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'All Shook Up' rocks HHS audience

Thomas Kraus and Kaitlyn Shipman Thomas Kraus and Kaitlyn Shipman

Hendersonville High School added one more gem to its rich history of year-ending senior plays Thursday night with a rousing performance of the musical comedy "All Shook Up."


In a near sellout, the audience laughed through much of the two-hour performance and leapt to its feet to cheer as the curtain came down. Four star-crossed couples overcame numerous obstacles and found burning love at last.

Thomas Kraus, the eighth of 10 Kraus children to matriculate at HHS, smoothly and coolly played the lead of Chad, an Elvis knockoff who the town locals call the Roustabout. The play doesn't work if Chad doesn't deliver in a big way, and Kraus does not disappoint. He is paired, in an ever more complicated series of relationship, with Natalie, played by Kaitlyn Shipman, Sandra, played by Mara Egan, and Ed, again played by Miss Shipman.

A parody of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," "All Shook Up" tells the story of how Chad changes the attitude and culture of a small town in 1950s America, and changes his own outlook on life and love in the bargain.

Miss Egan, as the museum director pursued by all the men, and Andrew Wells, as the square and lovelorn Dennis, prove to be the most natural at comic timing and reactive comedy. If the class of 2012 is known for its scholastic chops, it may not go down in history as the best ever in terms of vocals. The singing is adequate in all cases, and very good in spots, as Kraus showed in "I Don't Want To." But the big leaguer among the vocalists clearly was Alnesica Waters, who played Sylvia.

Miss Shipman has the most demanding role, going from a shy and uncertain young woman, to a woman playing a man, to a wiser woman liberated by the revelation that strength comes not from winning the guy but from gaining confidence and winning the world.

There are too many outstanding numbers to list here, and too many fine dance performances by the entire large ensemble to single out one or two. Set design by Courtney Hoelscher and Maureen Rhodes was outstanding. Costume designer Sabrina Sweeney did wonders outfitting the nearly 100 cast members, making use of the old plaid shirts, skirts and cardigans donated by the Bearcat Nation. The pit band, moved up to the balcony this year, backed the show up musically with professionalism and good cheer.

Someone -- whoever did deserves credit -- made a small edit that set off the biggest laugh of the night. Sandra, the sophisticated museum director, found herself exasperated at the boring and the boorish. "This town makes me miss Hendersonville," she said, to uproarious laughter.

Among the deep and proud traditions of Hendersonville High School, none is funner than the senior play, and no moment is more poignant— Move Up excluded — than when the young men and women who were just children yesterday crowd the stage for that final bow.

The genius of the HHS senior play, less appreciated than it ought to be, is the way director Todd Weakley and choreographer Laura Roper make sure that every child has at least one moment in the spotlight, a place in front if only for a moment. When I ran into Mr. Weakley at intermission, I commented on his success at that.

"We really do work hard," he said, "to try to figure that out."

He has done it again, and so again the Hendersonville High senior class has put another classic in the record books.

"All Shook Up" continues Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 at the HHS auditorium. Tickets: $10.

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