Here’s a question: Can you name the longest running dinner show in the world? Not the “World”—as in Walt Disney World but the “world” as in… uh, planet Earth. I’m betting that more than a few of you knew the answer is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. Try as I might, I could not substantiate that claim and a quick Google search found several other shows asserting the same thing. Nevertheless, I’ve heard others saying it’s the Hoop-Dee-Doo so I’m sticking to it.
Whether it’s the longest running or not, the longevity of this show is quite impressive. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue has been running continuously at Pioneer Hall in Fort Wilderness since September 5, 1974. There are typically three shows per night so if I do a little math… carry the one… I can determine that on September 5, 2009 (its 35th anniversary!) there would have been approximately four billion performances! OK, wait a second… carry the two… the number is actually about 38,300. Pretty impressive, huh? Now you need to realize that there hasn’t been three shows every night for almost 35 years but still… 38,000 shows is almost mind-boggling.
Anything that’s been that successful for that long has to be good, right? You’d think so but a common question I hear is “Is it worth it?” Let’s take a look.
The Pioneer Hall Players. Photo by Steve Russo.
Attending the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is not cheap. The cost of a show ranges from $51-$60 for adults and $26-$31 for children (ages 3-9). While that does seem a bit pricey, it should be mentioned that the price does include tax and gratuity. The ranges in price exist for the various “seating categories:
- Category 1 is on the first floor level with your table nearest the stage and toward the middle of the room.
- Category 2 is also on the first floor but behind the Category 1 tables. It’s also on the upper level but in the center of the balcony.
- Category 3 tables are located upstairs on the sides of the balcony.
While there are a few discounts available (the Tables in Wonderland card comes to mind), you can see that a family of four could easily spend $200+ on dinner. It’s expensive but is it worth it?
An important question to ask is, “How do I get there?” As mentioned, the show is held in Pioneer Hall, which is part of the Settlement area of Fort Wilderness. If you have a vehicle, you can drive to the Fort Wilderness Reception Outpost and park your car. From there, it’s a short bus ride via a Boone or Crockett bus to the Settlement area.
If you don’t have a vehicle, or just don’t want to make that drive, Disney’s transportation can get you there but it’s a little trickier. The Disney Transportation Guide Map tells you to hop a Boone or Crockett bus from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Obviously, you’d first have to make your way from your resort to the TTC and that could be a bit of an odyssey in itself. This is yet another case where I disagree with Disney’s Transportation Guides.
My suggestion for the easiest way to get there, and it’s just my opinion of course, is to take the water shuttle from the Magic Kingdom directly to Fort Wilderness. It’s quick, painless, and serene; and Pioneer Hall is a short walk from the dock. If your departure is timed right, you could catch a view of Wishes on the return trip.
When you make your reservation (and yes, you should make it a full 90-days in advance), you will be instructed to arrive at Pioneer Hall well in advance of your show time. Each night there are shows held at 5:00 PM, 7:15 PM, and 9:30 PM and each show lasts approximately 2 hours. Disney is fond of telling you to arrive 45-minutes early and allow 90-minutes for travel. If you do that, I guarantee you’ll be there in time for breakfast. You certainly don’t want to be late and miss any part of the show but for my money, if you arrive 15-30 minutes prior to the show, that’s plenty of time. If you do catch a waiting bus and a waiting boat and get there early, spend a few minutes shopping in the Settlement Trading Post (no trip is complete without a photo wearing a Davy Crockett coonskin cap and sporting Davy’s rifle) or relax in one of the rocking chairs on the porch of Crockett’s Tavern.
So… it’s tough to get there, but is it worth it?
The food served at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue is not gourmet fare but it is some pretty comfortable comfort food. As you’re seated, you’ll notice the table has been stocked with family style tossed salad, and a loaf of bread and honey butter. Now I have to stop right there. From our first visit in the 1990s to our visit in 2005, we raved about the bread and butter. I know. How often do you hear that, right? I actually never learned whether the drop-dead-put-you-in-heaven taste was the bread, the butter or the combination of the two but… who cares? On our most recent trip in January of this year, the first thing we noticed was the bread had been replaced with cornbread. It was good, mind you—but not nearly as good as that original slap-my-knee-and-call-me-Shirley bread and butter.
While you’re enjoying your salad, the Pioneer Hall Players make their entrance and the show begins. They do a really nice job of kicking off the show and getting everyone in the mood before they take a break as your entrees are delivered—and they’re delivered in metal pails that are, quite literally, slammed onto your table in unison so there’s a resulting loud report that fills the room in perfect timing with a song. If you’re not expecting it, it can be a bit startling.
Your entrée’s are all-you-care-to-eat Ma's Delicious Fried Chicken and Smoked Barbecued Pork Ribs. I would classify both as very good but not the best I’ve had. Just before our first visit, a cast member described the “killer ribs” to me. Don’t misunderstand; they’re very good but… “killer?" Not so much. Eat as much as you’d like because I’ve found the service here to be very good and getting seconds (or thirds) on anything is handled very quickly and efficiently.
Your entrees are accompanied by mashed potatoes, Country-Style baked beans and corn seasoned with onion and green peppers. Also included in the price of admission are a variety of soft drinks, coffee, draft Bud Light, Chardonnay, Rose, Sangria, and Merlot. There are also additional bottled beers or Margaritas available but, at additional cost.
If you have some picky eaters along, they also offer some children’s fare—macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and “uncrustable” peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are available upon request..
While you’re gorging yourself on ribs and chicken, make sure you save some room for dessert—Strawberry Shortcake will be served at the end of the meal with a terrific amount of fanfare—your servers high-kicking from the stage to your table.
So… the food’s pretty good, but is it worth it?
Pioneer Hall is really a neat building, resembling an Old West dance hall. When you first arrive, you will check-in out front with a cast member carrying a clipboard. You can then take advantage of the family photo opportunity (available for purchase later but I’m sure you guessed that) while waiting to be brought inside and seated. At a few minutes before show time, they’ll make an announcement and have an audience member (usually a child) kick off the show by ringing the dinner “bell”. Actually it’s one of those metal triangles and for those old enough to remember The Real McCoys television show, it’s how they began every episode.
You make your way up to the porch where a cast member will check your name and hand your party off to a server who will escort you to your pre-assigned table, located in the appropriate category seating area. Inside, your view is dominated by a large wooden stage at the front of the room, outlined with luxurious red velvet curtains. The image of an old, rustic dance hall is reinforced by the wooden railing on the balcony and the chandeliers. Off to the right of the stage is an area which houses the “band”—just two players with a piano and a banjo but they do a wonderful job.
So… it’s a great old dance hall and a beautiful building, but is it worth it?
You’re dishing out some salad and buttering some bread when you hear some commotion outside. The Pioneer Hall Players have arrived and soon they make their grand entrance. The Players are comprised of three couples:
- The “singers” are the sweet and pretty Flora Long and her beau, Jim Handy, the handsome cowboy;
- The “dancers” are Claire de Lune (my personal favorite) and Johnny Ringo (a Riverboat Gambler type);
- Last, but certainly not least are the comic relief of Dolly Drew and Six Bits Slocum.
Let me first say that, regardless of the labels I’ve stuck on them, everybody sings and everybody dances. And they all get involved in some you-can-see-it-coming-a-mile-away-but-it’s-still-funny humor. There's no real plot to the show and, trust me, it's not high-brow humor. It’s very high-energy entertainment that will have you laughing, singing, clapping your hands, twirling your napkins in the air and, yes, running a spoon across a washboard. If you’re very lucky (like me), you also might get a chance to “toot” for Dolly Drew and a room full of complete strangers.
Yes, I can toot with the best of them. Photo by Michelle Schwab.
I will admit to having a preference for Claire and Six Bits. Claire is the stereotypical not-so-dumb blond with a squeaky, high-pitched voice and an infectious giggle. I think I’ve seen three different actors play the role and they were all great. I’d say the same for the actors that have played the Six Bits part but, the one in the most recent show I attended was the best. He had such an expressive face and used it constantly for a laugh.
Every show ends with the cast bringing four audience “volunteers” on stage to take part in a rousing, and very funny, tribute to Davy Crockett. It’s all in good fun and no one is embarrassed (or “em-bear-assed”) too badly. You’ll get that when you see the show.
If you don't get em-bear-assed, you can-can have a great time. Photo by Steve Russo
So… it’s a good show but…
Is it worth it?
In the words of former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, “You betcha!” I’ve yet to see anyone that didn’t come away from this show smiling—and with a full belly. What more could you ask for? In my opinion, it’s one of the best entertainment venues at Walt Disney World but… that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?