There are many people who have to experience the one and only Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue and they don’t know what they are missing, Am I right?! This show is a legacy in my eyes, as well as others considering it is celebrating its 45th Anniversary!
Walt Disney World presented a limited range of activities beyond the single theme park, which typically closed at 6:00 p.m. Vacationers longed for additional entertainment for the evening, which eventually resulted in the beloved Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue dinner show.
But, what exactly is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue? Debuting June 30, 1974, the musical revue is located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and is officially the longest-running dinner show in American history. This Disney legacy is about “bringing beloved cultural ideas from the past forward and reinventing them; or reintroducing their basic stories, experiences, or values to new generations”, says the Disney Parks Blog.
Opening November 19, 1971, the Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is nestled in 750 acres of forest adjacent to Bay Lake near Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Fort Wilderness recalls the “timeless beauty of the American wilderness” with wildlife such as deer, ducks, rabbits, and even armadillos!
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is nestled in Pioneer Hall among the resort and campground, however, according to the art collection at Walt Disney Imagineering, Dorothy Redmond entertained a beautiful outdoor “Village Stage” concept which could be used for both a daytime and nighttime show that was never built. Instead, the then-director of Entertainment for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Bob Jani, hired Larry Billman when he saw the potential for a “dinner theater show” at Pioneer Hall after seeing a rendering of Pioneer Hall by Disney Legend Sam McKim.
Forrest Bahruth, the original choreographer and longtime veteran of Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment recalls, “The real genius behind Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue was Larry Billman. He was a great movie buff, and he loved Hollywood.” That love for Hollywood created the basic character structure of the show as he began developing the dinner show which eventually evolved from a show called, “We’re with you, Mother McCree!” to “Whoop-Dee-Doo-Revue”.
Billman knew exactly what characters he wanted to be involved in the project. Bahruth recalls, “He said, ‘I want the comic, kind of Gabby Hayes typed that you see in Western movies, and a Calamity Jane-type that would be the leading lady, they could be the comic duo. I want to have every leading man and woman you’ve ever seen in the Hollywood movies, and a dance couple like Marge and Gower Champion…’ We ended up with a solid cast of characters”. And, that they did!
The settled on the title of “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” became apart of the Disney World Fine Arts College Workshop program. The new show featured six young actors playing the finalized roles of Six Bits Slocum and Dolly Dre, who were the Comic Relief, the singers, Jim Handy and Flora Long, and the dancers, Johnny Ringo, and Claire de Lune.
If you have been to this rootin-tootin-good-time-of-a-show, then you know the music is a large part of the shows “timeless appeal”. As appointed choreographer to the Revue by Billman, Bahruth recalls listening to a collection of music to put into the show, “My mom used to be a singer, and she had a collection of antique music. I remember sitting in my garage with Larry (Billman) going through old music that could possibly work for the show.” The show today features loveable song such as “Oh, My Darlin’” and “un-bear-ably corny jokes” that will keep you laughing throughout the show. In fact, much of today’s show is original to the show with only a few songs changing ever so slightly, except for the replacement of the song “Apply Pie Hoedown” in 1979 to “Strawberry Short Cake Walk” when shortcake replaced apple pie on the menu.
Reed Jones, Director of Creative Development for Disney Parks Live Entertainment says, “Some people see a simple, unpretentious, good-clean-fun show as the height of “corny”, which usually describing something as corny is considered a bad thing- sort of an insult to the piece. But at Disney, corny is a compliment, established by Walt Disney himself.
The fact of the matter is, it’s the simplicity of the show that has everyone hooked! My family is one of them, we loved every second of the show from the sing-along songs to the corny jokes. Reed Jones, puts it perfectly, “The show has something for everyone. Six Bits’ humor is really that of a child, so kids think he’s funny. Just to see an adult who giggles at the same kind of things they giggle at- it connects. Each character in the show are iconic types and each character winds up being a reflection of many people in the audience as well.”
The fun continues with the wait staff as well! Don’t think they are just there to be a server, they also become part of the experience, so much so that returning guests will ask for the specific wait staff. Fun fact, some of the wait staff have been working at Pioneer Hall for decades.
Plus, don’t forget about the food, this is a dinner show after all! Pam Brandon, food writer for Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort tells us the behind the scene details of the delicious food you devour while watching the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, “Servers dish up about 900 pounds of fried chicken every night, and cooks spend about six hours each day just breading the chicken. Add 400 pounds of pork ribs, slow-cooked starting at 11 a.m. daily on a big outdoor smoker. In addition, there are 120 pounds of corn, 400 pounds of potatoes to be mashed and 30 gallons of baked beans. For dessert, it takes 15 gallons of strawberries and 12 gallons of whipped cream. Plus, endless supplies of beer, wine, sangria, and soft drinks. You’ve got a formula for fun.”
“Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue was upbeat, and guests came for the corny jokes, good food and lots of fun. Forty-five years later, the heart is still in it, the energy is still there,” says Bahruth.
“Hopp-Dee-Doo Revue exemplifies everything that Disney stands for. It’s interactive fun for families and stellar entertainment. Six performers put on a show that’s 90 minutes of pure enjoyment.” Says Tom Vazzana, Show Director at Walt Disney World Resort.
We couldn’t agree more Mr. Bahruth and Mr. Vazzana. Still don’t believe us? Take a quick look at the video below to help you understand why this dinner theater show is still “corny” after 45 years of entertainment and decide for yourself.
Source: Disney Parks Blog
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