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Elvis Rolls Into Highland Heights In NKU's "All Shook Up"

Of course Northern Kentucky University senior Melissa Cathcart knows “Blue Suede Shoes”. “I grew up listening to Elvis,” Cathcart assures. “Both sides of my family were obsessed.”

Being able to sing along to The King isn’t a prerequisite for jukebox musical All Shook Up, opening Thursday at Northern Kentucky University, but it doesn’t hurt.

It’s 1955, and into a square little town in a square little state rides a guitar-playing roustabout who changes everything and everyone he meets, with plenty of hip-swiveling.

In this Elvis/Shakespeare/Joe DiPietro (credits include Memphis and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) mash-up, Cathcart is tomboy mechanic Natalie, who falls for the stranger and comes up with the bright idea (Shakespeare alert!) of disguising herself as a boy (the better to become friends with the new guy).

The Bard of Avon and the King of rock and roll? All Shook Up’s romances are a comedy of errors – shy Natalie loves Chad, he loves somebody else; Natalie’s best friend quietly pines for her. Of course it all has to be set to hits including “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Love Me Tender”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Cathcart loves both characters, “because they satisfy all of my cravings as an actor.

“I don’t have to be a beauty queen to get the man of my dreams. Ed makes Natalie stronger. He makes her ambitious. I get to sing rock anthems, lovely ballads, I get to dress as a boy and wear comfortable clothes. Plus, no heels for me!”

She recognizes her younger self in Natalie. “I was afraid to go after the boys I had crushes on. I understand the feeling of strategizing and fantasizing about getting your crush to like you back.” Cathcart admits it never occurred to her to create a male alter ego.

She isn’t a complete stranger to "pants" roles. In 2015’s Y.E.S. Festival (watch returns to Highland Heights in April, festival schedule coming soon) she played (critic, commentator and Algonquin Round Table bon vivant) Alexander Woollcott in Encore Encore.

How to play a guy? Start by, “lowering my voice and my center of gravity.”

As for Cathcart’s favorite song in the show, look beyond the mega-hits to “A Little Less Conversation”: “…A little less conversation / a little more action please / All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me / A little more bite and a little less bark / A little less fight and a little more spark…”

“I get to rock out, and that is one of the coolest things I have done on stage," Cathcart says. "Next to playing a boy, of course."

All Shook Up, Feb. 16-26. Corbett Theatre, Fine Arts Center, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $14, seniors $11, students $8. and 859-572-5464.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

Photo via NKU