Brashear’s “All Shook Up”
This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to represent Keystone Oaks as a youth critic for the Gene Kelly Awards. This is a reflection of my experience at my first of two musicals. This article will later be featured online at www.post-gazette.com
One of the most universal concepts, love evokes emotion that virtually everyone can relate to, regardless of age, ethnicity, and other distinguishing characteristics of one’s identity. In order to stir the whims of love in an audience, a cast must be engaging, captivating, and convincing; in their performance of “All Shook Up”, Brashear High School was able to do just that.
“All Shook Up” follows the complex romances of a number of characters living in a small, Midwestern town sometime around 1955. Each character becomes victim to an intense infatuation with another, struggling to come to terms with a love unrequited, failing to acknowledge the steadfast adoration of those they do not desire. The irony of the plotline makes the story humorous rather than tragic, and, in a classic fashion, with the conclusion comes a happy ending.
While the show was neither glitzy nor flawless, what was lacking was compensated for through the visible passion of the cast, all of which had an undeniable dedication to their roles. I found myself especially impressed in both Tiahna Flannigan and Desmond Taylor, as they both perfectly embodied the essence of their on-stage persona: Tiahna naturally executing the rather sassy, no-nonsense nature of Sylvia, and Desmond strikingly devoted to the quirky, nerdy personality of Dennis, who was no doubt one of the most entertaining to watch. The band added a significant layer of enchantment to the performance, rendering the music of Elvis in a fun, romantic fashion, and heightening the emotional twists and turns which trickled throughout the night. Aside from her well-developed impersonation of Sylvia, Tiahna possessed a memorably beautiful voice, charming the audience into sympathizing with her character’s frustrations, and adding depth to her role- a concept which I feel only a few seasoned performers can master.
The weight of multiple love plots found relief in the hands of comedic characters such as Dennis and Mayor Matilda, as well as unexpected (at least for non-traditional musical attendees like myself) developments, particularly in Miss Sandra and Chad’s falling for Ed, a male disguise assumed by Natalie in the hopes of wooing her lover. Again, Brashear’s strength was in the ability of those such as Mayor Matilda, played by Angie McHugh, to wholeheartedly take on the demands of her role, constructing a convincing aura of conservativism and militarism that seemed laughable in contrast to the genuineness of her peers. I can still hear her voice screeching “Dean” and see her hunched over in intense pursuit of her rebellious son. Nothing about the performance felt forced: each student became one with their role, adding their own unique personal attributes to the show, making the evening raw, real, and sincere. In doing so, the performance was rather casual, making it easy to feel as if one were engaged, rather than a detached audience.