BEVERLY — Despite a score that includes “Jailhouse Rock,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “That’s All Right,” “All Shook Up” is one of those bland jukebox musicals that tosses plot twists from “Twelfth Night,” “Footloose,” and “Bye, Bye Birdie” together in an odd mix that never quite gels. But this celebration of Elvis Presley music wrapped in a goofy fairy tale gets a high-energy production at the North Shore Music Theatre, fueled by some stand-out performances and a charming cameo by Joyce DeWitt of “Three’s Company.”
The story line, such as it is, follows the arrival of Chad (Ryan Overberg) in a sleepy town where fun has been outlawed, and where he shakes things up with his gospel of rock ’n’ roll. Songs like “It’s Now or Never” and “Blue Suede Shoes” suffer from the cartoonish treatment, but luckily, Russell Garrett’s direction and Kiesha Lalama’s choreography keep the action moving at breakneck speed, so the familiar music simply washes pleasantly over the audience.
Garrett deserves particular credit for his remarkably creative, arena-stage approach to this proscenium-based musical. Motorcycles and carousel horses not only emerge from side ramps; they are worked into the action, while scenes and actors pop up throughout the theater. A bicycle chase at the center of the stage becomes one of the highlights of the show, while production numbers fluidly navigate every angle of the playing area.
Garrett has also cast some gems in roles that can be dull without star charisma attached. DeWitt holds her own as the repressed Mayor Matilda Hyde, and she has fun doing it. She delivers some much-needed fire to the ridiculous number “Devil in Disguise,” while playing Hyde with a nasty edge that’s melted by the devotion of Sheriff Earl (J.T. Turner).
Overberg manages to give Chad, the roustabout and romantic hero, an unexpected innocence that makes some of his cornball proclamations a little easier to swallow. He gets terrific support from Dara Hartman as Natalie, the grease monkey who falls for him. Hartman has powerful pipes that work well on “One Night with You” and “A Little Less Conversation” and manage to find a heartbreaking simplicity in “Fools Fall in Love.” But the showstopper belongs to Jannie Jones as Sylvia, the owner of the local bar, who discovers she’s fallen for Jim Haller (John Hillner), a widower and her longtime friend. Jones’s rich, velvety tone and powerful emotional delivery of “There’s Always Me” are stunning.
Conductor Anne Shuttlesworth marches her 11-piece band crisply through the music, with tasty guitar solos by Scott Johnson and Kevin Grudecki, but the musical numbers feel like they’ve mostly been drained of emotion.