Alley Oop, The Musical

By | Thursday, December 14, 2023 Leave a Comment
I stumbled across this playbill yesterday, from a musical adaptation of V.T. Hamlin's Alley Oop. It was the first I'd heard of it, though I gather it was a small production, only running in Fort Worth, Texas.

(As an aside, I'm a little surprised how much Texas has celebrated Hamlin. He only lived there for 7-8 years and he didn't start Alley Oop until after he left. Yet this production was unique to Fort Worth and, about five hours away is the looks-like-it-closed-a-decade-ago-but-somehow-is-still-open Alley Oop Park and Fantasyland that originally opened in 1964.)

(As another aside, while I was trying to look up the background of the Park, I came across this sentence which has one of the best descriptors of any museum director ever: "By 2019, however, the museum closed after its director, the irrepressible nonagenarian Edna 'Snooks' Collett, suffered a fall.")

The production featured Dinny and a Tyrannosaurus (seen in the background of this promotional shot) as dinosaur puppets created by puppeteer Basil Twist, who wound up winning a MacArthur Fellowshop a decade later. Twist's production company is currently doing the puppet work for the Royal Shakespeare Company's stage version of My Neighbour Totoro.

Musical director Michael H. Price was actually a protégé of Hamlin's for a time, and has helped ensure Hamlin's cartoons -- even beyond Alley Oop -- continue to see print. He also penned this nice overview of Hamlin's life, complete with quotes provided directly to him by Hamlin himself, back in October.

The Johnny Simons noted on the playbill is actually one of the co-founder of Hip Pocket Theatre, which was first set up in 1976. Simons has helped put on countless productions there and, while his work includes classics like Shakespeare, is also no stranger to comics and pulp stories. He penned an adaptation of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe in 2017 and has done Tarzan plays as well. The Alley Oop show was one of the first produced at their current location.

Aside from this playbill, I can't seem to find any photos of the show itself. Given the timing -- predating most social media by just a few years -- it's not terribly surprising, but I am curious what the show looked like. I think this type of thing is fascinating to see precisely because it's so uncommon. Certainly worthy of a highlight here today.
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