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Broadway… At The Top!

Long, long ago…

Before the California Grill occupied the top floor of the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World, the site was home to the swanky, adults-only domain of the Top of the World Restaurant. It was an era of carpet with garishly-colored polygons, large glass lighting fixtures, and lots and lots of mirrors.

When the restaurant originally opened as the “Top of the World Supper Club” in 1971, it played home to a stream of real-world nightclub entertainers and musical acts brought to the wilds of Florida to entertain guests. Ads appeared weekly in local newspapers and magazines for that weekend’s hot acts; Disney intended to provide an upscale nightclub experience previously unseen in the area. And after the day ended at the Magic Kingdom, and kids were tucked into bed in their hotel rooms, parents could dress up (coat and tie for gents, please!) and head to the Top of the World to see Phyllis Diller, or Rosemary Clooney, or Mel Torme.

In 1981 the club’s act changed to a more Disney-controlled (and thus predictable and consistent) show called Broadway at the Top. This revue-style cabaret show ran until 1993, when it closed to make way for the California Grill.

For kids my age, the Top of the World had been an off-limits mystery back in the day. But now – thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, and the truly astonishing things one can find on YouTube – we can get an idea of what was happening up there.

And it’s… well… pretty amazing.

Here, from around 1982, is part of a performance of Broadway at the Top. Pouf up your hair, pad your shoulders, and put sequins on… everything, really. It’s about to get fancy.

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18 comments to Broadway… At The Top!

  • Gary

    I must say, when I started the clip, I never expected the first song I heard would be from Sweeney Todd. Seems a rather strange selection for upscale dining.

    I am pleased though, as one who is of a certain age and laments the current state of popular music and “artists'” wretched singing styles, to be reminded that bad singing has, in fact, been around a long time.

  • By 1981 it couldn’t have been entirely adults-only anymore… My parents took my sister and I as a special treat. I remember having steak and watching people on stage dance in these outfits singing a medley of songs… Exactly like this really. I enjoyed it because I was 10.

  • Adam, "MarkTwain"

    I actually think I prefer the current use of the space…

  • ummm …. well I was about to say how dated this is even for 1982 – that it would have been the kind of thing my grandparents were watching at the lawn bowls club. Then I looked up the top 10 hits of 1982.
    Physical, Eye of the Tiger, Ebony and Ivory – probably just as bad.
    Still, that soprano woman could break glass with those high notes!

    • Yeah this was definitely “square” even then – especially in the 80s. But for folks from middle America down on vacation who were dressing up and playing “fancy”, I’m sure it felt swanky. Broadway!! At the Top!

  • philphoggs

    Time to take up smoking again. Gads

  • Smaha

    I remember being down there in ’84 and the family wanting to go to the Top. In typical miserly fashion, my grandfather instead found a dinner theater in Kissimmee. It was called Musicana or something of that nature…you know the type; waiters leave you from time to time to do Up With People-esque musical numbers. Plus, all-you-can-eat shrimp.

    We were all really lame back then, weren’t we?

    • I bet that was exquisitely painful. I can’t even imagine. Singing waiter dinner theater in Kissimmee in 1984. I bet it was astounding. It doesn’t FEEL like it was that long ago, but man… I guess it was. Different times.

  • I remeber doing TOTW sometime around 1991 or 1992 just before it closed and converted to Cali Grill. By that time, it was like being a guest star on The Love Boat or Fantasy Island :)

    Good change…the new use of the space is better, and sushi chef there is AWESOME!

    “Try the veal, we are here all week folks!”

    • Man, that’s TOTALLY the vibe I get when I think about it. Pure Love Boat. Lots of mirrored walls and bright colors and hideous sequined dresses. It’s kind of awesome in its terribleness, but yeah, Cali Grill is probably better hahaha… I just wish I could have visited once.

  • Also, that was the same year that my dad was irrated that he could not book the Burt Reynolds suite at the Hotel Royal Plaza because it was booked, which we later saw in 1995 with it’s dark brown leather walls, green shag carpet, and mirrors galore.

    No kidding.

  • Irritated* (again…get an EDIT feature dude)

  • “It’s kind of awesome in it’s terribleness” … LOL! Exactly! The first time I saw a floor of Royal Plaza that was not refurbed, I IMMEDIATELY want to stay on that floor! There is nothing more awesome than 70’s/80’s “contemporary” to me. I love it. It is totally different than anything we see today. It would be like spending a weekend in the Brady Bunch house! Granted, it is garrish and obnoxious when done wrong, but just brings back so many memories. For a lot of us WDW types, I think our never ending devotion to the old-school stems from that, and that alone. I know that for me, seeing things on Main Street that were there back when I was child thrills me to no end. Going to EPCOT and seeing things that were there the same year I met my first girlfriend just takes me back. Disney, much like classic car dealers, needs to understand that for a great many of us, it is not about “NextGen”, it is about “BackWhenGen”. They have been in place so long, both at DL and WDW, that they have become that classic car, that trip down memory lane…and in the end, what is really wrong with that? If I stand on the bridge between Tomorrowland and the Castle Hub, and watch the fireworks, and that experience transports me back to 1976…how is that different than Frontier Land transporting me back to the Old West? They have created their own history, and, at least for some of us, going to WDW, or DL, is like visiting the past, in a way that we cannot do anywhere else. Should we live in the past? No, of course not, but…should we abandon the past just because there are people that might not enjoy it because it is not “new”? Absolutely not.

    I will think back on this post the next time I grab a Dole Whip… :)

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