HARWICH – Elvis Presley caused a stir with his soulful songs and swiveling hips. William Shakespeare did the same with ribald plays like “Twelfth Night.” Now, the two have come together in Monomoy High School's rockin' spring musical “All Shook Up.”
The show, which opens March 14, was chosen by art teacher Deb Donovan and music teacher Rose Richard, who serves as director and musical director, for its comedic story line and toe-tapping tunes, though making the decision wasn't easy.
“We were sort of struggling this year trying to come up with a show because we have a very young cast,” said Donovan. “We graduated a ton of seniors last year, so we were looking for a show with a lot of company numbers in it. Somebody recommended it, both of us liked it, and we decided to go with it.”
What matters to both Donovan and Richard is choosing a show that allows the talent at Monomoy to shine through.
“We need to know if we have people capable of singing the roles. Not that we pick shows for certain kids or pre-cast,” Donovan said. “We never know for sure what we're going to get, [but] we at least know we're picking a show we can possibly cast, which is really important to both of us.”
“I spend a lot of time researching the shows,” said Richard. “I choose them for the pit band, too. They would never speak to me if I chose something like 'Hello Dolly.'”
While the cast might be young in comparison to shows past, don't underestimate their talent.
“We produce shows that we feel are very high-quality shows,” said Donovan. “But they're the kids' work. It's not my work. It's not Rose's work. It's the kids. The kids design. The kids build. It's the kids putting the time and effort into it. They put so much heart and soul into this.”
Seeing their students transform either onstage, backstage, or in the band is something that never gets old for Donovan and Richard.
“It's so good to see kids onstage,” Donovan said. “To see the shy kids that never open their mouths walking down the hallway standing up there and singing and talking in front of a crowd of people is such an amazing transformation. It's a really good time.”
Richard said she recently asked students why taking part in the musical matters.
“I have an eighth grader who piped up and said, 'I spend too much of my energy worrying about how I'm going to be perceived by other people and worrying about who I need to be to be accepted by them, and I've found that in theater I don't have to do that and am accepted for my regular self,'” Richard said. “My mouth fell open. It's definitely that part of it. This is where you put your technology away for two hours. You get up on the stage and actually interact with other people.”
Then there is the awesomeness of the show itself. “All Shook Up” borrows from “Twelfth Night,” a Shakespearean comedy about relationship mishaps and identity mixups, and is infused with the music of Elvis Presley.
“The songs are familiar,” said Donovan. “They're upbeat. It's a silly show based on 'Twelfth Night' with people falling in love with the wrong people, but it's very lighthearted and a lot of fun.”
Donovan said the show will appeal to a wide audience.
“This is a show for any age,” she said. “For the older people that know Presley it's going to be like, 'Wow! It's all my music! I love it!' and for the younger people it's like, 'Oh! This is very cool! I didn't know he was that cool!'”
Those onstage get a boost from the pit band, something of a standout since Monomoy is one of the only schools on the Cape with a pit band that's almost entirely student-driven. Students also participate beyond the stage through set building, ushering, and more.
“There are 35 kids onstage, and there are another 30 kids that have worked on this show in some form or another,” said Donovan. “It ends up being close to 80 students that are involved in our shows, out of a school of 620. It's a big group effort.”
That includes a special event for elementary students hosted by Monomoy's National Art Honor Society. Students get dressed up and join their high school counterparts for a dance party and arts and crafts before watching the Saturday matinee.
“It's a fun thing,” said Donovan.
“All Shook Up”
At Monomoy Regional High School
March 14, 15, and 16 at 7 p.m., March 17, a 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. finale.
Ticket prices are $10 for adults $5 students.