Music has always been integral to Hip Pocket Theatre. It’s hard to think of a show that hasn’t had live, original music to complement a wordless narrative. Sometimes, existing, recorded songs are used for Johnny Simon’ lip-sync-and-pantomime shows.
But The Enchanted Lake, which opens HPT’s new season, might be the closest to an original musical that I’ve seen in nearly two decades of attending shows there. Granted, this is Hip Pocket Theatre, so don’t expect it to be a traditional musical.
Simons has always been inspired by the lake (he even named one of his daughters Lake), and as the title of the show suggests, this particular body of water has special powers. This lake at the end of the world is mystical and celestial, and spirits of the dead walk on it after they’ve left this mortal coil.
It’s ethereal and beautiful, and given punch by the composer Darrin Kobetich, a singer-songwriter who has been playing with the Hipsters for years, and makes his debut as a writer of musical theater songs for the troupe. Played by Kobetich (guitar), Harris Kirby (mandolin) and Eddie Dunlap (percussion), the music ranges from rock to country to folk to blues, and it’s all quite mesmerizing.
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There is no list of songs in the program, but my favorite was a bluesy number played by Kobetich on a resonator guitar.
Longtime Hip Pocket performers Michael Joe Goggans (Catfish Charlie), Peggy Bott Kirby (Ma Nature), Julie Ballew (Angel Puss) and Brian Cook (Young Momo) don’t have traditionally trained musical theater voices, but they have grit and deep emotion that work.
The lovely Carmen Scott plays Sylvie, who with her ensemble of Sylphs and a giant silver snake (beautifully designed by Simons of aluminum tubing and manipulated by several ensemble members), guides souls across the lake and on to whatever awaits in the great beyond.
Metaphors about swimming in circles abound, and there’s not much more to the plot than musing about crossing over and growing old — and it’s easy to see what has inspired Simons for this one, which is dedicated to the memories of Zelmer Phillips, Slim Richey and Sissy Pulley, all Hipsters who have recently passed away.
Judging from certain shows in recent seasons, Simons has had death on his mind a lot lately, and the hourlong The Enchanted Lake is his most stunning meditation on that subject yet.
The Enchanted Lake
▪ Through June 28
▪ Silver Creek Amphitheatre, 1950 Silver Creek Road, Fort Worth