September 5 marks the official 40th birthday of one of the longest-running dinner shows in American history – Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. We say “official” because the show got its start that summer (on June 30) as part of the Disney World Fine Arts College Workshop program, with six young actors playing the roles, says Forrest Bahruth, the original choreographer who still creates fantastic shows for Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment.
“Hoop-Dee-Doo was upbeat, and guests came for the corny jokes, good food and lots of fun,” said Forrest Bahruth, show director, Disney Parks & Resorts Creative Entertainment and the original choreographer for the dinner show. “Forty years later, the heart is still in it, the energy is still there.”
Of course we think the endless buckets of fried chicken and ribs play a starring role, too. The menu has only had one major change since its debut – the apple pie for dessert was changed to strawberry shortcake way back in 1979. Today, servers (who are part of the high-energy show) 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.
For sides, there are 120 pounds of corn, 400 pounds of potatoes to be mashed and 30 gallons of baked beans. It takes 15 gallons of strawberries and 12 gallons of whipped cream to make dessert.
Add beer, wine, sangria and soft drinks, and you got a formula for fun – a show that has presented about 37,000 performances before more than 10.5 million guests. And like the food, the show, while fine-tuned, hasn’t changed much, says show director Tom Vazzana.
“Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue exemplifies everything that Disney stands for,” says Vazzana. “It’s interactive fun for families and stellar entertainment – six performers put on a show that’s 90 minutes of pure enjoyment.”
Performers sing, dance and act their way through the timeless classic. “I love to go and hear kids squeal with delight at Six Bits, but also hear strong American ballads,” says Vazzana. “Families tell me it’s the first time they’ve seen a Broadway-style show – it’s obtainable and accessible, quintessential Disney.”
Hoop-Dee-Doo presents three shows nightly, seven days a week, at 4 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. For reservations, call 407-WDW-DINE or book online.
In true Disney fashion, Walt Disney Imagineers designed Pioneer Hall in authentic Wild West style with 1,283 hand-fitted pine logs from Montana and 70 tons of stones from North Carolina to recreate a look from the late 1800s. The building opened April 1, 1974.
Themed entertainment is always part of the Disney story. While Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was being written and cast, a group of country-Western musicians called The Star-Spangled Washboard Band opened in Pioneer Hall, according to an historical timeline by Larry Billman, author/writer and Disney entertainment consultant, who was the author and writer of the original show.
Bob Jani, the director of entertainment for both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, saw the potential for a “dinner theater show” and hired Billman. After multiple rewrites (the first version was called “We’re With You, Mother McCree!”), Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was born.
Students from the 11-week college workshop auditioned for the three female and three male character performers in Hoop-Dee-Doo: Six Bits Slocum and Dolly Drew (comic relief), Jim Handy and Flora Long (the singers), and Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune (the dancers).
- Today, one member of the original cast from the college program still works for Disney – Marilyn Kay Magness, who played the part of Dolly Drew. She’s executive creative director, Disney Parks, Creative Entertainment.
- An early draft of the show was titled The Whoop-Dee-Doo-Revue, which was revised to Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
- Principal songwriter was Tom Adair, who also wrote words for the score for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” and the “Mickey Mouse Club.”
- In 1979 the song “Apple Pie Hoedown” was replaced with “Strawberry Short Cake Walk” when shortcake replaced apple pie on the menu.
- The writers added a nod to Disney legacy with “The Legend of Davy Crockett” skit, complete with a coonskin cap and bear puns.
- Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was part of the opening entertainment at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, with Larry Billman and Forrest Bahruth directing and staging the new version. The show played there until 1995.