ALAMEDA -- While sightings of Elvis Presley have been rare in recent years, that may change next weekend as Alameda High School presents the appropriately titled "All Shook Up."
Inspired by and featuring the songs of Presley with a book by Joe DiPietro, the musical takes place in 1955 in a small Midwest town where the mayor and her cronies have banned loud music, dancing and, basically, everything young people would consider fun. But when a hip-swiveling, guitar-playing roustabout rides into town on his motorcycle, the quiet little town turns into anything but.
"This show really appeals to high school students," said director and longtime Alameda High School teacher Fred Chacon. "We have a great cast of 45, and it's been fun watching them connect with the music. We also have this great student orchestra led by Jesse Randell that's been practicing the music once a week for the past two months. When they first played a rehearsal, they blew the cast away."
Chacon also credits vocal musical directors Cary Litchford and Tania Johnson with making the music accessible to the students.
While such Elvis signature songs as "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound Dog," and "All Shook Up" were new to many in the show, high school senior Kaeleb Hanrahan considers them old friends.
"I've always been an Elvis fan and have his greatest hits on CD," said Hanrahan, who plays Chad, the swivel-hipped charmer. "His music is really upbeat and easy to relate to."
While the music proved a great match for Hanrahan, the dancing challenged him.
"I like to dance and thought I was pretty coordinated, but when we got to the dance numbers, I found out I wasn't so coordinated after all," he laughed. "Luckily, we have a great choreographer, Christina Lazo, who makes everyone, even me, look good."
An even bigger challenge for Hanrahan, however, was dying his bright red hair.
"The color wasn't right for Chad so Mr. Chacon asked me to use a non-permanent dye that washes out over time," he said. "It's a big change. I'm just hoping I have my red hair back in time for the senior prom."
Junior Mackenzie Cala didn't have to worry about dying her hair, and although the music wasn't as familiar to her as it was to Hanrahan, she soon became a fan.
"Everyone knows some of Elvis' music, but in the show, it's interpreted differently," Cala said. "It really blends with the story and might even take the audience a minute before they recognize the song."
Cala had no problem connecting with her tomboy character Natalie, who works as a mechanic and falls for Chad.
"I'm not a very girlie-girl, definitely not high maintenance and neither is Natalie," she said. "She's very much in her element."
Both Cala and Hanrahan said the music appeals to a wide range of people and covers a broad emotional spectrum.
"I really like singing 'Jailhouse Rock,' but there are other songs that show a softer, more serious, side to my character," Hanrahan said.
Cala, whose character disguises herself as a boy to get closer to Chad, loves "Jailhouse Rock" but "Can't Help Falling in Love" is her favorite.
"I love how it's staged; it's so simple yet powerful," she said.
What isn't so simple for cast members is explaining the show to others.
"There's so much going on with the parents and kids at odds and all these mismatched lovers," Hanrahan said. Cala described the show as having "a style like the musical 'Footloose" mixed with 'Hairspray' but with a storyline similar to Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night.' It's really confusing when talking about it, but it will all be clear, and, hopefully, very entertaining when you see the show."
Hanrahan agreed: "I really hope that all this wonderful energy flows out to the audience. The Kofman theater is really big, but we're using the stage to its full advantage. We're going to give the audience the best show possible."
What: "All Shook Up," inspired by the songs of Elvis Presley
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday,
Saturday and March 14-16;
2 p.m. on Sunday
Where: Kofman Auditorium, 2200 Central Ave., Alameda
Tickets: $15 each for adults, $12 for students and seniors
Information: 510-337-7022, ext. 5633.