All Shook Up and the unannounced adaptation: engaging with Twelfth Night's unstable identities

John R. Severn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The jukebox musical All Shook Up challenges current definitions of what constitutes an adaptation. Not only have most productions refrained from announcing the musical as an adaptation, but the question of what All Shook Up is an adaptation of is almost infinitely contestable, given the sheer number of potential combinations of source texts that any one audience member is capable of recognizing. This essay argues that All Shook Up engages with the unstable identities of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night by playing with its own status as an unannounced adaptation: by inviting audiences to recognize All Shook Up's status as an adaptation-not only of Twelfth Night, but of multiple other works-as the work unfolds itself, the musical reveals the queer potential of adaptation, its potential to destabilize categories of identity All Shook Up, ostensibly a light-hearted Elvis Presley vehicle, carries out quiet political work, harnessing this queer potential and expanding on Twelfth Night's unstable identities in order to destabilize various forms of modern identity-markers, including gender, sexuality race, class, region, and age. All Shook Up thus makes a claim for the adaptation as an art form in itself, with its own particular aesthetic and political strengths and values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-557
Number of pages17
JournalTheatre Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


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