It’s been several years since I last saw the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness. In the intervening years, there was a copyright battle involving the show’s trademark song, with the outcome that Disney can no longer use the same opening act. I went in this last weekend with one thought on my mind: does the revised show still stand up on its own?
The answer is a qualified yes. Yes, the show still serves as a vehicle for the independent (and uneven) performances of the individual cast members. Those who shine because of their comedic timing or penchant for physical comedy will still look like breakout stars. Those with less polished stage presence are sufficient in the show but they do not “make or break” the experience.
“Yes” also because this is one of those meals at Walt Disney World which stands out as truly unique. The servers plunk down metal pails at your table filled with ribs, fried chicken, and all manner of fixings. It’s done with a theatrical flair which shows the all-or-nothing attitude behind it, and in this case it certainly works to take the “no holds barred” approach and letting the experience be very different (as opposed to familiar and thus safe). For those who haven’t seen it, I should probably mention that the show encourages not only wild swinging of napkins, but also the playing of washboards by small children. The idea is to be raucous and to get the audience in the same mood, and by all accounts this still happens. It’s a fun show with plenty of audience interaction, with even a few audience members brought up on stage for the final number.
The final reason to say this is a qualified success is that the replacement song is fully competent and obviously written by professionals. It did not have the flavor of something hastily thrown together, and fit quite well with the rest of the show. That’s the good part. But I said this was a qualified success, and the qualification comes partly from the fact that this competent replacement song only goes so far in matching its predecessor. Put simply, it’s just not memorable. Five minutes later, I would not have been able to tell you the refrain in the song, and so I do feel something has been lost in the show overall. In the previous incarnation of the show, everyone knew the title song by the end, and moreover, everyone could hum it even days later. You might even be humming Hoop Dee Doo to yourself as you read this.
I didn’t look up how much I paid for the show last time, but this time around tickets were $70 per person (we were in the Category 1 floor seats). I happened to go with a cast member, meaning we were able to realize a 50% discount by going to the 4 PM show. At $35, the experience is eminently worthwhile. You get the engaging and fun show, and you get an all-you-can-eat meal including dessert. That alone would be worth $35, but the show has one more trick up its sleeve: unlimited refills of Bud Light or sangria included in the price.
Seen in this light, the cast member discount represents a real bargain. I’m less certain that the show would be a bargain, even with free alcohol, at the full price. Can you drink $30 worth of alcohol in one sitting? Possibly, but your task is made harder by the compressed timeframe. We were not let in the door until a few moments after 4 PM, and it obviously took several minutes to see everyone. Our server and the show took turns battling for our attention, and the show was over by about 5:40, with the doors opened and everyone ushered politely outside. The meal is definitely all-you-can-eat — there was ample opportunity and offers to bring more food to the table. But Disney is wise not to advertise it as all-you-can-drink, because everything happens on such a tightly orchestrated schedule that there is little time for inebriation. I’m fine with that on lots of levels, including the family friendly vibe they are looking for, but I did want to point out that the alcohol should not represent a major portion of the value of the ticket.
In the end analysis, I think this show is still worthy of a look but someone who has never been, even at the full price ticket. Some folks will absolutely find value in repeat visits, though it certainly looks like Disney is trying to find the price point where the number of repeat visitors is far from 100%. And I do miss the title song.
Are you a Hoop Dee Doo fan? Do you feel the show is a value at $70?
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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:
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