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Love Me Tender – EmpireTheatre, Liverpool

Book: Joe Dipietro

Musical Director: Patrick Hurley

Director/Choreographer: Karen Bruce

Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin

 

If you’re gong to have a high-octane blast of Elvis Presley numbers you’re definitely going to be All Shook Up.

And that’s just what Love Me Tender does: It shakes up the accepted musical show genre. In effect it is a spoof of musicals set in small-town America.

It certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously with a collection of cartoon cut-out characters from the mid-west of Elvis’s late 1950s.

A stranger, Chad, arrives in town on a motor-bike thinly disguised as an Elvis roustabout newly released from jail. Chad’s presence seems to start an outbreak of star-crossed love that would make Cupid want to hang up his bow.

But this Broadway show’s strength is in its singing and its excellent and exuberant dancing.

It’s an unashamed hand-clapping celebration of over two dozen pop classics either in snatches or in their full glory. The songs, especially a top-notch Diva number from Mica Paris, are a delight. And Chad (Ben Lewis) is excellent with just the right mix of arrogance, playfulness and sincerity.

Shakespeare not only pops up with a sonnet to oil the wheels of love there’s slight salute to Twelfth Night with Natalie (Laura Tebbutt) posing as a man to get close to her beloved Chad.The problem is far too many other people want to get close to Natalie whichever way she’s dressed. Laura clearly has lots of fun switching from humble grease-monkey to sexy siren.

The arty mistress of the new museum Miss Sandra (Kate Tydman) also has her followers and the red-neck lady Mayor Matilda Hyde has a colourful romantic past no one would guess.

Eastenders’ favourite Shaun Williamson gives a powerful performance as the often bewildered Jim who is persuaded to abandon his fuddy-duddy ways and don Blue Suede Shoes to win the woman of his dreams. Although, of course, not the woman he had in mind.

Felix Mosse as Dean Hyde offers us a wonderful display of the innocence and awkwardness of youth and its rebellious nature when he finally stands up to his mother to great approval.

However, the frothy treatment does not sit well with a storyline dealing with the vexed subject of America’s divisions over inter-racial marriage. And the briefest of nods to the Ku Klux Klan as if they are harmless window-dressing is a little jarring.

Above all, it should be enjoyed as a night of singing and dancing with just a little tenderness.

Runs till 15th August | PhotoJohan Persson

 

Book: Joe Dipietro Musical Director: Patrick Hurley Director/Choreographer: Karen Bruce Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin   If you're gong to have a high-octane blast of Elvis Presley numbers you're definitely going to be All Shook Up. And that's just what Love Me Tender does: It shakes up the accepted musical show genre. In effect it is a spoof of musicals set in small-town America. It certainly doesn't take itself too seriously with a collection of cartoon cut-out characters from the mid-west of Elvis's late 1950s. A stranger, Chad, arrives in town on a motor-bike thinly disguised as an Elvis roustabout newly released…

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