The D23 Destination D event, held at the Disneyland Resort a few weeks ago, not only focused on the array of Disney animated features, but also on the musical acts who helped make those films even more memorable.
D23 brought back the winning act that won audiences at the 2011 D23 Expo (Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix). This first-class concert made me feel like a chimney sweep, “as lucky can be,” for experiencing this performance was “practically perfect in every way.”
Pull together a group of young talents (vocalists and musicians Eric Bradley, Bryan Chadima and Mike Mendyke), insert a living legend (Van Dyke), and throw in some genuine fun. Your formula, the a capella group known as Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix. The band was established in 2000 after Mike ran into Dick at a coffee shop and the pair started to talk about music. Dick was hoping to form a musical group of some sort, and through their conversations, fellow musicians Bradley and Chadima were recruited to develop this fantastic, enthusiastic band. No instruments required.
The lively 86-year-old Van Dyke, fondly remembered for his role as Bert in Mary Poppins, possesses the same spirit, charisma, and sparkle in his eyes. He loves to perform, to make audience members smile. With a hearty laugh and boundless energy, Van Dyke is like the grandfather we all love. He and The Vantastix started off by performing some non-Disney songs, including those from Bye Bye Birdie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They also sang “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book, which received a good laugh when they told the story of presenting this for the Sherman Brothers, the one song from The Jungle Book that they did not write. Throughout the concert Van Dyke joked about getting older and forgetting things, most perfectly captured in a version of “The Bare Necessities,” re-named along the lines of the “Old Senility.” They threw in some new lyrics to add that level of self-deprecation. You have to praise a man who can make fun of himself. At times Van Dyke seemed to forget some lines of a few songs, though we must question if that was merely part of the act. Who knows? He is such a natural stage presence that the lines start to blur between forgetfulness and playful teasing.
Along with some gospel songs and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix threw in some bonus ditties, thanks to his wife Arlene. The certainly musically-inclined woman staged a wonderful mix of television themes, including All in the Family and The Jeffersons, accompanied by The Vantastix. The latter songs during the performance returned back to Van Dyke’s signature movie. We listened to everything from “Chim Chim Cher-ee” to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” We were all encouraged to sing along to the popular tune. The audience, including me, howled with applause – some even tearing up – having experienced something very few Disney fans can state they have been a part of, something truly one-of-a-kind. Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastix is an incredible group that showcases improvisation and musical capabilities at its very best.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Check back inside Disney In Depth next week for another recap of an event at Destination D: “An Evening with Alan Menken.” You can also follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of the column.