When future anthropologists are trying to make sense of the current Earth and they learn about Hip Pocket Theatre, they will find that, unlike other facets of humanity that underwent tremendous change over the years, Hip Pocket didn’t adapt or conform to any performance trends.
Johnny Simons’ sensibilities are pretty much the same as they were when he founded the group in 1977, as evidenced by the show that closes the 2013 season, Fuzzbug Follies. Of all the throwback entertainments he has staged, this 45-minute confection feels the most unapologetically frivolous, designed for nothing more than to induce nostalgia-charged smiles.
If you saw the previous production, Simons’ Sassafras, Poppy Cock and Prittleprattle With Lum and Abner, you know how Fuzzbug has been set up. In that show, a dusty cigar box where they kept wayward roly polies led the title characters to dub the crawlies “fuzzbugs.”
The only character from that show who returns in this one is Grandpappy Spears (James Warila), accompanied by his cat Matilda (a puppet created by Lake Simons). Then there’s a gaggle of “Women Folk.” In Sassafras, they were the wives of the men in a discussion group, who brought vittles to the potluck. But here, although it’s not clear, it seems that the women are the doodlebugs and Grandpappy is having his own tripped-out conversation with them as they perform dance routines to WWII-era recordings by the likes of the Andrews Sisters and Artie Shaw. Occasionally, he even participates in cutting the rug.
The dancers are HPT vets Julie Ballew, Gracey Tune, Lori Sundeen Soderbergh and Frieda Austin, along with younger gals Jozy Camp, Jessica Duncan, Jennie Lynn Godfrey and Lindsey Villari. There’s nothing complicated about the choreography, and it occasionally ventures into an innocent form of burlesque.
As can be expected from this group, there’s the occasional bit of physical theater trickery, such as when the torsos and heads of one set of women are connected to the legs of others with a long piece of cloth during Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters’ version of Don’t Fence Me In.
When Warila or any of the woman lip-sync to the songs, it’s sweet and sometimes funny.
The show never requires a thinking cap, although there is a slight message about respecting all God’s creatures. What it does is ask you to sit back, relax and enjoy a show that’s as light, airy and sugary as a trifle.
Hopefully those future anthropologists will realize there’s nothing wrong with that.