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All Shook Up: Shakespeare and Elvis meet on DL stage

Performing the music of Elvis Presley during ?All Shook Up? are Emma Erholtz and Bryce Dutton. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Time to blow the dust off those blue suede shoes and head out for a rockin' and rollin' good time.

Detroit Lakes Public Schools presents All Shook Up April 7-9, a mixture of Elvis Presley songs and Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" play.

"I was looking for musicals two years ago and we had done two depressing productions in a row, so we were looking for an upbeat one," director Mark Everson said.

"We were having depressing (plays). It's fun to have upbeat," agreed student Libby Schmit.

All Shook Up has been a locally talked-about musical since last fall, with Detroit Lakes native Rico Heisler starring in the production on the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre stage.

Everson said that he had looked at doing the musical a year before Heisler went on stage, and that he did go see Heisler perform and get his take on doing it as a school musical.

The comedy -- which includes some encouraged over-the-top acting -- revolves around some gender confusion. Everson describes it as a girl falls in love with a guy. To get closer to him, she dresses like a guy and becomes his buddy. The guy begins to fall for his buddy, "which disturbs him because he's macho."

By the end of the production though, 10 couples end up together.

"In the end, everyone falls in love," Grace Lindquist summarized the show.

"We just don't take ourselves seriously. It's like a comic book," Everson said. "It's meant to be a dumb show, surrounded by great music."

Dumb as in silly and amusing, he clarifies, not as in underachieving.

And while the music of Elvis Presley exclusively runs throughout, the musical is not about Elvis. The cast was responsible for learning the 26 Elvis songs in the musical, however.

Assisting them was student Ashley Morben, who is also starring in the production. She serves as vocal director and has been very thorough with her responsibilities, Everson said.

She has directed the "vocal parts for everyone in the whole show. It's pretty impressive," he said.

He added that in the last three years, students have stepped up to help with the production end of the plays, but this is the first year one of those students is starring in the show as well.

In this musical, there are more chances for leading roles. Lindquist said that it's nice because it gives more stage time to all involved.

One of the leads is Bryce Dutton, playing the Elvis-like character, Chad.

"It's a fun part to play. I get to be the cool guy for once," he said.

He added that he gets to channel Elvis, but not be Elvis. And while the songs have been fun to learn, "they're always stuck in my head."

While the students knew most of the Elvis songs, they had some learning to do as well.

"It's in your face rock and roll," Everson said.

The audience will enjoy it, he added, because they'll know all of the songs in it.

"Everyone is going to like it. It's a lot of fun," Schmit said.

The set will feature a gigantic jukebox, and "should be pretty cool looking, visually dazzling," Everson said.

The jukebox will, of course, supply the music for tons of dancing. "We're pushing to get it (the production) physical."

Taking on the choreographer's duties for the musical is dance instructor Ronita Hackel.

"I've always wanted to collaborate with Ronita," Everson said.

The students have had six weeks to prepare for the musical, and most would agree getting the singing and dancing right has been the biggest challenge.

"Which dance (goes) with which song," Mariah Miller described as the biggest hurdle.

"And singing and dancing together," Emilee Freeman agreed.

With major effort being put forth from the students, Everson said the play rides on his shoulders now.

"If we don't do this right, it's my fault," he added.

All Shook Up hits the George Simson Auditorium stage in the Detroit Lakes Middle School for three shows, April 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are available at Central Market.