, but “All Shook Up!” requires many distinct locations that could not possibly be condensed into a single set. We needed to figure out how to use every single inch of space backstage to store different pieces of furniture while more than 20 actors scrambled to make their entrances on time.

The further we got in the process, the bigger the show seemed to become, but with a fighting spirit (and a lack of snow days), we charged into tech week.

It took us almost two full days to set up the lights, sound, and scene changes for the show, a process that normally takes only a few hours. While this was happening, the crew organized the backstage and the actors feverishly reviewed their lines and the musical numbers.

“All Shook Up!” features more than 25 different iconic Elvis songs, all of which have challenging harmonies and difficult high notes. Our vocal director, Mr. Woodbridge, masterfully taught the ensemble all of the music in less than two months while also teaching the principal characters their solos during office hours.

As opening night approached, our nerves were through the roof, following the same path our excitement had taken before auditions.

Because we didn’t have school on Friday, traditionally one of our busiest nights, many more students and faculty decided to come to the Thursday night production. The house was packed.

After our pre-show warmups, Ms. Wolanin delivered a heartwarming pep talk that reminded us to stay grounded and to have fun. The seniors looked to opening night with a bittersweet excitement. “All Shook Up!” was the swan song for many of the 17 seniors, so every single one of us wanted to give it 100 percent.

Opening night could not have gone better because of the tremendous amount of energy from the cast and audience. Thursday’s show led us into an extremely successful weekend of theater in which we sold out two of our four shows. As we struck the set on Sunday after everything was over, the exhaustion had begun to set in, but we could not have been more thrilled with the work we put in. We put on a grueling production, but we gained a whole new appreciation for one of the most iconic performers of all time in the process.

‘Bada Bing, It’s Spring!’

The musical, “Bada Bing, It’s Spring!” debuted to acclaim in the Steinman Theatre March 5. Featuring numbers such as “What has happened to spring?” and “Weeds!,” the musical included students in K-2 playing the roles of various flowers, weeds, and birds, and included two intrepid kindergarten teachers as the Dandelion Queens.

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A Thoroughly Considered ‘Blithe Spirit’

“Oh my God, I’m dying,” proclaimed Kristin Wolanin, with the buoyancy of someone positively effervescing with life. She then clarified, “It’s just my usual tailspin that happens around this time before every show.”

This was actually the second tailspin that this year’s fall production had induced in the director. The first was over the selection of the play itself. A confluence of factors large and small forced Wolanin to switch from her first choice to her second, and then from her second to panic.

As befits a dramatist who found herself “in the booth tearing my hair out,” deus ex machina took the form of a long-forgotten memory and Wolanin snatched inspiration from the jaws of hopelessness.

“Oh,” she recalled thinking. “‘Blithe Spirit!’ We’re going to do Noël Coward and everyone’s going to love it!”

 

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Everyone will get a chance to prove Wolanin right when the curtain rises on the English playwright’s 1941 comedy centering on a séance gone wrong, leaving a widowed and remarried novelist haunted by one, then a second, ill-tempered ex-wife.

The showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday Nov. 14, 15, and 16, with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. Advanced tickets are $7 and available here, or $10 at the door.

“This is a wonderful show for students to step up and showcase their talents,” Wolanin said. “Every cast member is in a role that’s totally different from anything they’ve done before, which has forced them to stretch out and really display their growth as actors.”

“The audience has to come ready to listen,” Wolanin continued. “A lot of the play is sitting and talking” and the dialog is dense with jokes that Wolanin described as “‘Frasier’ humor.” To properly deliver English upper crust jokes, the cast had to memorize and deliver their lines with an English accent.

Of all the areas in which the show required the actors to stretch themselves, elocution presented the stretchiest challenge.

“We’ve had some repeat offenders,” Wolanin said. “Been. Not. Those have been especially tricky for the kids.” But if her troupe can perform Shakespeare with American accents, why can’t they do the same with Noël Coward?

“You could,” Wolanin said, “but there’s a flavor that you’d lose. With this play especially, there’s comedy in the delivery of the words, in how they sound, that means you have to say them a certain way if you want to it to be funny.

“We want it to be funny, so we’ve put in the work to make sure it sounds right,” she said.

While the cast is all Upper Schoolers, the crew has both Middle and Upper Schoolers, with students in grades 6-12 helping bring “Blithe Spirit” to life. In addition, Wolanin’s former student and current assistant project manager at ATOMIC Design, Adam Curry, has lent his talents to the production as technical director.

Wolanin called the show “a great break from reality,” and its popularity has endured since its West End debut more than 75 years ago.

This would have come as no surprise to Coward, who didn’t want for confidence in his play. After German bombs had leveled his office and apartment in the Blitz, he headed to the Welsh coast for a brief working holiday.

“For six days I worked from eight to one each morning and from two to seven each afternoon. On Friday evening, May ninth, the play was finished and, disdaining archness and false modesty, I will admit that I knew it was witty, I knew it was well constructed, and I also knew that it would be a success,” Coward wrote.

Wolanin picked up the thought: “The kids are amazing and it’s going to be awesome.”

 


 

The LCDS Theater Company Presents “Blithe Spirit”

Cast

Charles Condomine — Christopher M.
Ruth Condomine — Malia C.
Elvira — Mae B.
Madame Arcati — Amelia L.
Dr. George Bradman — Adam M.
Violet Bradman — Tess M. & Maya R. (Understudy — Peachy L.)
Edith — Laura B. (Understudy — Peachy L.)

Crew

Production Stage Manager — Joan M.
Assistant Stage Managers — Charley W. & Adrien W.
Sound Designers — Hayden F. & Ben K.
Sound Run — Hayden F. & Ben K.
Props Mistresses and Run: Gaby N. & Linnea W.
Props Crew — Keira A., Mira H., & Litty C.
Props Run — Mira H.
Assistant TD —Riley E.
Deck Carpenter – Run — Riley E.
Set Crew/Stage Crew — Keira A., Renie C., Laurel M., Ruby N., & Frannie T.
Publicity Chief — Charley W.
Publicity Crew — Raphael A. & Ben K.
Costume Mistress/Master and Run — Julia N. & Theo Z.
Costume Crew — Lianne H. & Rebecca M.
Costume Run — Renie C., Lianne H., Laurel M., Rebecca M., & Frannie T.
Master Electrician and Run — Justin K.
Lighting Crew — Rebecca M.
Box Office Manager and Run — William H.
Box Office Assistant and Run — Noah S.
House Manager and Run — Sarah H.
Assistant House Manager and Run — Eli H.
Ushers — Keira A., Waasae A., Raphael A., Litty C., Rohan K., Ruby N., & Morgan T.