Theme Park Ranger
December 15, 2009
I say go with it, man. That's my best advice. Remember, a pun can't kill you. Not even a bunch of puns can gang up on you, although you might want to die from groaning.
I mean, you didn't expect high-brow entertainment when you bought a ticket to something called the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, did you?
Don't fight it. Walk toward the time capsule with a good attitude and you'll come out realizing — wait a minute — you had a foot-stompin', washboard-rattlin', finger-lickin' good time.
Hoop-Dee-Doo is in its 35th year at Walt Disney World, tucked away in the Pioneer Hall of the Fort Wilderness campground area near Magic Kingdom theme park. It has a reputation of being entirely unchanged since its first performance.
I'm not so sure about that because there appeared to be mild ad-libbing during my maiden Hoop-Dee-Doo outing. But Comedy Warehouse, it ain't.
Maybe that's the beauty of it. The six actors have committed to making it seem fresh no matter how tried-and-true. How else could they keep their sanity for three shows a night?
The characters are a nice assortment. There's leading man Jim Handy, his loving lady Flora Lawn, the dance team of Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune (her laughter goes from grating to great), the brassy Dolly Drew and the big comic relief guy named Six Bits Slocum (I'd love for him to be referred to as "75 Cent," but modernization seems unlikely at this point).
The ensemble sings and dances with extreme interaction with the audience. They're down in the trenches of the tightly spaced tables, getting folks involved. Here's where someone rhymed " Virginia" with "chicken in ya." Adventurers Club it ain't, but it is up close and personal.
On stage, the show is part Wild West, part vaudeville. Familiar fare is juiced up with sound effects and such. By the time Dolly was putting her whole hip into the "Hokey Pokey" production number, I was warming up to the 'Doo.
Dinner is served family-style in the midst of all this. The menu is fixed: salad, cornbread, fried chicken (my friends' fave), pork ribs, mashed potatoes and "cowboy beans." The beverage selection includes all the sangria you can drink. (For an additional charge, there's a pomegranate martini with lemon liqueur, which I don't think I'd go for with cowboy beans.)
In the second hour, the puns become borderline un-bear-able. Just grin and bear it. Bear right to the bathrooms. I can't remem-bear any others. I've lost my bear-ings.
It's all squeaky clean, just as Walt would have wanted it. A segment near the end features Indian whooping and assorted gunplay.
Sometime after the strawberry shortcake was served (cue the high-kicking wait staff), my mind did wander back to 1974, when Hoop-Dee-Doo was born. The show feels like a throwback now, but was it annoyingly out of touch back then? How did it resonate in the era of presidential resignation, Patty Hearst's kidnapping, the Irish Republican Army, feeling groovy and the Volkswagen Rabbit?
The clamor of spoons against dozens of washboards snaps me out of it. It's deafening. Kids go wild. We're nearing the two-hour mark when done.
Hoop-Dee-Doo didn't revolutionize dinner shows, but it must be doing something right to survive more than three decades of change. It's one of those random things that some Disney fans become very focused on. For the rest of us — bear with me — it's a classic, a slice of Americana.
So clap along, put down that infernal iPhone contraption and dig in.
See for yourself
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Where: Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness campground.
When: Seatings at 5 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. daily.
Cost: From $36.99 to $59.99 per person, depending on age and seating level.
Call: Reservations at 407-939-3463.
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