When it comes to show business, Dee Dee Wood has seen it all. From Broadway to Hollywood to her adopted home of Cave Creek, Wood is a choreographer best known for her work on musical films and television during the 1960s and 1970s.
Approaching her 80th birthday, according to Web sites — “Look it up. I’m still kicking; living is not a number,” Wood said — the energetic and enthusiastic Wood will direct “Hot ’n Cole,” a Cole Porter celebration Jan. 11-28 at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th St., presented by Desert Foothills Theater.
Wood and her husband, Mark Breaux, choreographed the classic films “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Sound of Music.” Wood went on to choreograph “Beaches” with Bette Midler, the 1983 Super Bowl halftime show, numerous television shows and ceremonies at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Wood, who is semiretired, has worked with such stars as Julie Andrews, Bing Crosby, Billy Crystal, Cher, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Danny Thomas, Carol Burnett, George Burns, Dolly Parton and Tina Turner.
She admitted dealing with relatively inexperienced actors is a major change, but said it’s one she can’t get enough of.
“It can be trying at times, but it’s still wonderful,” said Wood, who has worked with Desert Foothills Theater for four years. “Working with, quote, ‘professionals’ all my life, it’s almost like I’m a teacher now. Especially with Cole Porter and younger performers who don’t know about him and have to learn his classic songs.”
Wood called her current work a different kind of fun. She enjoys seeing a production from the start of rehearsals to the end and how young actors grow. She’s most pleased when she sees the development of those actors.
“I get them on their feet,” Wood said. “Then it’s up to them to do the dancing. It’s a different kind of entertainment with community theater; sometimes you can’t keep up with them. I’m used to it, Cher and Bette Midler were like that.”
Wood, who won an Emmy for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty celebration in 1986, was assistant choreographer on several productions, including Porter’s Broadway show, “Can Can.”
Wood and her husband stopped in Scottsdale during a cross-country trip and fell in love with the area. He moved away — they never got divorced — but she stayed.
“We just fell in love with the desert,” Wood said. “Some show-biz people from New York showed us around. We loved the mountains. We bought property out here in the early 1960s and didn’t do anything about it ’til 1972 (when they moved here).”
Wood, whose love of dancing began in high school after she took a ballet class, appeared in many Broadway shows of the 1950s, such as “Guys and Dolls” and “Lil’ Abner.” She said her work on Disney movies was the most enjoyable. “I was right there with Walt Disney at his studios,” Wood said. “It was such a great thing to work with him. He was a hands-on person.”
For details about “Hot ’n Cole,” visit www.desertfoothillstheater.com, or call (480)488-1981.