Scolding is an aerobic activity for one of the characters in “The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk),” the ebullient play-with-music now at MetroStage. Rebuking her errant child, a formidable mother wags her index finger so vigorously that the momentum wafts her hand over her head. Changing course, her finger then wags itself all the way down to floor level, doubling her body over. Moments later, she strikes a ninja crouch.
That moment epitomizes the energy and wry humor of this production, which stars Thomas W. Jones II, its writer, director and choreographer. Jones has written and/or directed many MetroStage offerings (“Bessie’s Blues,” “Three Sistahs,” etc.), but he had never performed with the company. Watching his command of the stage, you feel you understand not only the prior success of “Wizard of Hip” (originally a solo show, it has played in more than 30 American cities, appearing locally at Studio Theatre in 1992) but also the creative dynamism that has made Jones such a prolific behind-the-scenes presence at MetroStage.
In “Wizard of Hip,” Jones plays a charismatic character named Afro Jo who shares self-deprecating reminiscences about his childhood and coming-of-age. During the account, Afro Jo frequently channels relatives or acquaintances from these early years — the aforementioned admonishing mother, for instance. Other quirky but universal figures include classmates, neighbors and a Catholic-school disciplinarian. The depictions brim with comic physicality, but the show’s zest also is verbal, as Afro Jo lets fly with wordplay and rhyme.
There’s no fourth wall here: Afro Jo often chats directly to the audience. He also interacts with the two delightful backup singers — Jasmine Eileen Coles and Kanysha Williams, who sometimes briefly portray characters. The Lady Doo Wops are new additions to the show, as is the original music by William Knowles.
Jones is aware that “The Wizard of Hip” has been around the block a few times: Early in the production, he jokes that the title phrase should really be “The Wizard of Hip Replacement.” In fact, well traveled though it might be, the show still has verve to spare.
The Wizard of Hip (or When in Doubt Slam Dunk), written, directed and choreographed by Thomas W. Jones II. Original music by William Knowles. Set design, Carl Gudenius and Shuxing Fan; light, Alexander Keen; costumes, Michael Sharp; sound, Gordon Nimmo-Smith; projections, Robbie Hayes. Two hours. Through Sept. 17 at MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria. $55-$60. 703-548-9044. metrostage.org.