If you have a problem with the jukebox musical, blame Mamma Mia! While it was not the first show to recycle a particular act's songs (Beatlemania, anyone?), it has certainly been the most successful, as it has played to pack houses of ABBA fans from Las Vegas to Osaka. The jukebox musical's success on Broadway has been somewhat checkered; for every Mamma Mia! or Movin' Out, there are four Good Vibrations.

And now, squarely ensconced at New York's Palace Theatre, is All Shook Up, which uses over two-dozen Elvis Presley songs in a show inspired by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, among others. Directed by Christopher Ashley with a book by Joe DiPietro, the design team includes sets by David Rockwell, costumes by David C. Woolard, sound by Brian Ronan, and lighting by Donald Holder who, at the time this article went to press, was basking in two Tony Award nominations for his designs for the plays Gem of the Ocean and A Streetcar Named Desire. But All Shook Up is not just a playlist of Elvis songs; it is a trip to “a square town in the middle of a square state” that is invaded by Chad, an Elvis-like roustabout, whose arrival signals a litany of changes in the characters, the town, and, most notably, the lighting.

To that end, the show was conceived as being more of a fairy tale — not a fantasy, but a world that could live inside a storybook with a whimsical and fun environment. “We were worried about trying to tread that fine line between making the overall experience feel like a cartoon versus giving it some humanity,” Holder says. “Although it is very vibrant and colorful, you get the sense of it being like a magical fairy tale. Characters are tangible, and you can relate to them. And accomplishing that has to do with the way it's designed.” The most important thing is that the audience has to enjoy itself, and that was a leading factor in Holder's rich use of color throughout the show. “Chad comes to a community that is essentially devoid of color or joy of any kind, and he brings a new point of view and music to this place,” he adds. “Chad's point of view infuses the entire place with newfound joy and zest for life and love.”


All Shook Up begins in a monochromatic world with a sepia tone-hued map of the town on the show curtain. That all changes once Chad comes roaring into town on his motorcycle. “A lot of times, there were snap changes from ‘reality’ to a color environment, and that had to do with songs,” Holder says. “Because the characters make lightning quick leaps into unbelievably intense love, it was fun to underscore that with snap changes in color and try to transform the world instantly from colorless to something very, very vibrant. Color underscores the desperation, the passion, and the intensity of the love or the emotions that are going on between characters. Christopher [Ashley] and the creative team felt that the show is really about love and the desperation that love can bring. The use of intense color and the very bold way it's introduced supports the core of the piece.”

Aside from the emotional component of the show, Holder adds that it is rock and roll, which requires its own lighting vocabulary. “It's an intense musical experience, so that requires a certain response lighting-wise on stage,” Holder says. “The end of second act is an intense megamix, rock-and-roll sequence, and I felt that we earned the right to cut loose, and we give the audience what they're expecting — an incredible celebration.”

As color was so important in supporting the design of the show, Holder had to rely on high intensity moving sources to make sure that the color boldly popped when it was supposed to. The workhorses of All Shook Up, both overhead and on ladders in the wings, were Martin MAC 2000 Performance fixtures. He also used Martin MAC 2000 Profile spots to accent scenic elements, create floor patterns, as well as to backlight scenery and accent the actors. Lighting equipment was provided by PRG.

The show's cyclorama of a translucent sky was an integral scenic element, so Holder had to create the most effective way to light it in the Palace's cramped quarters. There is a double row of full-stage width Altman Focusing Cyc lights that were hung on a pipe that flew in and out to accommodate scene shifts, as well as between the cyc and the back wall. “Essentially, we had to use the back wall as a bounce drop because there was so little space in the theatre,” Holder explains. “So, we painted the back wall white and used it as a huge reflector to bounce the cyc lights off of, so you get this beautiful indirect glow.”

There is also a double row of single-cell Altman Focusing Cyc lights lighting the top of the drop. Two huge lighting booms on the left and right side of the stage and between the cyc and the rear wall have 15 ETC Source Fours® equipped with Wybron Coloram II color changers. Essentially, the entire cyc is illuminated, from top to bottom by the Altman Focusing Cyc units and from the sides with Source Fours and color changers. “In addition, we used a complement of about a dozen VARI*LITE VL2000 wash lights that lit the front of the cyc and were also responsible for putting a great deal of color on the scenic elements with color washes,” Holder says. “The combination of MAC 2000s, VL2000s, and all the Wybron color changers on the show do a great deal in terms of coloring the lighting.”


With a show that has over 800 cues, Holder was blessed with having time on his side, a very rare occurrence when designing a Broadway show. All Shook Up began with a developmental production in May 2004 at Goodspeed Opera House, which gave the creative team a sense of the design vocabulary and how to visually approach the show, and that led to the design process for the Broadway mounting. An out-of-town tryout in Chicago last December further helped bring the show along. “We worked on the show for almost a year, and I think it paid off in terms of what we came up with in the end,” Holder says. “It's one of the few shows I've done that I had all the time and resources I possibly could to serve the material. I walked away with a good feeling that we really accomplished something.”

However, there was a new set that was added between Chicago and New York that serves as a home for the show's finale. As Holder previously noted, the show ends with an incredible celebration that takes place in a small town church that, like the rest of the town, has come to life with color. “We needed some way to activate the scenery and make it kinetic and visually explosive,” Holder says. After several ideas were bounced around, Holder turned to Color Kinetics' iColor Cove®, a series of 12” lengths of red, blue, and green LEDs that can be individually programmed.

The iColor Cove is a product Holder knows well, having first used it for Thoroughly Modern Millie, the first Broadway show to use LEDs, according to Holder. In fact, the iColor Cove used in All Shook Up is the exact same that was used in Millie; ShowMotion Inc. built an effect using the iColor Cove to mimic neon for Millie. When Millie closed, the iColor Cove went back to the shop and was reconstituted when ShowMotion got the call to build the finale's new church set. The result is an exciting scene where color chases up and down the walls of the church. “Using red-green-blue [LED] technology, you can mix just about any color,” Holder says. “There are many, many chases programmed by Richard Tyndal that involved movement from one segment to the next, all the way around. He did amazing stuff. The color and intensity chases were incredibly sophisticated.”

Tyndal programmed the sequence on a PRG Virtuoso® console and used the console's visualization software to get an idea of what he was creating. Much of the design was created offline, then later cleaned up once the show was in tech rehearsals in New York. “He spent many days programming that,” Holder says. “There is literally a different chase on every key change. The idea was to keep the audience completely fired up and take the show over the top, so we knew we had to do our part, and those LEDs really paid off,” adding that, like every kind of technology, it's great as long as it's appropriate, serves the material, and is used in an intelligent way. “It's always a means to an end,” he says. And in the case of All Shook Up, that end is a finale that leaves audiences shaken and stirred. Thank you ver' much.

45 ETC Source Fours® 10°
87 ETC Source Fours 19°
224 ETC Source Fours 26°
79 ETC Source Fours 36°
10 ETC Source Fours 50°
3 Lycian 1290 XLT Followspots
9 4'9" 6-Light T3 striplights
14 6' MR-16 3-Circuit EYC
2 4' MR-16 2-Circuit EYC
18 8' MR-16 4-Circuit EYC
28 3' Altman T3 3-Circuit Focusing Cyc striplights
4 L&E Runt, 3-Circuit
3 GAM Stik-Up fixtures
35 MAC 2000 Performance II Electronic
4 VARI*LITE VL2000 Spot luminaires, 700W
12 VARI*LITE VL2000 Wash luminaires, 700W
92 Wybron Coloram II
60 Wybron CXI Scroller
2 LeMaitre G300 Mark II Fog Machine
2 LeMaitre LSG Fog Chiller
1 MDG Atmosphere Hazer
4 MDG Max Fogger
5 Martin Jem fans
1 ETC Obsession II Console
2 PRG Virtuoso® DX2 Control Consoles
7 ETC Sensor® High-Density

Racks of 96×2.4K
227 channels of Color Kinetics iColor Cove®


Lighting designer: Donald Holder

Associate lighting designer: Jeanne Koenig

Associate lighting designer/automated lighting: Aland Henderson

Automated lighting programmer: Richard Tyndall

First assistant lighting designer: Michael P. Jones

Assistant to the lighting designer: Jesse Belsky

Associate to Donald Holder: Hilary Manners

Production electrician: Jimmy Maloney

Head electrician: Carlos Martinez

Assistant electrician/conventional programmer: Kevin Barry

Head followspot: Michael Taylor

House head electrician: Eddie Weber

Followspots: Kenny James, Brian Penny, Bob Keller

PRG provided the lighting equipment.