Provo Theatre Company’s “Hula Hoop Sha-Boop,” a salute to the fabulous ’50s, couldn’t possibly be any cheesier, starting with the name, which surely must have come as a result of a “Think of a Dumb Name for a Show” contest.
But “Hula Hoop” is the good kind of cheesy. The show is not ashamed of its cheesiness; indeed, it revels in it, forcing even cheese-haters to smile at the sheer monstrous magnitude of the gooiness that oozes from the stage.
Two married couples — Quin W. and Joy Gardner, and Neal and Korianne Johnson — make up the cast. There is no plot; instead, the four performers act out ’50s-nostalgia skits and sing a lot of ’50s popular songs.
The first act is more skit-heavy, with reminiscences of “Name That Tune” and other mid-century pop cultural folderol. Also included is a fond parody of the absurdity of the old “duck-and-cover” method of avoiding atomic bomb-related death. (Warning: If you go to the show, you will be asked to duck and cover.)
The second act is almost all singing, squeezing no fewer than 40 different songs into 40 minutes’ worth of performing. The energetic, deeply committed cast (which, by the way, is the saving grace of the show — without that enthusiasm, the show would die a painful death and take its audience with it) keeps a strong sense of humor throughout. Some of the medleys get cute: A guy worshipfully sings “Earth Angel” to a girl and is admonished by another guy to “Walk Like a Man.”
The show both honors and gently mocks the ’50s, catering to people who grew up in that era as well as those who have only heard of it (which includes the cast). It is the former group who will find the most appeal in the show, however. Younger audiences will appreciate the fine singing and upbeat pace, but probably won’t get much more than that out of it. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, will no doubt delight in the re-creations of drive-in movies, ’50s TV and poodle skirts. (What was the deal with those, anyway? You’ve got a poodle on your skirt? So what?)
The show has a few instances of sly comedy (one fellow admits to secretly wanting to “take a peek at Barbie”), preferring to keep things warm and gentle instead, much like the decade itself. It’s a giddily entertaining bit of cotton-candy theater: not something you’d want to make a major staple in your diet, but a fine way to spend one summer evening.
While I am probably not this show's target audience, being approximately 30 years too young, I can certainly appreciate the talent involved in producing it. It makes me wonder, though, what horrors our children will have to view, 30 years hence, as they watch nostalgic shows about the 1990s. Will there be reenactments of Vanilla Ice and Pearl Jam? Will "Titanic" spoofs surface again, even unfunnier than they were in 1998? The very thought of someone having to do an impression of Urkel is a disturbing one indeed.