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Hazleton gets ‘All Shook Up’

Phil Kaufman portrays the motorcycle-riding roustabout in the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts’ production of ‘All Shook Up’ at the J.J. Ferrara Center in Hazleton through Sunday.

Thanks to her big hunting cap and overalls, other characters in the musical “All Shook Up” readily believe a young mechanic named Natalie is a man.

New-in-town Chad, the “good-lookin’, motorcycle-ridin’, guitar-playin’ roustabout” who strikes Natalie’s fancy, is so convinced Natalie is a guy named Ed, he’s willing to give her tips on how to woo a woman.

Naturally, another lady about town — the one Chad thinks he wants — falls for “Ed.”

If you think this sounds like Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” you’re right. But instead of a ship-wrecked, cross-dressing Viola getting mixed up in a crazy love triangle — or is it a bigger polygon? — “All Shook Up” shows conservative Americans of the 1950s reacting to the arrival of a brash, fresh-out-of-jail musician.

“That’s our Elvis character,” said Michael Marone, who is directing the production for The Pennsylvania Theatre of the Performing Arts at the J.J. Ferrara Center in Hazleton. “It’s all about mistaken identity and a lot of different love stories and love triangles that end up intermingling.”

Before the grande finale, which involves a triple wedding as well as some pairings-off of characters Marone describes as “too young to get married,” the plot lends itself to song after song made famous by the late Elvis Presley.

“I think everybody loves ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘Devil in Disguise.’ There are 22 songs in the show, and of those 22, at least 10 are full-ensemble dance numbers,” Marone said, adding audiences can expect female dancers to flip through the air “in big, flowing dresses.”

“It’s kind of nostalgic for a lot of people. Everybody’s heads are boppin’ along,” Marone said, referring to last weekend’s opening.

“Some of the songs have been reinvented. For lack of a better word, I’m saying they became ‘American Idol’ized,” the director said. “One of the best numbers vocally is ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ Instead of a solo, it’s an eight-part piece for all of the leads” to sing in harmony.

Marone doesn’t often straddle both sides of the proscenium in one show, but for this production, he said, he couldn’t resist the part of a nerdy sidekick named Dennis.

“I get a kick out of doing it, absolutely,” he said, listing a pocket protector, taped-up glasses and “high-water pants” as part of his costume.

If you go

What: ‘All Shook Up’

Who: Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts

When: 7 tonight and Saturday night, 3 p.m. Sunday. Dinner served 90 minutes before curtain.

Where: J.J. Ferrara Center, 212 W. Broad St., Hazleton

Tickets: $8 to $15 show only; $18 to $28 for dinner and show

More info: 454-5451

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