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Disneyland Article
Dapper Dans Set To Make Emotional Return
Brady Macdonald
The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet that has come to symbolize live entertainment at Disneyland are in rehearsals preparing for an emotional return to the Anaheim theme park after a 17-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very exciting,” Disney Live Entertainment music producer John Glaudini said during an online video interview. “They sound great. They are masters of this music. It’s just wonderful to come back and hear that it is just as vibrant.”

The Dapper Dans barbershop quartet will return to Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland on Sept. 3 as part of the phased reopening of the parks following an extended coronavirus closure.

The Dapper Dans are the latest atmosphere entertainment group to return to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure — with the Bootstrappers, Five & Dime, Pearly Band and the Coke Corner piano player already back in the parks. The Disneyland marching band returned to Main Street U.S.A. in June after a 15-month absence from the park.

The Dapper Dans held their first rehearsal on Tuesday, Aug. 24 after more than a year of being apart during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was so great to hear them again,” Glaudini said during a rehearsal break. “It was just awesome.”

The Dans are prepping songs, jokes and dance numbers for Halloween Time — which runs from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31 at Disneyland.

The Halloween song selection will bring back old favorites that have a little more jazzy flavor than the Dans’ typical set list.

“We’re working on one little extra thing,” Glaudini said. “A little gift especially for the ones that know the band’s repertoire. We’re hoping to implement that. Nothing big, but just something new.”

The goal of rehearsals is to get all 12 Dans on the same page after a long break.

“There’s a lot of tradition in the Dapper Dans,” Glaudini said. “Some might do something slightly different, some might change one note here or whatever. They have some freedom to do that. If we all agree that the change is a good one, then my role is to go and solidify that with the group so we’re all on the same page.”

Rehearsals serve as an opportunity to pitch ideas that have worked in the past.

“Someone might have an idea that everyone goes, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you did that,’” Glaudini said. “Because they’re never out there at the same time.”

Successful pitches tested during rehearsal get incorporated into the arrangement, according to Glaudini.

The Dapper Dans go through four passes during rehearsals. First they go over mechanics so everyone is singing the songs the same way. Second they work on the dynamics and musicality of the show. Third they add audience interactions and choreography.

“Sometimes they might have a hat tip or turn or something and your impulse is to go with your physicality,” Glaudini said. “So I make sure that they know, ‘Oh by the way, while your hat goes up, you go down.’”

The fourth and final step is in-park rehearsals where the Dans get the audio mix dialed in.

The Dapper Dans will sing with some distance between each other and the audience as part of COVID-19 precautions as they have done during rehearsals.

The Dapper Dans got their start in 1959 when Disneyland’s first casting director Chuck Corson recruited four young men from the singing group Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians to perform for the summer at the park. The barbershop quartet proved so popular that they have stayed ever since and versions of the Dapper Dans have appeared at Disney theme parks in Florida, Tokyo, Hong Kong and France.

Glaudini serves as music director for the Dapper Dans at Disneyland and Five & Dime at Disney California Adventure. Previously he was music director for the Broadway-style musicals “Frozen: Live at The Hyperion” and “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” in DCA.

Fans with musical backgrounds appreciate the melodious mastery of the Dapper Dans, according to Glaudini.

“They’re fantastic musicians,” he said. “They do something that is superhuman in some ways — singing harmony, on the same vowels, telling jokes and doing choreography all at once.”

Casual music fans like the entertainment value of a Dapper Dans performance.

“It’s simple: It’s four guys singing without accompaniment,” Glaudini said. “Most guests are attracted to their sense of humor and their joy of performing. They do a lot of jokes and old timey puns that I think people really love.”

The first rehearsal in 17 months felt like an emotional family reunion for the Dapper Dans, according to Glaudini.

“They’re a really tight group,” Glaudini said. “They feel like brothers in a lot of ways.”

The Dans came into rehearsal without any rust after the long layoff, Glaudini said.

“I was actually blown away at how little I had to direct them,” Glaudini said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s great. Okay, let’s go back and just make sure it wasn’t a fluke.’ We went through all their material before lunch and so now we’ll spend our next rehearsals fine tuning before we add in choreography and polish the show with all the special touches.”

The last time most Mouseheads saw the Disneyland barbershop quartet was in late March 2020 during the early days of the pandemic when 16 Dapper Dans harmonized from their living rooms and at-home recording studios for a two-minute video posted to YouTube.

“I thought it was really lovely,” Glaudini said. “It was an opportunity while people were going through this really tough time to give a little Dan love and just give people a little bit of hope.”

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