Worlds of Fun has a long history of live entertainment in Kansas City, but no program is more known than “Stax of Wax.” The show entertained millions of park guests from 1985 until 2002 in the Moulin Rouge.
“Stax of Wax” was a musical variety show that primarily featured hits from the 50’s, '60s and ’70s. The catchy tunes, choreographed numbers and audience participation were a recipe for success and made the show a hit.
The Origins of the Show
The Worlds of Fun live entertainment team packed into a car and hit the road to attend a cast audition outside of Kansas City. Like all road trips, music was listened to and discussions were shared, and this ultimately led to the idea for the show.
Gary Noble, the director of show productions who started when the park opened in 1973 and Walter Bryant, the show’s musical director, were the creators of the show’s concept, which took place in a mythical high school named Cleaver High, home of the Cleaver Beavers. Worlds of Fun pays homage to Cleaver High during Halloween Haunt inside Zombie High, which shares the same name.
The Hits Kept Coming
“Stax of Wax” got its name from an old disc jockey term, which meant a stack of records, so it was only fitting for the set to feature several replications of hit 45-rpm records. The stairs leading up to the stage lit up like a vintage jukebox. The stage was set.
The first season of “Stax of Wax” was sponsored by Kansas City’s popular music station WHB, then listed at 710 AM on the radio dial. The recorded preshow was originally voiced by legendary WHB DJ Phil Jay and simulated a 50’s and 60’s broadcast with humorous shout outs to the gang at Cleaver High. In later years, the pre-show station became the fictitious WOF.
The first song in the original show was Chuck Berry’s “School Day.” All of the songs were from the birth of rock and roll – the late 50’s and early 60’s. The finale, however, was a medley of Bob Segar’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” and Huey Lewis’s “Heart of Rock and Roll.”
And the Beat Goes On
New arrangements and songs were introduced over the show’s historic 17-year run. The series progressed to include music of the next generation and was eventually renamed “Stax of Trax.” CD’s and 8-track tapes replaced the vinyl on stage, but occasionally, the show’s original style and classic characters would make a return in later shows, such as “Cleaver High Homecoming.”
“Stax of Wax” is a staple of live entertainment in Kansas City and at Worlds of Fun, and many of its cast members went on to do big things under the spotlight. To the role the show has played in the history and future of the park – we salute all who’ve made it possible.
Writer's Note: Special thanks to Walter Bryant for providing much of the information for this blog post on the history of "Stax of Wax."