STILL KICKIN' AFTER 35 YEARS!
17|06|09 21:00 Filed in: WDW | Resorts
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
The longest currently running musical in the history of American theater is not A Chorus Line or The Fantasticks. It's not even on Broadway. It's the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, which takes place three times nightly inside Pioneer Hall, tucked away in a Walt Disney World campground. Guests call months in advance to get tickets, many distraught if they can't get in. Others line up at the box office before show time, wistfully hoping for last-minute cancellations.
It seems unimaginable that a goofball western vaudeville dinner show would inspire such fierce loyalty from its devotees as well as its newest fans. We asked members of the show's creative team and original cast for some clues.
|Shortly before the |
was created, Pioneer Hall presented a group called The Star-Spangled Washboard Band, who originated from New York.
The original director
"I never thought it was going to last this long," says the show's original director and co-writer, Larry Billman, "It was a team effort from the beginning. I just was lucky enough to have the job of directing it, to be able to harness everybody's ideas, adapt and change."
Larry was already a seasoned Broadway veteran when he began his 40-year Disney association with the fabled touring show, Disney On Parade. Disney Legend and Parks & Resorts Entertainment chief Bob Jani asked Larry to begin concepts for a dinner show in what was then called Fort Wilderness Dining Hall.
"The building was originally created as an addenda to a cafeteria," Larry says. "It was more of a meeting hall where families could go for hot dogs and hamburgers, to play games and watch nature films. It was never intended for a full blown show."
In 1973, the Star Spangled Washboard Band, a group of country-western musicians, began performing there live. Two years earlier, a tune called the "All-State Song," was written for an unproduced Magic Kingdom live experience in Frontierland. To this day, the song is a Hoop-Dee-Doo crowd-pleaser.
The songwriter was Tom Adair, a top scriptwriter for such TV series as I Dream of Jeannie, Maude and, of course, The Wonderful World of Disney. His songs date back to the big band glory days and include numerous Disney projects, including Sleeping Beauty and Annette Funicello's first hit record, "How Will I Know My Love?"
But the song that gives the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue its name was written two decades earlier.
The original song
If "Hoop Dee Doo" sounds familiar, you may have heard it on Late Show with David Letterman or The Gong Show. Or maybe you remember when it was a No. 1 hit.
Its composer, Milton DeLugg, rose to prominence by playing big band swing on the accordion. "I got on the staff band at Paramount," the famed composer/conductor remembers. "I was lucky to meet Frank Loesser there and we became best friends."
Loesser, later acclaimed for such musicals as Guys and Dolls and Hans Christian Andersen, had been transitioning from writing lyrics exclusively to also composing. Milton was happy to offer his musical knowledge to make this happen, and in turn Loesser helped hone Milton's songwriting skills.
"Occasionally I would come to him with a melody and he would write a lyric," Milton explains. "Hoop Dee Doo" was one of those songs." It was first recorded in the late 1940's for a 78 RPM album of Milton's accordion tunes on the King Records label. Steve Shoals, the RCA Records producer who signed Elvis, asked Milton to sing it for superstar Perry Como.
|Marilyn Magness, Gary Korteimer, Kate Richards, Brad Gooding, Jude Kothman and John Windsor in a June 1974 rehearsal.|
I had only sung a few bars when Perry said, 'I hate that song. It makes me sick.'" Milton recalls. "I didn't know whether to crawl under the piano or slink out the door!"
Shoals convinced Como to sing "Hoop Dee Doo." Recorded in one take, the record shot to the top in 1950 and repositioned Como as a singer of rhythmic, upbeat numbers. On his TV show, he introduced "Hoop Dee Doo" as "a song by my friend, Milton DeLugg."
Milton's long and legendary career included movies and television, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Today, he continues to direct the music for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as he has for the last half century. And his "Hoop Dee Doo" is performed nightly for cheering Disney Guests with lots of energetic dancing.
The original choreographer
If you've visited Disney Parks, you've most likely enjoyed Forrest Bahruth's work as Show Director. He's been on the Walt Disney Entertainment staff for over 35 years and was involved with many Disneyland shows. He literally grew up around Disney magic.
"I was raised in Burbank," Forrest recalls. "My mom was a singer and knew Donald Novis, the Irish tenor from the Golden Horseshoe Revue. I can remember going backstage when I was a young kid.
"Larry and I had been working on projects at Disneyland when I was asked to add enhancements to the Golden Horseshoe. The dancers at the time were doing a French can-can and supposedly Slue Foot had brought the girls from St. Louis. So I turned it into a wild west can-can.
By the time I had relocated to Florida, we had established Slue Foot Sue as much more flirtatious, created her mirror number and established Diamond Jim as more of a riverboat gambler. But for the Hoop-Dee-Doo, Larry wanted to do something different, so that's why it was a little more raucous, as opposed to a saloon show."
Forrest set to work teaching the performers their routines. They were the first and only group from the All-American Musical Comedy Workshop, a group of college students selected from schools across the country. "I had just come out of working major TV shows with Tom Jones and Elvis," says Forrest, "Now I was putting tape on shoes so some performers could remember their left foot from their right."
What the young performers might have lacked in experience they made up for in sheer energy and enthusiasm, particularly in the case of the comedy whirlwind who played Dolly Drew for the first time.
The original Dolly
"Marilyn Magness was a marvelous energy force to behold," Larry remembers. "Sometimes she made her entrance swinging from the balcony on a rope!"
"She would run across the stage, jump up, grab one of the rails, swing herself up over the balcony, run all the way around the balcony come back around the other side and slither down," Forrest laughs. "We finally had to say, 'Marilyn you can't do that.' It's a safety issue. But Marilyn was brimming with talent. It was almost hard to hold her down because she had so much energy. She still does. She's absolutely brilliant."
Like Molly Brown, Marilyn ain't down yet. She swung all the way to the top echelon as Creative Director of Parks and Resorts Entertainment, making shows, parades and spectacular events happen at Disney Parks worldwide. She was instrumental in bringing Park guests into the parades, a technique perfected at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
"We were this ragtag group of college kids back then, who had no agenda to prove and nobody looking over our shoulders, with this great groundbreaking opportunity. There was a great sense of freedom, laughter and fun. We weren't driven by the fear of failure. It was just, 'let's see what we can create.' That was a big difference."
The original male "swing"
Ted King was the first hired to play all the male roles in the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and become part of a highly unusual entertainment phenomenon.
"I learned the leading man role, the dancer role and the comic role, and did them all that summer," Ted says. "At first I thought, 'Why did I get cursed with this gig?' but by the end of the summer, I was having the most fun of anybody. "On Mondays and Tuesdays, I was Jim Handy, on Thursdays I was Johnny Ringo, the dancer, and on Fridays and Saturdays I would be Six Bits, the comedian. I was 20 years old and I was having the time of my life. "And it wasn't just about performing. We met Imagineers, composers and designers in those workshops. It was an amazing summer."
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue became a smash success but had to be recast when the students returned to their campuses that fall. A new cast was selected and the show went on for another year before Ted was among those invited back to Florida to rejoin the show. Eventually he relocated to California to perform at Disneyland as, among other things, one of the Kids of the Kingdom. "When I went out to Disneyland it was a different feel because it was 'the one,'" he comments. "It's the original."
Ted took to heart the inspiration he gained from the college summer program. His career blossomed from performing into the creation of major attractions for theme parks all over the world. But the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is very special to him. "They did an anniversary night at Pioneer Hall, and they had 60 or 75 former cast members," he says. "I was the only guy in the room who was there on opening night, so that was kind of fun."
|An early advertisement for the |
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Why? Why? Why?
Why has the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue endured? Why do some little kids actually come dressed as their favorite Hoop-Dee-Doo characters? Is it because this show is just for folks who still mourn the cancellation of Hee Haw? No. Not by a long shot.
Consider, if you will, Sandra Joseph of Miami, Florida, a sophisticated education administrator from the Northeast who takes regular Broadway trips to see the latest shows. Her husband, Harley, is a electrical engineer and a very imposing figure at 5 foot eleven and 235 pounds. They both loved the show.
"It was terrific, very creative," Sandra says. "The cast was extremely believable. Even the waitresses and waiters danced on stage. And they use unlikely people for likely parts."
One of these parts cast Harley in a very surprising role. We won't spoil it for those who have not seen the show, but suffice to say that he made quite an impression on the audience. "The applause was deafening when Harley came on stage," Sandra says.
When the Josephs boarded the watercraft back to their Disney Resort, everyone on the boat applauded Harley. The next morning at breakfast, everyone in the restaurant stood and cheered when he entered. "My public," he said with a grin.
The current director
In his five years as Show Director, Alan Bruun has discovered a key to what makes the Hoop Dee Doo Revue so compelling to so many: romantic tension.
"You've got those three love relationships, all of which play out at different speeds in different ways," he explains, "Maybe tonight's the night that Jim Handy is going to finally commit and pop the question to Flora. Maybe Six Bits and Dolly will stop cracking jokes long enough to realize how they feel about each other, and so on.
"Jim and Flora are soul mates, Claire and Johnny are heart mates, Dolly and Six Bits are primates. We've got this sort of worldly microcosm, which all good theatre is."
Zounds! Who knew the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was so deep? And while we're being pithy, let's close with what has become our hallowed custom here at the highly dignified and erudite "Hoop-Dee-Doo Actors' Stu-Dee-Doo."
So we now ask the accomplished Ms. Marilyn "Dolly" Magness those famous questions created by the renowned French interviewer, Bernard Pivot:
Marilyn, what is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on creatively, spirtually or emotionally?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt. "Teaching." What profession would you not like to do?
"I don't know!"
And since heaven does indeed exist, Marilyn, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"Good job in the Hoop-Dee-Doo-Musical Revue, I liked the show."
Article courtesy of D23
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