I attended Disney’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review last night as part of a media event to celebrate the Hoop’s 40th anniversary - and the whip cream on the strawberry shortcake was that I was fortunate enough to sit next to the show’s director, Tom Vazzana, who was happy to dish Hoop-Dee-Doo-isms throughout the show.  Lucky me, and lucky YOU because I am going to tell you everything.

h17

Disney’s longest running dinner show (in fact, one of the country’s longest running dinner shows) is turning 40 on September 5th.  Since the first performance, Disney’s rowdy Wild West themed Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review has dished up old-fashioned family entertainment and dinner to more than 10.5 million guests with over 37,000 performances.  A  hilarious troupe of six enthusiastic actors inspire guests of all ages to get silly and have fun while singin’, clappin’ and stompin’ their boots to such classics as “My Darlin’ Clementine”, “Davey Crockett” and the “Hokey Pokey”.  You will not find high-browed humor here, just down to earth, funny one liners delivered by a top notch crew while you eat your gut busting home-cooked dinner, but I’ll tell you about the menu in a minute.

First, I want to tell you all about Tom Vazzana, who has been the Hoop’s director for the past ten years.  This guy is an absolute wealth of knowledge after spending 20 years with Disney and this show in particular is near and dear to his heart.  He came from New York City and was cast as Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame but in 1996 he became Six-Bits, a comedic cowboy character in the Hoop-Dee-Doo Review.  He went on to explore other Disney opportunities but ten years ago he came back to the Hoop to direct the show. Tom’s passion combined with a very talented, hard-working cast and fabulous Disney cooks make for a fantastic dinner show.

h4

Originally written by Larry Billman, this dinner show was supposed to only run for one month.  It was such a “slice of Americana” hit that Disney decided to make it a permanent fixture to be housed in the Pioneer Hall which closely resembles something straight out of an old 1800’s mining town, sans the spittoons.  Suddenly, there I was, getting some grub in an old west mining camp, drinking merlot from a mason jar.

The show hasn’t changed much since it began, but Tom said there are relevant current pieces thrown in here and there.  Last night there were a few hilarious “Frozen” references.  Have you heard of “Frozen”? Or are you living under a rock?

h6

This show is very interactive.  Throughout the evening, the characters engage the audience, recognizing birthday, anniversaries, etc.  A few guests from the audience are chosen to be incorporated into one of the show’s songs, “Davey Crockett”, as various characters from the Wild West.  Last night they dressed a man up in a pink tutu and the audience howled as he danced and kicked up his heels.  There was a very sweet little boy who made an excellent cowboy, melting hearts, especially mine - since as a Mom of four boys I am partial to little cowboys.

Of course, you want to know about the grub.  Bring your appetite because this is an all-you-can-eat and drink (yes, you read that correctly!) dinner show.  When we arrived, heaping plates of cornbread and big buckets of salad were already waiting for us on the communal tables where dinner is served “family style” in big buckets that are passed around the table.

h7

The menu features a tossed salad with corn bread to start, followed by crispy fried chicken, smoked barbecued pork ribs, seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes, cowboy beans and buttered corn for the main course.  For dessert, strawberry shortcake has its own introductory song that culminates with the servers emerging from the stage with trays of dessert.  Disney serves this delicious dinner three times nightly and it is a tremendous amount of work and preparation.

Here is a rough breakdown:

-       It takes Disney cooks about six hours each day to bread about 900 pounds of chicken

-       Every day, 400 pounds of pork ribs are smoked in a big outdoor smoker, starting at 11:00 a.m

-       There are 120 pounds of buttered corn to be prepared

-       400 pounds of potatoes are mashed

-       30 gallons of baked beans are prepared

-       15 gallons of strawberries and 12 gallons of whipped cream are used in the strawberry shortcake

-       No official word on how many gallons, vats or kegs of beer, wine and soda are consumed!

Of note, is that the menu includes all you can drink draft Bud Light, Yuengling, Chardonnay, Rose, and Merlot.  See the picture of the menu for all the details.  Trust me, by the end of the show everyone was singing and clapping to old timey tunes with the show’s three couples, Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune, Jim Handy & Flora Long, and Six Bits Slocum & Dolly Drew.

If you have special dietary needs it is best to call ahead to let the cooks know, although last minute requests can be made (except Kosher, which must be phoned in a day ahead).  Also, children’s options are available upon request.

h14

Disney recommends that you reserve in advance for this family dinner show, it sells out.  For reservations, book online or call (407) WDW-DINE up to 180 days prior to your visit.  Also, remember that Pioneer Hall is located in a section of Fort Wilderness that does not allow vehicular traffic so ask your agent what your best options are depending on where you are staying.