Million Dollar Quartet brings a legendary night to the Branson stage in an absolutely amazing entertainment experience!

David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, Brad Waters as Carl David Brooks as "Jerry Lee Lewis," on the piano; Brad Waters as "Carl Perkins;" Austin Wilson as "Jay Perkins," the bass player; Tyler K. Hunter as "Elvis Presley;" and Cliff Wright as "Johnny Cash"

David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, on the piano; Brad Waters as “Carl Perkins;” Austin Wilson as “Jay Perkins,” the bass player; Daniel Dossey as “Fluke” Holland, drummer; Tyler K. Hunter as “Elvis Presley;” and Cliff Wright as “Johnny Cash.”

One of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history was an impromptu gathering of four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, that took place on December 4, 1956 in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. What’s really remarkable is that, except for one newspaper article, which dubbed the four “The Million Dollar Quartet,” and its accompanying photo, the jam session went largely unnoticed until recordings of the event were discovered and released decades later. That jam session, those recordings, and the four rock n’ roll legends involved became the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet that shares the music, spontaneity, and drama of what happened that day, as these four legends performed together for their first and last time.

Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great storyline combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.

Obviously, with the recording icons being portrayed and the music being sung it takes some special entertainers to pull it off, and the cast of Million Dollar Quartet does just that…and then some. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins do an exceptional job with hits such as “Matchbox,” “That’s All right,” “I Walk the Line,” “Riders in the Sky,” “Hound Dog,” “Peace in the Valley,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Who Do You Love,” and many more. From among many, two of my personal favorite musical highlights were “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” sung by Johnny Cash, and “Peace in the Valley,” not only because of the way it was sung, but how the storyline beautifully brought each of those in the jam session personally into its performance.

Derek Garza as Sam Phillips  having a heart to heart with Elvis Presley.

Derek Garza as Sam Phillips having a heart to heart with Elvis Presley.

As timeless and wonderful as the music is, it is the storyline, the historical moment it describes and the way it is artfully woven into the musical tapestry surrounding it that makes this such an entertaining show. Derek Garza as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, the man some call the “Father of rock n’ roll,” and the person who actually set the circumstances in motion that resulted in the jam session, does a superb job of dramatically narrating the story and tying its diverse elements together in a manner that kept me keenly invested throughout the entire performance.

It’s a story filled with interesting antidotes and historical facts about not only what happened that day, but the artists involved, how the record industry worked at that time, and the early history of rock n’ roll. Among them was why and how Sam Phillips arranged for the four musical icons to be together that day for the impromptu jam session; the angst Carl Perkins, the old man of the group at 24, felt towards Elvis Presley over Blue Suede Shoes; why Johnny Cash was leaving Sun Records for Columbia Records; the answer to the question in everyone’s mind of why Phillips sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA for $40,000 in 1955; the jealousy some felt about the emphasis Phillips placed on Elvis Presley, and more. Watching the relationship between Jerry Lee Lewis, the brash outspoken rookie of the group, and the others evolve is a hoot.

Dana Parker as Dyanna, does a great in her role of not only being the girl Elvis brought to the jam session, but in interacting with the four musical icons and Sam Phillips throughout. She also sings and I enjoyed her performance of “Fever”. Daniel Dossey plays W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the drummer during the jam session, and Austin Wilson rounds out the cast as Jay Perkins, the bass player and brother of Carl Perkins.

Replication of  "The Picture" taken near the end of the 1956 Jam session with David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, ,Brad Waters as Carl Perkins, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, and Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley.

Replication of “The Picture” taken near the end of the 1956 Jam session with the cast of the Million Dollar Quartet portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, left, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

How a simple recording session of Carl Perkins in the studio, with his brother and a drummer, evolved into the rock n’ roll jam session of all time as presented in the Million Dollar Quartet is a wonderfully entertaining experience in terms of both story and music. It’s nonstop fun, drama, and entertainment from beginning to end with no intermission. Oh, and a word to the wise, remember the admonition of Yogi Berra who said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” because, as Dathan Atchison, the show’s producer said, “The “party’s just starting at ‘The Picture.'” Don’t want to spoil the surprise, but “Wait for it” because it’s a grand ending to an absolutely delightful and completely entertaining show that ends all too quickly.

For additional information or tickets for Million Dollar Quartet please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Material Connection

Legends in Concert is to tribute shows what “American Pharaoh” is to horse racing

The "Blues Brothers," "Elwood,left," performed by Danny Zeligman and "Jake" performed by Chance Havens.

“Elwood Blues,” left, performed by Danny Zeligman and “Jake Blues” performed by Chance Havens doing the “Blues Brothers” proud.

Having seen both the Triple Crown horse races and Branson’s Legends in Concert show recently, I feel confident in stating that the Legends in Concert show is to tribute shows what “American Pharaoh” is to horse racing. It has the talent, glitz, glamour, and excitement of a Las Vegas production, and for good reason. It is owned and operated by On Stage Enterprises, LLC who started Legends in Concert in Las Vegas in 1983 where it, along with expanding to other venues such as Branson, has been performing continuously ever since.

J.C. Brando during "Adle" set.

J.C. Brando during “Adle” set.

The obvious stars of the show are the tribute artists which we will discuss later. Equally important, however, in terms of the wonderful time I had at the show, was the way the talents of each of the tribute artists was integrated with the talents of the dancers, vocalists and live band into a spectacular and unique entertainment experience that holds the audience’s interest from the beginning to end.

The Legend Dancers are Stephanie Drey – Dance Captain, Cindy Dardas, Jamie Curry, and Aaron LeMoine, with Kenya Wilhite and Desta Pritchett both dancing and providing backup vocals. Their considerable talents are demonstrated, one way or the other, during the majority of the numbers presented during the show as they accent the performance of the tribute artists and increase the audience’s overall enjoyment of the show. The very first number of the Brooks and Dunn set, “Boot Scootin Boogie,” dramatically illustrates this point.

The Legend Band, composed of Kevin Allen – Musical Director and lead guitar; Lyman Clark, keyboards; Brian Zerbe, bass guitar; and Bill Lowden, drums, did an outstanding job. These extremely talented musicians not only have to be ready for the styles of six different tribute artists and the stars they portray, but a vast variety of different types of music blended into those styles and, performer after performer and number after number, were they ever ready!

Jay Dupuis duirng  "Elvis" set.

Jay Dupuis during “Elvis” set.

From the very beginning, the hallmark of Legends in Concert has been the quality of its tribute artists. Each performer “not only looks like the star they portray, but uses their own natural voice to pay homage to their iconic music counterpart.” The six legends portrayed in the show I saw were “Brooks and Dunn,” performed by Doug Brewin & Larry Turner; “Adele,” performed by J. C. Brando; the “Blues Brothers,” performed by Danny Zeligman and Chance Havens; “Michael Jackson,” performed by Michael Knight; “Taylor Swift,” performed by Elizabeth Scarborough; and “Elvis Presley,” performed by Jay Dupuis.

There’s always a danger when one designates a favorite part of anything because their favorite part might not be yours. Recognizing that, here are my favorite number from each set: Brooks and Dunn, “Only in America;” Adele, “Rolling in the Deep;” The Blues Brothers, “Shout;” Michael Jackson, “Thriller;” Taylor Swift, “Blank Space;” and Elvis Presley, “If I Can Dream.” The Thriller number and the shows Rocking Finale are two more perfect examples of why Legends in Concert is one of Branson’s most popular shows.

Each act was a wonderful mini-concert containing only the hits of the Legend being portrayed, and was presented with the expressions, moves, mannerisms, and sound that, to me, were about as close to the original as one can get. When those individual performances are combined with elaborate theatrical sets, magnificent costumes and full array of incredible special effects, including three dimensional multimedia and multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art lighting, laser and sound systems;” the live band, dancers, and vocalists, the result is a spectacular production that is not only unique, but unequalled on any stage in Branson. It is truly a Legendary Branson show that should not be missed!

For additional information or tickets for Legends in Concert please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com .

 

Material Connection

 

Five reasons why your family should spend the Fourth of July in Branson

Main Street Lake Cruises "Lake Queen" plying the waters of Lake Taneycomo.

Main Street Lake Cruises “Lake Queen” plying the waters of Lake Taneycomo.

“The Fourth of July is a special time throughout our Nation as we celebrate our independence, but it just seems a little more so in Branson because of the feeling of God, Country, and Family that permeates the very spirit of Branson’s fun and excitement, helping make it the special place it is,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Fun, fun, fun, fun, and more fun would be five great reasons for families to visit Branson, not only for the Fourth of July, but any time during the summer. Here’s five specific ways for your family to have fun, celebrate the Fourth of July, and create some great memories together,” she added:

1. Firework Displays: Fourth of July Firework displays actually start with the College of the Ozarks Honor America Celebration on June 28 followed by displays lighting up the skies over Hollister, Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Kimberling City on either the third or fourth of July. The article entitled These five Branson “4th of July” fireworks displays will absolutely amaze you contains details and contact information about five of the area’s biggest displays. Main Street Lake Cruises offers a unique and beautiful way to view the Branson Landing and Rockaway Beach firework displays while cruising on the Lake Queen or the Landing Princess.

2. Silver Dollar City’s “Star Spangled Summer Festival”: Designed especially for kids of all ages, the festival is in full swing, including a full slate of kid’s programs like the “Globetrotter Experience” starring the world famous Harlem Globetrotters.® All the festival’s activities are in addition to everything else the world class theme park offers on a daily basis including its new $8 million Fireman’s Landing with 10 great new activities and rides for the whole family.

3. Cruise aboard Main Street Lake Cruise’s Lake Queen: On a hot summer day, very few things can compare with the relaxation and enjoyment of a sightseeing cruise aboard the riverboat replica Lake Queen while enjoying temperatures considerably cooler than the surrounding area because of the cold waters of Lake Taneycomo. Each 1.5 hour narrated cruise is as different as a snowflake in terms of the wildlife and birds seen, which can range from Bald Eagles and deer to any one of dozens of others abounding on Lake Taneycomo’s shoreline. You will see amazing natural bluffs stretching back into the eons of time and the spectacular majesty of Ozark vistas viewable only from Lake Taneycomo and not seen by the vast majority of the millions of visitors that come to Branson each year. Each cruise provides a lakeside view of Branson Landing, its $7.5 million fountains, and a spectacular synchronized fire, water, light, and music show that is as unique as it is beautiful and inspiring.

4. Moonshine Beach: Located within minutes of the famed Branson Strip, Moonshine Beach, operated for the public by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is just off the north end of Table Rock Dam on State Highway 165. Its large sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or beach volleyball. Its other amenities include picnic tables, food vendors, a boat launching ramp, showers, flush toilets, a large picnic shelter, and a kid’s playground.

5. White Water: With over 13 acres and 2 million gallons of water, White Water is a wet, tropically themed wonderland of fun and adventure for the whole family. Whether it’s “Splashaway Cay” and “Coconut Grove” for the smaller children and toddlers, the excitement of sliding down the seven story “Kalani Towers,” or the thrill of the drops and speed of rides such as “KaPau Plummet,” “Pipeline Plunge,” or the “Raging River Rapids,” there is an adventure for every member of the family at White Water.

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood advises that the summer season is extremely busy in Branson, and suggests making advance reservations for Branson lodging and shows to ensure not only availability, but the best accommodations and seating. Please feel free to call Branson Tourism Center’s Branson-based Travel Planners at 1-800-785-1550; they’ll be delighted to assist you in any way they can, from answering questions to actually reserving your tickets and lodging for you.

Please feel free to call Branson Tourism Center’s Branson-based Travel Planners at 1-800-785-1550; they’ll be delighted to assist you in any way they can, from answering questions to actually reserving your tickets and lodging for you.

A Father’s Day Tribute to a Father’s Father

When I thought of interviewing a Branson entertainer about their father in honor of Father’s Day, the first thing that came to mind was talking to Jimmy Osmond about his dad, George. Over two decades ago, as I sat in my very first Osmond show, I was very strongly impressed with the obvious affection and respect the Osmond Brothers had for their parents.

At intermission, I met George for the first time and asked him, “Amid all of their fame, how have you have managed to not only maintain your family, but to engender this type of respect and honor?” That question led to a relationship that I will cherish into eternity. The answer to that question will be evident in the responses that follow.

Recently, Jimmy Osmond, the new owner of the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, took time from his busy schedule of performances and managing the shows appearing at the theatre for an interview to share some thoughts and remembrances about what an amazing father he had, and the influence his father had, not only on his career, but on his life and that of the Osmond family. The interview was conducted with Jimmy (JO), on behalf of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), to honor fathers on Father’s Day by sharing an example of a father who truly exemplified the highest standards of what “Fatherhood” means.

BTC: What one word describes what your Father meant to you?
JO: Integrity.

BTC: Why that word?
JO: There’s no question that’s what he stood for in everything he did. In all my years I never saw my dad swear and I never saw my dad take a drink. He would say, “Choose the right, and let the consequence follow.” And he did. He was always honest in his business dealings even when there was an easier way.

BTC: What is the one thing your father said to you that has had the most influence on your life?
JO: “Pour it on, son.” Every time I think about my daddy, I think about “pour it on,” which meant “give it your all and keep going.” I remember so many times in my life when I did not want to keep going and I’d have that in the back of my brain, “Pour it on;” even when we buried my dad all I could feel was him saying “Pour it on.”

BTC: What’s your fondest memory of something you and your dad shared together privately?
JO: I can “yodel whistle” as could my dad. We had a ranch and since I was the youngest I always had to go with him to the ranch. As we traveled to and from the ranch we would whistle all the way up there and all the way back. Every night before we went to bed he would say his prayers with me and count his blessings which was each one of his kids. He would say, “I am only as strong as my weakest child,” which was pretty cool.

BTC: What was one of his characteristics that you admired the most?
JO: How he loved us all the same.

BTC: What’s your fondest memory of something your whole family shared together with your father?
JO: I think the best times ended up being the hardest times. We had a saying, “Tragedy plus time equals humor and we’d laugh about it someday.” We went through a lot of hard times and I look back now on how he was able to be stoic in those moments and pull us together. We do laugh at those struggles because when our mettle has been tested, it’s been the best of times.

BTC: What was one of the most important things he taught you?
JO: He was an amazing man. He didn’t teach me how to live, he showed me how to live.

BTC: You guys were famous at a relatively young age. How did he help keep things in perspective from a family point of view?
JO: It was always, “One for all.” It didn’t make any difference who was out front as long as it was an Osmond; and we were to support each other. We had a career that wasn’t as narcissistic as that of a lot of people in show business because we were part of a team and it wasn’t just about us individually. I was the first one in our family to record and have a hit record. I remember going to my dad and saying, “He dad, I’m number one, I have a Gold Record. Isn’t that cool?” He looked at me and handed me a stick with a poker on the end of it, we owned an apartment complex at the time, and said, “Go pick up the trash son. Do something valuable.” You’d think that was hard, but he always had a way of keeping me in perspective.

Jimmy pointed out that they always prayed before every show because his dad wanted them to keep the right perspective. He said, “We always felt when we were on stage that we had responsibility to not only entertain people and give them their money’s worth, but to bring God into our productions and to realize where we get our blessings from. Father always had a mission about him. It wasn’t necessarily to preach our religion but jut to share Christianity, love and family.”

Happy Father’s Day.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” with Branson’s amazing bass icon, Mark McCauley

Mark McCauley, one of Branson's premier bass singers.

Mark McCauley, one of Branson’s premier bass singers.

Mark McCauley’s rich bass voice has been entertaining Branson audiences for over 30 years, during which time he has performed with a number of Branson shows and national stars. Currently, Mark is performing with Branson’s premier quartet, “New South,” in the Grand Jubilee show, where he’s been since the show’s inception more than 12 years ago. We hope you will enjoy this interview with this remarkable entertainer and individual!

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” is a service of Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, and is intended to provide readers with an up close and personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interview with Mark McCauley (MM) uses a “Question and Answer” format, and was conducted for Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, and a local columnist and freelance writer.

BTC: Where were you born?
MM: Tallahassee, Florida

BTC: When?
MM: 1961

BTC: When did you first realize that you had the gift of a bass voice?
MM: I was about 13 years old. It sprung from the exposure I had to gospel quartet singing and my fondness for it.

BTC: Are there different types of bass like there are different types of sopranos; and if there are, what type of bass are you?”
MM: Technically what I do is called “Contra Bass” in the classical music world. However, I believe it would be more accurate, in terms of the type I sing, to say that it is the type of bass normally associated with Southern Gospel quartets.

BTC: At what age did you first start singing and where?
MM: At about 10 years old I “started singing in the seats” with the “Inspirations Quartet” as they did shows around the area, brought their albums home, and sang around the house.

BTC: How did you transition from singing in the house to singing in public?
MM: My mother pulled a trick on me. We had a family group that kind of sang together when we got together, but I did not sing with them. We were at a family gathering one night, the group was singing and my mother, who knew I wanted to sing, said, “Go on up there and sing.” She ‘pushed’ me into doing it. If she had not, I never would have sung, but when I finished that first song something clicked inside and I knew that I wanted to sing.

BTC: Do you remember the name of that song?
MM: I most certainly do, it was the “New Jerusalem Way.”

BTC: When did you start singing professionally?
MM: I left home at age 16 and went to Pensacola, Florida to sing bass with a group called the “Singing Fowlers.”

BTC: Was your first trip to Branson for business or pleasure?
MM: Business, when we came to talk with Bill and Janet Dailey about moving our quartet, the “Tennessee Valley Boys,” to Branson.

BTC: What’s your first memory of Branson?
MM: It was Bill and Janet Dailey’s outdoor cookout with a giant roasted pig.

BTC: When and where did you first perform in Branson?
MM: In about 1983 at Bill Dailey’s “Country Music World” with the “Tennessee Valley Boys.” When the Tennessee Valley Boys split up I joined “Branson,” a new quartet made up of myself, Jimmy Ponder, Rick Baird, and Terry Kaufman that continued performing at “Country Music World.”

BTC: Throughout your career you have performed in the Branson shows of some big-name stars. Who were they?
MM: Loretta Lynn, Mel Tillis, and Anita Bryant.

BTC: How long have you been performing in the Grand Jubilee show at “Grand Country?”
MM: I am an original cast member and have been performing in the show since it started 12 or 13 years ago.

BTC: Do you perform in another show at Grand Country besides the Grand Jubilee?
MM: Yes the Branson Country USA Television show every Friday night and the New South Gospel show on Thursday afternoons.

BTC: Of all the songs you sing, what is your personal favorite and why?
MM: “How Great Thou Art” because I believe it is the greatest song ever written.

BTC: What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you while you were performing?
MM: During a rehearsal for the Mel Tillis show, while Connie Tillis was rehearsing “Mary Did You Know,” I did an impromptu dance around her and she had a hard time keeping a straight face. We were just kidding around and I did not know they had recorded it. The next night while I was singing the audience started laughing. I was perplexed as to why until I looked up on the monitors and discovered that they had recorded my “dance” for the whole world to see. It eventually became part of the show and, although I am not a dancer, I haven’t been able to get away from that stupid dance and am still performing it today.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
MM: Being part of an entertainment industry that is based on the values of God, family, and country.

BTC: What do you like best about living in Branson?
MM: The people, they are some of the friendliest people I have ever met, and the natural beauty of the area.

BTC: What do you like to do when you are not performing?
MM: I really enjoy martial arts.

BTC: What kind of martial arts?
MM: Kenpo Karate in which I hold a 1st Degree Black Belt.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you would like to share?
MM: Well, not too many know about my involvement in martial arts.

BTC: If you could perform with and or meet any entertainer living or dead who would it be and why?
MM: That would be the “Oak Ridge Boys,” whom I have had the pleasure of meeting. To me they are the ultimate entertainers.

BTC: Your immediate family consists of?
MM: My wife Donel and my son Jacob.

BTC: Where and how did you meet your wife?
MM: I met her in Branson at a show where we worked together. It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.

BTC: Why should people coming to Branson see the Grand Jubilee show?
MM: That’s an easy one to answer. There’s nothing missing out of the show. It’s fast moving, extremely well produced, has an extremely talented cast and has some of the best music and comedy in Branson. It truly has something for everyone. [The Grand Jubilee is one of Branson’s most popular shows and this review explains why.]

BTC: What’s in it for kids?
MM: Comedy, action, color, and music that will appeal to them. When it comes to quartets, kids are just like almost everyone else, they just like them.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MM: I am a very blessed man.

What’s “Buzzin in Branson” during July 2015

The "Million Dollar Quartet" is Branson's newest show and "hottest" ticket

The “Million Dollar Quartet” is Branson’s newest show and “hottest” ticket

“Buzzin in Branson” is a concise and easy to read list of major events and activities taking place in Branson, Missouri during the month being “Buzzed.” Each issue contains the “Branson Buzz of the Month,” and a list of the major special events, shows, and activities for the month. Branson “Buzz of the Month for July 2015 Skies around the Branson area will be ablaze with fireworks for the 4th of July; families are loving Disney’s “The Little Mermaid;” and one of Branson’s hottest tickets is its newest show, the Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony® Award-winning musical that tells the heartwarming story of how fate brought Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins together for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that became one of the most memorable nights in music history, December 4, 1956. The following list of major special events, shows, and activities taking place in Branson during July is sorted by event date and contains pertinent and timely comments and contact information, through either a link or phone number, that can be used to obtain additional information where appropriate: Jul 1 – 19: Star Spangled Summer Festival at Silver Dollar City Jul 1 – 31: The Hits Staring Collin Raye Jul 1 – 31: Disney’s “The Little MermaidJul 1 – 31: Buckets N Boards Jul 1 – 31: Prince Ivan Jul 1 – 31: Forever Young Jul 3: Branson Landing Annual Liberty Light Up Fireworks Celebration Jul 3: Lake Queen Branson Landing Fireworks Cruise Jul 36: 4th of July Weekend Sale at Tanger Outlets Jul 4: Lake Queen Rockaway Beach Fireworks Cruise Jul 4: Landing Princess Rockaway Beach Fireworks Cruise Jul 4: Fireburst – Kimberling City Fireworks Jul 4: Chateau on the Lake Fireworks Jul 4: Hollister Fireworks Jul 5: Trace Adkins Jul 13 – 18: USSSA Boys Baseball World Series Jul 13 – 18: USSSA Girls World Series Jul 18: Farm to Fork at The Keeter Center (417-690-2120) Jul 18Aug 2: Moonlight Madness Festival at Silver Dollar City Jul 18: Ozarks Teen Challenge 5K (417-239-3002) Jul 2731 FASA’s Girls World Series Jul 25: Etiquette Class at The Keeter Center (417-690-2120) “Buzzin in Branson” is published monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson; it gives them a “heads up” about what’s happening over the next 30 days. If you have any further questions about these events or want information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows, attractions, or lodging, please contact Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550 or visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Three “free” Branson activities for families to enjoy

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousand Rainbow and Brown Trout.

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousands of Rainbow and Brown Trout.

“Branson is one of the best vacation values in the country,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “It becomes even more so if the great value of its lodging, shows, and attractions is supplemented by one or more of the “free” activities available for visitors to enjoy,” she added.

From miles of trails, to a grist mill, scenic overlooks, and a $7.5 million synchronized fire; to water and music fountain show; a trout hatchery and much more, Branson has a variety of free activities for its visitors to enjoy. From among the many, here’s a list of three things selected especially for families with children:

1. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery,” is located at the foot of Table Rock Dam. It is located just off State Highway 165, is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and is part of a complex consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center features an interesting nature display and a short video on the hatchery and the process involved with producing the trout that makes Lake Taneycomo one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation. It also has a huge aquarium with some “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout showing the size that some of the trout in Lake Taneycomo can reach.

Guided tours of the hatchery depart the Visitors Center from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekdays at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Visitors are welcome to tour the “race ways,” by themselves, during normal business hours. They will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the smallest of trout to the large “brood stock” used to produce them. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Free Trolley:” The Free Trolley is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center, Branson Landing, and the Lake Taneycomo shoreline. It operates on a constant loop which passes a number of Branson landmarks including the grave site of the man the city of Branson is named after, Ruben S. Branson; the Owens Theatre, Branson’s first theatre, the Branson Convention Center, Branson Landing and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over half a century ago.

Although there are many places to board the trolley in historic downtown Branson, we would recommend boarding at Branson Landing, either at its southern end near Bass Pro Shops or its northern end by the Belk store. This avoids the two-hour parking limitations that cover most of the parking in the historic district. The trolley operates March-December daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In February, the schedule is Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.

3. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: The “unofficial “duck feeding area, that most people coming to Branson never see, is located just south of Branson Landing in the shadow of Scotty’s Trout Dock, near the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Campground. Not only is it a lot of fun for the kids to feed the ducks and geese, it provides a unique one of a kind Branson photo opportunity.

For more information on these activities, Branson shows, attractions, and lodging, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.

 

Acrobats of China is incredible amazing entertainment your whole family will absolutely love

How many is that on one bicycle?

How many is that on one bicycle?

“Wow!” is my impression of the 2015 edition of the Acrobats of China featuring “The New Shanghai Circus” and starring the “Fenton Acrobatic Troupe.” That’s a big “Wow” for me because, as the show starts its 17th year in Branson, I have seen them perform about 14 out of those 17 years and, although it seems I have said this a lot over the years, this is absolutely the best yet. The world renowned skill, expertise and variety of exciting acts along with the great choreography, color and pageantry of years past is there, but it is presented in a brand new format that adds an entirely new dynamic to what was already one of Branson’s most popular shows.

The theme of the show, carried out throughout, is exploring “the ancient art of Chinese Acrobatics, Chinese Culture and stories taken from the 200 year old ‘Beijing Opera,’ which is an exciting and beautiful form of theatre encompassing storytelling, singing, acting, dance, costume, stagecraft, gymnastics, martial arts and makeup.” Most of the shows many acts are preceded by an introduction beautifully tying the act into Chinese history or the opera. This takes the acrobatic or gymnastic skills of the performer(s) and embeds it into the act’s “mini story” adding another entertainment element for the audience to enjoy.

The shows high flying Silk Act was amazing and flawlessly performed. Its introduction and presentation was framed around tragic opera, “The Goddess of Luo River,” in which Zhen Mi, the beautiful daughter of a high ranking official is forced by her father to marry the wrong man. Her true love, Cao Zhi, saddened by her marriage, composed a poem describing how they met and fell in love. It’s interesting to see how each different skill set and act is seamlessly melded into its historical or operatic partner.

Continuing on the same theme, and an entirely new act this year, is the exciting and amazing “Fork in the Road,” combines a mixture of the Beijing Opera and Chinese Kung Fu to tell the story of a weary warrior who stops at an inn for the night and defends himself when the inn keeper and his evil friends sneak in to attack him and steal his goods. This is a “black light” performance is one of the most unique and exciting acts I have ever seen performed in the show. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that you will be unable to “mask” your amazement as they “levitate” the action and excitement of the show to a new level.

Hoop Jumping is just one of  the many exciting and dangerous acts that are performed.

Hoop Jumping is just one of the many exciting and dangerous acts that you will see.

From juggling to strength acts, hoop jumping, an unbelievable bike act, pole climbing and so much more this show truly entertains the entire family throughout the entire two hours of the show, entertaining kids and adults simultaneously. Each act seamlessly transitions from one to another, almost like magic, with no dead time. The skill and energy of these performers is amazing even to the way they leave the stage and rush out to the lobby to meet and greet the audience after the show.

Just sitting in the back, watching the reaction of the kids and, for that matter, the adults during the show, was a joy. After the show the Fine family from Higginsville, Missouri was kind enough to share their opinion of the show with me. That’s the good news, the bad news is that because of “operator error” my recorder “misfired,” but as best as I can recollect, Mrs. Fine said she loved the show and the interactive way it was presented. Her two young daughters, ages 7 and 9 I believe, enthusiastically said that they really liked the show and felt that other kids there age would too.

If you want to share something unique, exciting, colorful, that the whole family will enjoy and is in a class by itself in terms of the skill and daring displayed throughout, then you don’t want to miss these championship acrobats as they perform in this incredible production.

For additional information or tickets for the Acrobats of China please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Five reasons you and your family shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the amazing Jonah

30,000 pound boat "sails" the stage and breaks up during storm.

30,000 pound boat “sails” the stage and breaks up during storm.

When I went to see Jonah at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson as it premiered last year I did so in the context of having seen all of the spectacular Sight and Sound Branson shows, “Noah, the Musical,” “Miracle of Christmas,” and “Joseph.” I expected to see a show with great music, vocals, spectacular sets and costuming presented as only Sight and Sound can do it. Well, I got what I expected and, in terms of what most people think about what swallowed “Jonah” a “whale” of lot more.”

Recently, Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, reminded me that although Jonah’s Branson premier was just a year ago that time is running out for Branson visitors to see it because it will be replaced by another production, “Moses” next year. If you have not seen this fantastic show here are a few reasons why we believe that you should consider seeing it and sharing it with your family before it leaves Branson:

1. The whole family can enjoy it together: All Branson shows are family friendly in terms of content, but some are more kid friendly, in terms of their content being able to hold their interest throughout the majority of the show. Still fewer can entertain children of different ages and adults simultaneously and at entertainment level they all enjoy. Jonah does.

2. Spectacular Props and Sets: Sight and Sound is known for their spectacular props and sets and as great as they have been in their other Sight and Sound Branson productions, in Jonah they are just about unbelievable. One example is the ship from which Jonah is thrown into the sea; took two years to build and weighs 30,000 pounds.

3. Action and Special Effects: Sight and Sound are experts at filling their 300 foot surround sound stage with music, action, dancing, drama and special effects melded into magnificent productions. The action scenes of the ship breaking up; Jonah flying through the air, particularly as he departs the belly of the great “fish;” the set of Jonah in the belly of the fish and the underwater scene with the great “fish” are simply magnificent and something no one has ever come close to seeing on a Branson stage.

4. The Magnificent Underwater Segment: As Jonah is thrown into the sea by the crew of the ship and sinks into the ocean depths, the audience is literally “immersed,” in a spectacular underwater environment as beautiful fish swim by, Jelly Fish float about and the great “fish” comes out of the darkness and swims slowly and gracefully out over the audience through a beautiful underwater world and then, returns to swallow Jonah. Parents need not worry, the actual swallowing of Jonah by the “fish” is not seen. One minute the fish is swimming toward him and the next, there is a set with Jonah in the belly of the fish. Jonah’s exit from the belly of the fish was a “high flying” experience that delighted the audience.

5. An Epic Biblical Story Spectacularly Brought to Life: Jonah has it all, drama; original music produced specifically for the show and performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra; great vocals sung live on stage by the shows cast; dancing; 30 live animals ; colorful costuming and great sound, special effects and lighting and simply spectacular sets. That said however, it is the energy and talent of the shows cast of 41 performers that brings the epic bible story of Jonah, and how he tried to run from what he knew God wanted him to do, to life in a very special, inspirational and entertaining way.

In a nutshell, Jonah is unlike anything that most people will every see live on stage, a pure joy to experience and something is that every member of the family can enjoy together and remember for a lifetime. Jonah will be performed through December 29, 2015.

For additional information or tickets for Jonah please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Material Connection

Answers to your questions about the famed Branson Strip

The iconic Presley's Theatre, home of the "first show" on the "Branson Strip," "Presleys' Country Music Jubilee."

The iconic Presley’s Theatre, home of the “first show” on the “Branson Strip,” “Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee.”

“Just about everyone who comes to Branson, wants to see the famed Branson Strip and will, whether they want to or not because of its location,” says Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. Here’s some answers to some of the most asked questions about The Strip that we hope you will find interesting:

Where does the Branson Strip Actually Start and end? That depends. An argument could be made that, on its east side, it starts at the junction of Roark Valley Road and Highway 76, at the Veteran’s Memorial Park and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end. Most however, say it starts .8 miles west on Highway 76 at the intersection of Fall Creek Road and Highway 76, and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end, because that’s where the theatres and most of the attractions start. For purposes of this piece we are going with the majority view as to the eastern start of “The Strip.” There is minimal, if any, debate on its western end.

How long is the Branson Strip? As measured on my odometer today it is 3.3 miles long from its eastern end at the Intersection of the Fall Creek Road and Highway 76.

What is the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, the home of two of Branson’s most popular shows the fabulous Legends in Concert Show and the Bretts morning show, is the first theatre on the Branson Strip. It’s right across the street from another of Branson’s most popular theatre attractions, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.

Wasn’t the Presleys’ theatre the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Yes, it was, it’s a matter of “tense.” In 1967, when they first opened and started performing Presleys’ Country Jubilee, there was no “Branson Strip” and not much of anything else near them, just Highway 76 heading west toward Silver Dollar City. As other theatres were built east and west of them what is now known as the “Branson Strip” developed, but first there was the Presleys and the Presleys’ Country Jubilee which has been performing there continuously ever since and is, perennially, one of Branson’s most popular and beloved shows. It has been said, “You haven’t seen Branson until you’ve seen Presleys Country Jubilee.”

Is there any formal signage showing that you are on the Branson Strip? No, but if you are on Highway 76, and you see a theatre marquee you are on “The Strip.”

Is Silver Dollar City or Branson Landing on the Branson Strip? No. Although Silver Dollar City, the 1880s styled award winning theme park that is Branson’s most popular paid attraction is located on Highway 76, it is miles west of “The Strip” and is not actually inside the city limits of Branson. Branson Landing is located east of “The Strip” at the end of Main Street.

Didn’t the tornado of 2012 tear up “The Strip?” Actually very little damage was done to most of the attractions and theatres on “The Strip” by the tornado. The three major theatres that were extensively damaged have all been remodeled and are in operation. Interestingly, and illustrating just how spotty the damage was, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre was extensively damaged resulting in just about a new theatre while the Dixie Stampede, located immediately across the street, wasn’t damaged at all.

Where is the biggest concentration of shows and attractions on The Strip? Although there are dozens of major attractions up and down the strip it is hard to imagine that there is a more concentrated area than the .6 miles from Andy’s Custard west to the World’s Largest Toy Museum that includes White Water; popular Branson shows such as SIX, It starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families, the Duttons, George Dyer, Ayo staring the Voices of Glory and others along with everything from mini golf to multi story high go-kart tracks.