Unrequited love, small-town blues and Elvis’ greatest hits. What do these three things have in common?
I’ll give you a hint: they’re all key components of the Miami Theater Players’ production of “All Shook Up,” which rocked n’ rolled two weeks ago on stage at the New Paltz Central High School.
The show tells the story of Natalie (Emily Sarra), a lonely young mechanic from the countryside, who falls hopelessly in love with playboy and general roustabout Chad (Kevin Burns). Unbeknownst to Natalie, her best friend, Dennis (Jason Schissel), harbors an intense love for her. The love story doesn’t end there. Chad falls for the beautiful and mysterious Sandra (Casey Richards), leaving Natalie heartbroken. Along the way, the audience learns of a complicated crush between Natalie’s father, Jim (Jacob Berkowitz), and his close friend, Sylvia (Stephanie Golub). There’s forbidden love, a covert gender swap and the looming threat of Mayor Matilda (Kate O’Hehir), whose harsh laws forbid dancing and singing.
All the while, the characters twist and jive to classic Elvis hits, including “One Night With You,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” to name a few. A pit orchestra and impressive choreography truly brought the Players’ production to the next level.
Director Laura Amoruso, a fourth-year secondary education major, was proud of her club’s final performance. Preparation for “All Shook Up” consisted of hours of casting, nine weeks of rehearsals and many long days and nights of set design and costuming, she said. As director, Amoruso took on the expected roles for her position, including scene blocking, staging and small bits of choreographing. However, the Players are an entirely student-run organization, which meant work on and off the clock for many members. Amoruso and the club’s other E-board members went above and beyond their designated duties to make their vision into a reality.
Amoruso praised the performers from “All Shook Up.” Many were first-years or transfer students, which brought new faces and talent to the Players’ repertoire.
The Players faced one major hurdle: with Parker Theatre under renovation, Amoruso and the club’s president, fourth-year communications disorders major Emily Sarra, were unable to secure an on-campus location for the three-day run of “All Shook Up.” Luckily, the faculty at New Paltz Central High School happily accommodated the club’s needs and set aside a theater space in the school’s Otto Grassel Auditorium. Sarra even worked with faculty at the high school to set up round-trip transportation between the auditorium and the Transit Hub at SUNY New Paltz.
Directing isn’t a role suited for everyone, Amoruso said, but it’s one she wouldn’t trade for the world. Her work with the Players forced her to develop strong time management skills — something essential to working while studying full-time, she said. Even so, the directors, costumers, musical conductors and producers of college-level productions don’t receive the same recognition and praise as the actors, who are quite literally the faces of the show.
“It’s really hard but completely rewarding to be in charge of something self-sufficient,” she said, sporting a proud grin. “It’s a delicious feeling.”