Borough theatre looks to shake things up

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Naugatuck High School student Jeff O’Brien, front, rehearses for the Naugatuck Teen Theatre’s production of ‘All Shook Up’, Thursday night. O’Brien is playing the role of Dennis. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER
NAUGATUCK – Area teens are “all shook up” over the Naugatuck Teen Theatre’s new musical production.

The teen theatre will present “All Shook Up” at St. Michael’s Church. The production is set to open May 13.

Set in an uptight Midwestern town in the 1950s, “All Shook Up” features a litany of Elvis Presley numbers interspersed with a few lines of dialogue.

In the musical, the “roustabout” Chad, rides into town on a motorcycle, sweeping all the ladies off their feet with his good looks and macho attitude. Soon, the area’s youth are falling for each other left and right. All this is too much for Mayor Matilda, who seeks to put an end to all the debauchery. With the kids struggling in a quagmire of unrequited love, it’s anyone’s guess who will ultimately pair off with whom.

“It’s a huge mess,” stage manager Dan Wagoner said. “It’s really entertaining though.”

The cast, which comes from high schools across the region, started rehearsing for the show in early February.

“They’ve gotten so much better [since February],” said Alyssa Bianca, a Naugatuck High School senior who plays the lead girl, Natalie. “Everybody’s finally coming together, I think.”

Naugatuck High School Alyssa Bianca senior, center, performs during rehearsal for the Naugatuck Teen Theatre’s production of ‘All Shook Up’, Thursday night. Bianca is playing the role of Natalie. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER

In her fifth performance with the Naugatuck Teen Theatre, Bianca said she doesn’t plan to stop when she graduates in June. She plans to minor in theatre at Marist College and come back some day to help out with the theatre.

“It becomes a family after a while,” Bianca said of the group.

The Naugatuck Teen Theatre performed its first musical in 1995 with “Fiddler on the Roof.” The theatre puts on a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. Naugatuck High School doesn’t stage a musical, so this is the only chance for Naugatuck teens to get their singing, dancing and acting together in one place.

“All Shook Up” is a musical’s musical, according to Bianca. The music never stops.

“The whole show is so much energy,” she said.

In the number, “A Little Less Conversation,” Bianca said it’s hard to hold the last note because by that time, she’s out of breath from dancing and singing her heart out.

NHS student Jeff O’Brien is playing Dennis in his forth performance with the Teen Theatre. O’Brien described his character as the stereotypical geeky kid from the ‘50s. He’s in love with the mechanic Natalie, but can’t confess his feelings. In the end, Dennis finds out a lot about himself, O’Brien said.

He said he’s looking forward to all the hard work the cast has put into the performance paying off on opening night.

“It think it definitely has the most talent that (the teen theatre’s) every seen,” O’Brien said of the musical’s cast.

The musical’s director, Katherine Ray, travels from her day job in theatre and film production in New York City to Naugatuck for rehearsals. She directed “Alice in Wonderland” last year and came back at the request of the Teen Theatre’s board of directors.

“I fell in love with the kids,” Ray said. “It’s so important to have arts.”

She said “All Shook Up” is the best of it’s genre of musicals based on pre-existing popular songs.

“These kids work so darn hard and they’re so talented,” Ray said. “I’d love to see this place full of people for these kids.”

“All Shook Up” opens May 13. Show times are May 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and May 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. All showings are at St. Michael’s parish hall, 210 Church St.