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"Did you enjoy attending the 2011 edition of the D23
For a lot of Official Disney Fan Club members, the answer to
that question depends largely on how early they got in line for last year's Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix concert. If
you were among the folks who got in line early-early outside of Stage 23, you
had a genuinely wonderful time at this three-day-long event. On the other hand,
if you were among the hundreds who wound up getting turned away that Friday
night because this 1000-seat venue filled up amazingly quickly ... Well, you
then complained for weeks afterwards about how you missed out on this once-in-a-lifetime
chance to see Van Dyke performing live onstage.
To give the folks who
run the Official Disney Fan Club credit, they actually listened to the
complaints they received from these D23 EXPO attendees. Which is why -- when
they were assembling the entertainment line-up for last weekend's Destination
D: 75 Years of Disney Animated Features event -- they once again reached out to
Dick and asked if he & the Vantastix might be interested in performing at another
(L to R) Bryan Chadima, Dick Van Dyke, Eric Bradley and MikeMendyke. Photo by Jim Hill
Happily, Van Dyke said "Yes." Which is why -- last
Saturday night -- the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel was filled with
cheering Official Disney Fan Club members when the Vantastix took to the stage.
As Dick looked out over the crowd giving him and his a
capella group their first standing O of the evening, Van Dyke joked "I
feel just like Justin Bieber."
What followed was not so much a show as a party. As Dick
explained, these Vantastix concert appearances basically grew out of he, Eric
Bradley, Bryan Chadima and Mike Mendyke standing around a piano singing songs
that they loved while they ate pizza & drank Coca-Cola. So their
performances together -- rather than being polished and professional -- tended
to be more loose and fun.
Photo by Jim Hill
Which isn't to say that watching Dick and the Vantastix sing
close harmony isn't supremely entertaining. As this a capella group launched
into their first song of the evening, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," you should
seen the smiles spread across the faces
of every baby boomer in the room.
"I hope it's okay that we opened with a song that's not
from a Disney film," Van Dyke remarks before the Vantastix then began
performing "Put On a Happy Face" & "Rosie" from Dick's
1960 Broadway hit, "Bye Bye Birdie."
After these two numbers were completed, Dick took a moment
to acknowledge that Disney Legend Marge Champion (i.e. the 92 year-old dancer who served as
the live-action reference model for Snow White. Not to mention being the widow
of legendary Broadway director/choreographer Gower Champion) was in the
audience that night. And given that Gower was the guy who had cast Dick in this Broadway hit ... Well, Van Dyke made a point of saying that the Champions
had basically changed his life as a performer. That -- thanks to Gower shaping
"Birdie" into such a showcase for Dick's talent -- this
Broadway musical then set him on the path for a hugely successful career in television
& the movies.
Dick poses with Marge Champion for photographs after Saturday night'sconcert. Photo by Jim Hill
And speaking of movies, it was now time for the Vantastix to
start paying tribute to the Disney songbook. So the first song out of the gate
was "Jolly Holiday" from "Mary Poppins
." Which gave Van
Dyke the chance to trot out his somewhat-less-than-authentic Cockney accent.
From there, Dick and the Vantastix did an abbreviated
version of "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank" from that film. Though -- since
that he's now 86 year-old and white haired -- Van Dyke was quick to point out
that " ... I no longer have to spend three hours in a make-up chair"
in order to play Mr. Dawes Senior.
This "Mary Poppins" number was then followed by a
bouncy rendition of Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me" from
"Toy Story." Then Dick told this hilarious story about how the
Vantastix had once been invited to take part in a musical tribute to the
. So for their number in this show, this a cappela group
decided to perform "The Bare Necessities." Which turned out to be the
one song out of that film's score which Dick & Bob didn't write for "The
One of the real highlights of Saturday night's show was when Dick and the Vanstatix performed a choreographed version of "Me Ol' Bamboo" from"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Photo by Jim Hill
Van Dyke chalked this mishap up to " ... that old
senility." Which then gave Dick an excuse to launch into the parody version
of "The Bare Necessities" which he'd written. Where -- instead of
"forget about all your troubles and your strife" -- growing older makes
you "not recognize your neighbors or your wife."
This is the tone that continued throughout the show. Dick
and the three other members of Vantastix up there onstage, being loose and
teasing one another before they'd then launch into these heartfelt versions of
classic Disney songs like "Baby Mine" from "Dumbo." Every
so often, just to mix things up, this quartet would then throw in a gospel
number like "Down by the Riverside" or a boogie-woogie tune from the
1940s like "Straighten Up and Fly Right."
Another fun moment in the show came when Dick invited his
wife Arlene up onstage so that she & the other members of Vantastix could
then perform memorable TV theme songs from shows like "Cheers,"
"All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons
." And speaking of
television, one of the real highlights of the night came when Dick revealed the
lyrics that Morey Amsterdam had written for the "Dick Van Dyke Show
theme song. This was followed by a recreation of the "I am a Fine
Musician" number from that classic CBS sitcom.
Dick Van Dyke looks on approvingly as his wife Arlene and members of the Vantastixperform memorable TV theme songs from the 1970s & 1980s. Photo by Jim Hill
There was all this -- plus the other members of Vantastix
doing their bagpipe impression, plus Arlene performing "Go To Sleep Little
Baby" from "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." But as Saturday
evening's performance drew to a close, it only made sense that Dick and the
Vantastix would then circle back on "Mary Poppins" and begin performing
the more famous numbers from this Academy Award-winning film. To be specific
"Chim Chim-Cheree," "Step in Time," "Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious,"
"A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
Mind you, I wonder what Walt would have thought of Dick briefly
busting out into a rap version of
"A Spoonful of Sugar." But given that Van Dyke was just channeling
his inner Justin Bieber as he performed for all those D23 members in the Grand
Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel, I'm sure that the Old Mousetro would have eventually
approved. I think.
In short, it was one of those nights (given the extended
standing ovation that Dick and the Vantastix received as they took their final
bows) that members of the Official Disney Fan Club will obviously remember for
years yet to come. Even those folks who spent much of the past year complaining
about how they weren't able to get into Stage 23 to see Van Dyke perform at the
2011 edition of the D23 EXPO.
Alan Menken gets a standing ovation at the end of last Sunday night's concert at D23'sDestination D: 75 Years of Disney Animation Features event. Photo by Jim Hill
As I left the Disneyland Hotel that night, I wondered how
the people who are in charge of the Official Disney Fan Club were ever going to
be able to top a performance like that. But then on Sunday night in the exact
same performance space, I saw "An Evening with Alan Menken." Which
was as good if not better than Saturday's Dick Van Dyke and the Vantastix
concert had been.
But I'll get to that story sometime later this week, okay?
It was a fan-tastic weekend. Dick and the guys were great. Alan Mencken was incredible. I can't imagine a better event for us Disney fans. There was so many highlights, but I'd like to add that all the talk about how good Paperman is are true.
It was a terrific performance. For all the disappointment related to the last D23 Expo, the Destination D events are really enjoyable, partly because everyone is GUARANTEED admission and there's no waiting or guessing if you're going to be seated. But, these events are more in-depth and meaningful to Disney fans. I would have paid the admission price just to see the two concerts in a theater for Dick Van Dyke and Alan Menken, so all the panels and other VIPS was so worth it!