What you should know about Branson’s newest fine dining experience, La Piazza Ristorante Italiano

 

 

A portion of La Piazza's warm intimate dining room.

A portion of La Piazza’s warm intimate dining room.

Seven of us, friends who love a “fine dining” experience and have eaten at a number of Branson’s restaurants over the years and virtually all of its “fine dining” restaurants at one time or the other, enjoyed one of the finest dining experiences we have ever had in Branson. What is amazing is that La Pizza just opened, at 2900 Green Mountain Drive, in the old “Cosmopolitan Grill” location, on Friday April 11, was in the process of a soft opening and still provided such a wonderful experience.

The ambiance, lighting and size of the L shaped room was very comfortable and inviting with a full service bar tastefully integrated into one end of the room. Our server Johnathan did a wonderful job and provided a quality of service that contributed immeasurably to our enjoyment of the evening.

There were seven of us and we started off from the “Antipasti” section of the menu with two orders of “Portobello Rimini” which we split. The dish is a huge stuffed Portobello Mushroom baked with fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil served on a bed of polenta with Marinara sauce. One order would be perfect for two to split and it was delicious. Fresh sliced Italian bread, made “in house,” was served with a delightful garlic flavored butter.

The entrees of our party ranged from their daily special, “Wild Alaskan Salmon,” to a variety of pastas and their “Bisteccalla Florentina,” LaPiazza’s grilled rib eye steak. To a person, everyone said that what they had was excellent.

One of the ladies with us said, her “Linguini Al Vongole,” a delightful combination of linguini noodles with clams, shrimp, white wine, garlic, chili flakes, basil and parsley was one of the best pasta dishes she has ever eaten. The “Wild Alaskan Salmon” special, was lightly smoked just prior to serving under a Plexiglas dome that was removed as it was served. What a beautiful presentation in terms of sight and smell and all who ordered it said it was wonderful.

Those of us who got the “Bisteccalla Florentina, were delighted. The large grilled rib eye steak, topped with a red wine demi-glaze, was served with seasonal vegetables and some of the best garlic mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. One of us ordered their steak medium rare and the other rare. Both were cooked to perfection and were delicious.

There really wasn’t room for desert, but a couple of the girls each ordered one, “Tiramisu.” Like everything else, it was delicious. I know that the word “delicious” is used a lot in describing our experience at LaPiazza, but that’s the way it was.

Executive Chef Donny Jay Cummings had previously worked at the “Table 22 Restaurant” and is really excited about the menu, quality of the ingredients used and providing diners with one of the best fine dining experiences in Branson. Owner Fidel Gomez, said that in addition to providing his guests with great food he wanted the restaurant to provide a comfortable, warm and hospitable atmosphere for his guests. If our experience is any indication he has succeeded. It is a place that we will visit again and often.

All meals are served ala carte and are priced very reasonably considering the size of the portions, quality the food, the service and wonderful fine dining experience provided. “LaPiazza Ristorante Italiano” opens at three daily, is open seven days a week, accepts reservations and can be reached by phone at 417-334-2562.

Branson earns Traveler’s Choice for Top 25 U. S. Destinations

Main Street Cruise's Landing Princess and Lake Queen viewing Branson Landing's spectacular Water and Fire Show.

Main Street Cruise’s Landing Princess and Lake Queen viewing Branson Landing’s spectacular Water and Fire Show.

“Branson visitors are just amazing,” said Annette Wood, director of sales and marketing, for the Branson Tourism Center. “What a humbling experience that so many of them would take the time to comment on TripAdvisor® that Branson, a little town in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, would, for the first time, make the top 25 List of U.S. Destinations in ‘TripAdvisors® 6th Annual Traveler’s Choice Destination Awards’ along with cities such as New York, Orlando, and New Orleans,” she added. Joining Branson, who was number 19 on the list, as “newbies to the top 25 was San Diego (7), Austin (18), Atlanta (20), Phoenix (21), St. Louis (23) and Nashville (24).

In announcing the awards, Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor said, “If you’re looking for trip inspiration, look no further than the Travelers’ Choice Destinations.” The award is based on the “quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, attractions and restaurants in destinations” that are “gathered over a 12-month period.” The description accompanying the award listing highlighted the number and variety of Branson shows, the natural beauty of the Ozarks and the “great fishing, hiking, biking and water sports” available in Branson.

Larry Milton, owner of Main Street Lake Cruises whose two boats, the Lake Queen and the Landing Princess, are featured in the illustration of the description accompanying the award listing said, “How neat is that, Branson is featured in the top 25 of this award list because of the efforts that travelers to Branson have made based on their own great Branson experiences. What a testimony to the efforts of our entertainers, shows, attractions, lodging providers and everyone else in Branson’s tourism industry who help provide our guests with that great experience.”

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood invites everyone to visit Branson and experience firsthand why this special little town nestled in the Ozarks is listed as one of the top 25 destinations in the U.S. For information on Branson shows, attractions, lodging and everything else that Branson offers please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-875-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Branson Up Close and Personal with singer song writer Billy Dean

 

Billy Dean

Billy Dean

Grammy Award Winner, Billy Dean, an ACM “New Male Vocalist of the Year” with 11 Top Ten Hits and over 20 hit singles, is currently performing his own show, Billy Dean Live in Branson. He came to Branson for his first extended stay performance last November and December and liked it so much he came back with his own show for the 2014 season. Dean shares his perspective on what brought him to Branson and much more in this exclusive “Up Close and Personal” interview.

“Branson Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the 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 Billy Dean, (BD) uses a “Question and Answer” format with the interviewing being done for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary J. Groman, a 28 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and free-lance writer.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
BD: Although I had appeared briefly in Branson prior to last year, my real first impression of Branson was this last November and December when I got to stay for a little bit and came to appreciate that all of the qualities and values that made America great are alive and celebrated here in Branson and I have not seen that anywhere else.

BTC: What first brought you to Branson as a performer?
BD: Years ago, performing at the Grand Palace, opening for Kenny Rogers.

BTC: What brought you back?
BD: Performing the lead in Kenny Rogers’ “Toy Shoppe” last November and December.

BTC: What made you decide to open your own Branson show for the 2014 season?
BD: When I realized that I could do bigger, better and more quality shows if I did not have to travel. I would also be able to present a show with lights, video screens, staging, crew, sound and everything else that would cost an enormous amount of money to do on the road.

BTC: Do you live in Branson now?
BD: I have never lived anywhere. I have traveled my entire life, but I do have a little farm called “Dean Acres” in Nashville and a condo here in Branson. We are basing our entire operation, touring and everything, out of Branson right now.

BTC: What do you like most about living in Branson?
BD: The quality of life. I’m a lot healthier being here, keeping off of planes and tour busses. It’s better for my voice and I am more productive because I am in one place and not traveling. It’s just a healthier lifestyle than traveling on the road.

BTC: What is different about the Billy Dean Live show and any other Branson show?
BD: I am not doing other peoples songs. I am doing a high energy fun country music concert performing, for the most part, my own music, featuring songs I have written and performed including “Somewhere My Broken Heart,” “Tryn’ To Hide A Fire in The Dark,” “Billy the Kid, “Let Them Be Little” and cover songs such as “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” that were hits for me.. Last year Tony Orlando said that if I wanted to be successful in Branson I needed a hot band and to fill the show full of music. That’s what I have, a hot band called the “Steel Horses” and lots of “music per square foot.”

BTC: Why should I plan to see the Billy Dean Live show while in Branson?
BD What I do best is present the artistry of song writing and storytelling, which is to me the foundation of country music, in a high energy, fun filled and extremely entertaining concert format. If you like country music you will love this show as much as I love doing it.

BTC: If a ten year old child asked the same question the answer would be?
BD: I promise that ten year old that they will not fall asleep in my show.

BTC: What is your personal favorite song to sing?
BD: “Let Them Be Little,” a song I wrote for my kids when they were little. It had been six years since I had a hit and everyone said that I was finished and done. The message and power of that song touches people, especially parents on a deep level. That song went to number seven on the chart and stayed in the top ten for ten weeks.

BTC: Is it in the show?
BD: Oh yea.

BTC: What part of the show do you personally like the best?
BD: I do a really classic country Merle Haggard song, “You Take Me For Granted” that I love with just me and the steel guitar. It’s the old school country that I grew up listening to that you don’t hear much anymore and it’s a special moment with the audience just me, the guitar and the steel player.

BTC: Born Where & When?
BD: Quincy, Florida, April 2, 1962.

BTC: Where is home now?
BD: I still live in Nashville, on a little farm that I have called “Dean Acres as well as Branson”

BTC: Married?
BD: Yes to my wife Stephanie.

BTC: Family?
BD: I have a son who is in college and a daughter who is in nursing school.

BTC: What got you started entertaining?
BD: My earliest memory was hanging out singing with my dad’s band “Country Rocks”

BTC: How old were you when you first started?
BD: I started playing guitar and singing when I was in the second grade. It was something I grew up with.

BTC: How long have you been performing professionally?
BD: I was on Ed McMahon’s “Star Search” in 1988 which led to a lot of “session work” and my start in Nashville.

BTC: What was your big break?

BD: When my first single “Only Here For A Little While,” from my first album [Young Man] peaked at number 3 and spent 22 weeks on the “Hot Country Songs charts and my second single, “Somewhere My Broken Heart,” went up the charts and I was awarded the “ACM Top New Male Vocalist of the Year Award” for 1991.

BTC: What has been your biggest inspiration in your career?
BD: Being able to work with an icon like Kenny Rogers.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
BD: I like the lakes and love to go to Branson shows. Believe it or not, I’m the biggest tourist in the world.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?

BD: I would have loved to have been in a circle singing some harmony with Elvis when he was singing gospel.

BTC: Do you have some little known fact about yourself that you could share with our readers?
BD: “Billy’s” not my name. My name is “William Harold Dean” and I grew up as “Harold Dean.” I never liked the name Harold, but I was named after one of my dad’s brothers who was killed in WW II. My dad’s name was “Billy” and he wanted a career in music, but because of raising a family, didn’t pursue it. After his death, as my career was developing, I changed my name to “Billy.” I can’t tell you how often since then, when I have seen the name “Billy Dean” on a marquee, that I think of my old man and say, “We made it together.”

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
BD: We were at a big outdoor festival in Wheeling, West Virginia and this girl got in a big fight with her boyfriend while I was performing. It kind of stopped the show and, as they yelled at each other, she chased him to into a “porta potti.” At that point I started singing “Somewhere My Broken Heart,” she looked up at me, turned back to the porta potti, and started shaking it until it fell and then rolled it down a little hill.

For additional information or tickets for the Billy Dean Live show please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 .

 

Acrobats of China is an amazing Branson experience

Amazing high speed roller skating feat with one skater hanging by a "thread."

Amazing high speed roller skating feat with one skater hanging by a “thread.”

Having seen the Acrobats of China Show featuring the New Shanghai Circus perform in Branson many times over the past 12 years, most recently on March 24, 2014, it is easy to see why the title for this show is commonly prefaced with either of the adjectives, “amazing” or “incredible” when mentioned. In a town known for its music shows, it stands alone for its uniqueness, acrobatics, color, action, excitement and broad audience appeal. It is one of only a handful of Branson’s excellent shows that is designed to simultaneously hold the interest of children and adults from the time the curtain raises until the final cast call.

The show’s action packed opening, featuring most of the cast members, has everything from tumbling and acrobatics to a Chinese Dragon and is one of the most colorful, exciting and fast paced openings I have ever seen and sets the stage for what is to come. And what comes is one act after another, each with its own introduction, choreography, colorful costuming and performers doing amazing things at a level of skill that is simply incredible.

I know that moving from one act to another is not an exciting thing, but with the number of different acts in this show it could have been a drag especially for children. Fortunately, not in this case. In fact, the way each act seamlessly transitions from one to the other, with no dead time in between, is handled with the same skill and precision that the performers demonstrate in their individual acts.

High flying Hoop acrobatics.

High flying Hoop acrobatics.

Acrobats of China includes many acts that most people have never seen before as well as acts such as high flying silks, juggling, hoop diving, contortion, human strength and chair stacking, but the Acrobats of China perform them in their own unique manner with a skill set so amazing that it is new and exciting and like you are experiencing it for the first time. I am amazed as I watch them perform each year, recognize the same skill in the act, but am seeing it presented in a different, fresh and innovative way that has me thoroughly invested in the performance.

Many of us have witnessed “Chair Stacking” acts, but how often have you witnessed one where the chairs were stacked about 30 feet high and the performer puts a bench on top, makes two stacks of “coke” sized cans, four cans tall and does a hand stand on top of them. Oh, and did I mention, he then does a “hand drop” from the top of the cans down to the bench on top of the stacked chairs.

As unexciting as they might appear when simply named, three of my favorite acts the Diabolo, Duo Table Skating and Bowel Flipping are incredibly exciting and unbelievable as they are performed in this show. The Diabolo is the Chinese yoyo. It seems like it would be hard enough to keep one of them moving on the string let alone having a troupe of acrobats dancing as they work them in synchronization throwing them back and forth, high into the air and doing other amazing things. It is truly an beautiful thing to see.

The audience just loved the Roller Skating act performed within a six foot diameter raised circle by two ladies. From the delicate intricate toe “candle skate” to high speed drama, with one hanging by her neck from the neck of the other, twisting horizontally to the ground as she was twirled around at high speed. As is the case with so many acts in this show, it was as breathtaking as it was beautiful, exciting and dangerous.

I have never witnessed anything as amazing as the “Bowl Flipping” act in this show. The performer is balancing on a rolling teeterboard on top of a table as he flips bowels to the top of his head using the board. When he was going for the fourth bowel I thought, “He’ll never make it, but he did.” I know is sounds simple and unexciting, but trust me on this one, it is about as exciting as it gets and it is anything, but simple.

In terms of precision, skill, color, pageantry, action, costuming, grace, beauty and elegance throughout its entirety, this is a show that is unique in Branson and will simultaneously entertain every member of the family. For additional information or tickets for the Acrobats of China or any of Branson’s other shows, attractions and activities or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. BTC may be reached by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Material Connection

Shoji Tabuchi preparing for 26th Branson season after successful off season tour

 

Interesting shot of Shoji Tabuchi performing at Florida Strawberry Festival.

Interesting shot of Shoji Tabuchi performing at Florida Strawberry Festival.

“The off season this year was a whirlwind of activity for our show,” said Shoji Tabuchi. “We toured and played in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina and Florida to the excitement and enthusiasm of many sold out shows and, of course, everywhere we went we shared Branson,” he continued.”

Tabuchi said that the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida was one of the special highlights of the tour where he was featured with the likes of the Oak Ridge Boys, Styx, Rascal Flats, Charlie Pride and many more as well as the cover of the February issue of “Lifestyles After 50″ magazine “which was seen by almost 250,000 people.” While performing at the Strand Theatre in Shreveport, LA Tabuchi was presented with the keys to Bossier City, LA and a proclamation by Mayor Lorenz Walker proclaiming Dec. 13 as Shoji Tabuchi Day.

Tabuchi said, “I am really excited about beginning our 26th season in Branson on April 22nd.” He said the show will contain exciting new sets, new special effects, lighting and dazzling new costuming along with new choreography, new music and “as always” a surprise or two.

“It’s great to have Shoji back home in Branson and we congratulate him on the start of the 26th Branson season of the incomparable Shoji Tabuchi Show,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center.

 

8th Annual Elvis Festival Will Rock Branson

 

2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Finale.

2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Finale.

BRANSON, MO, March 30, 2014 – “The Branson Elvis® Festival is a wonderful event for Elvis fans, but also offers another unique and exciting activity for Branson visitors,” said, Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. The 8th Annual Branson Elvis® Festival will take place April 4 – 6, 2014, at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, the home of Branson’s Legends in Concert Show located on the world famous “Branson Strip.”

The Festival includes an “Elvis Meet & Greet Dinner, The Legends in Concert Show and Elvis Contestant Karaoke on April 4; the Elvis Vendor Village, featuring “Vendors from across the country selling unique Elvis merchandise,” the Hound Dog Contest, and the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ on April 5 and “Branson Gospel Sunday” at 10 a.m. on April 6 at the Hamner Variety Theater featuring “some of Elvis’ favorite gospel numbers.” The highlight of the festival, the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 5.

The Branson contest is one of a select few tribute competitions sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and “the winner of the Branson contest “will receive a prize package and the opportunity to compete in the 2014 Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ finals presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee during Elvis Week.”

From a Branson show perspective, Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson suggests that the following shows might be of particular interest to Elvis fans Joseph Hall’s Elvis Rock N Remember Tribute, 100 percent Elvis; Legends in Concert with a major portion of the show as an Elvis tribute or the Rankin Brothers, with a “set” dedicated to Elvis fans. She also points out that at the time of the Festival the vast majority of all Branson’s shows and attractions, including Silver Dollar City, will be open for Festival attendees to enjoy as well as the spectacular beauty of an Ozark spring.

For additional information or tickets for the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest,™ or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through its web site www.BransontTourismCenter.com

What you should know about Branson’s “Cruising With Stars”

 

Cruise with SIX one of Branson's hottest groups on the ...

Cruise with SIX one of Branson’s hottest shows on…

In my 28 years in Branson, it has been my personal experience that Branson entertainers are not only some of the best entertainers anywhere, but the most accessible to their audiences. That accessibility is taken to new levels through Branson Tourism Center’s exclusive Cruise With The Stars entertainment experience combining two great entertainment activities, seeing the Branson show of the star(s) you will be cruising with and going on a VIP luncheon cruise with them into one special unique event.

The 100 foot luxury yacht "Landing Princess."

The 100 foot luxury yacht “Landing Princess.”

You will attend the show of the entertainer(s) you will be cruising with and have an unparalleled opportunity to interact with them while cruising aboard Main Street Lake Cruises 100 foot luxury yacht the Landing Princess. This includes a beautiful scenic cruise on Lake Taneycomo, lunch, opportunities for photos, autographs and interacting with them in a unique up close and personal experience that is available only to those participating in Branson Tourism Centers exclusive Cruise With the Stars experience.

The 2014 schedule for Cruise With The Stars, subject to change is:

Billy Dean with Paul Harris & the Cleverlys – May 23, 2014

Paul Harris & The Cleverlys with Billy Dean – May 23, 2014

Legends in Concert – June 19, 2014

SIX – July 17, 2014

The Texas Tenors – September 18, 2014

John and Ambrus Presley of Presleys’ Country Jubilee – October 7, 2014

This special and unique Branson experience is made available exclusively to Branson Tourism Center customers because of the special relationship it has with Main Street Lake Cruises, the participating entertainers and their theaters. “There is a limited number of seats available for each cruise,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, who recommends making reservations for the cruise of your choice as soon as possible. For tickets or information for Cruise With The Stars please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-875-1550.

10 Things that shower Branson with April fun and value

A bit of Ozark Spring splendor on the banks of Lake Taneycomo.

A bit of Ozark Spring splendor on the banks of Lake Taneycomo.

Living in the Ozarks for 28 years has taught me that April is the month where both spring and Branson entertainment bloom and blossom together providing one of the most beautiful, exciting and entertaining experiences of the year. Here’s a list of ten things that can add fun and value to that experience:

1. Beauty of an Ozark’s Spring – With its pristine lakes and natural beauty it’s hard to imagine a place that is more beautiful to experience than the fresh promise of a new spring in the Ozarks.

2. World-Fest – America’s largest International Festival running from April 5 through May 4. Silver Dollar City starts its red white and blue “Celebrate America” 2014 season with the first of its six world class festivals, World-Fest, giving its guests an opportunity to experience a bit of the colorful traditions and heritages from other countries that have helped build our Nation in addition to enjoying everything else the 1880s styled world class theme park offers.

3. See The World In Branson – Local theaters, hotels, restaurants, and retail venues will be representing countries from all around the world during this International Festival running April 1 – May 5 allowing Branson visitors the opportunity to enjoy multiple cultural, traditional and international experiences while visiting Branson with “No pass port required.”

4 U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Opens Table Rock Lake Campgrounds – On April 1 the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to open six of its Branson area Table Rock Lake camp grounds and parks including Campbell Point, Cape Fair, Cricket Creek, Mill Creek, Old Highway 86, and Indian Point. On May 1 four additional areas will be added to the list, Aunts Creek, Baxter, Big M, Eagle Rock, and Viola. To make reservations for camping at any of the Corps parks or for additional information call 877-444-6777.

The biblical spectacular "Jonah" has just premiered in Branson and is thrilling audiences.

The biblical spectacular “Jonah” has just premiered in Branson and is thrilling audiences.

5. Popular Branson Shows Open for 2014 Season – The vast majority of Branson’s most popular shows have opened for their 2014 Branson season including:

Acrobats of China

Clay Coopers Country Express

Dancing Queen Abba’s Greatest Hits

Dixie Stampede

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies

The Haygoods

Jonah  – This Sight and Sound Production premiered in Branson in late March to rave reviews. Kids and adults alike are just amazed by this spectacular production.

Legends in Concert

New Jersey Nights

Paul Harris & The Cleverlys

Pierce Arrow

Presleys’ Country Jubilee

SIX

6. Branson Shows Starting 2014 Season in April – Four of Branson’s most popular shows will open their 2014 season during April on the date indicated:

George Dyer – April 8

Duttons – April 10

Adventures of Marco Polo – April 20.

Shoji Tabuchi – April 22

For more information on Branson shows or attractions or for lodging information please feel free to 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.

7. Branson Collector Car Auction – Showcasing hundreds of beautiful motor vehicles, the Branson Collector Car Auction, celebrating its 35th year in Branson will be held on April 11 – 12 in the Branson Convention Center.

8. Easter Dinner Cruise on Landing Princess – Celebrate Easter with your family by enjoying a leisurely “Easter Dinner Cruise” on the 100 foot long luxury yacht Landing Princess with a special Easter Menu on April 20. Cruises will depart at 12:00 PM or 4:45 PM. Call 1-800-785-1550 for tickets or information.

 

Branson's Titanic Museum Attraction takes passengers on an exciting voyage no matter what the season.

Branson’s Titanic Museum Attraction takes passengers on an exciting voyage no matter what the season.

9. April Savings and Discounts –From the “Family Springtime Getaway” to the “Easter Celebration Packages” and more, there is a variety of packages, with April pricing, offering substantial savings and discounts. And the savings just keep growing because the majority of Branson Tourism Center’s packages include the “Branson Guest Card,” full of discounts to Branson shops and restaurants and more.

10. Titanic Museum Attraction – In addition to its yearlong special exhibit honoring the eight musicians aboard the ship when she sank; the Titanic Museum Attraction will feature a visit and book signing on April 4 – 5 by Susie Millar. She was a longtime television reporter in Ireland, a famous author, and is the great granddaughter of Thomas Millar, an engineer of Harland & Wolff, the company that designed and built the Titanic, who died in the Titanic disaster.

Nadia Cole A Voice of Glory

 

Nadia Cole

Nadia Cole

Millions have seen the Voices of Glory, Nadia, Avery and Michael Cole they become finalists on the hit NBC prime time show “America’s Got Talent” and were touched not only by the inspiring story of how they started singing together, but the beauty of their voices. Now Branson visitors have the opportunity to hear them sing in their own Branson show, Ayo Starring the Voices of Glory.

Recently BTC had an opportunity to interview the youngest member of the group, Nadia Cole, about their career, how they came to Branson and what the future may hold for her and the “Voices of Glory.” Having heard her sing I was already impressed by her voice, but her poise, obvious love of family and God, professionalism and friendliness was just as impressive and far beyond her 14 years.

The following piece is in Q & A format with the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) asking questions that we hope the reader will find informative and entertaining and Nadia’s answers indicated by (NC):

BTC: When and where were you born?
NC: Newburg, New York on Oct. 26, 1999

BTC: How did you get started singing?
NC: In 2005 our mother, Felicia Cole, was involved in a head on collision with a drunk driver and was in a coma for eight months. We [Nadia with brothers Avery and Michael] started singing by her bedside just to get her to respond and from there we went from hospital room to hospital room, nursing home to nursing home and eventually ended up on a show called “America’s Got Talent.”

BTC: What year were you on America’s Got Talent?
NC: 2009.

BTC: How did you do?
NC: We took 5th Place.

BTC: What did you enjoy most about your appearance on America’s Got Talent?
NC: The total experience; being on national TV and getting to know everybody around us.

BTC: Did you go on the America’s Got Talent Road Tour?
NC: No we did not. I believe we were too young at the time.

BTC: How old are you, Michael and Avery?
NC: Michael is 21, Avery just turned 18 and I am 14.

BTC: How long has Voices of Glory been singing?
NC: We have been singing professionally for about 8 years.

BTC: How long have you been performing in Branson?
NC: About four years.

BTC: What brought you to Branson?
NC: In 2010 we got a call from a promoter who brought us to Branson. Things did not work out as promised, but our dad said, “God did not bring us down here for nothing.” We stayed and God has blessed our career tremendously with awards, international tours, TBN, church and other performances as well as performing in the “Andy Williams Christmas Show” in 2012 and now we are performing our own show “Ayo” at the Hughes Brothers Theatre in Branson.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
NC: I like the audiences.

BTC: What you enjoy the most about living in Branson?
NC: I love Branson. The Christian environment just gives me peace inside and the people are just so nice to each other.

BTC: What is your all-time favorite song to sing?
NC: That’s hard. I can’t pick just one. My favorites are “Open My Heart,” a gospel song by Yolonda Adams, “Blue Skies” by Ella Fitzgerald and “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.

BTC: When you’re not working what do you enjoy doing most?
NC: I love spending time with family and friends, go to movies and the landing.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity?
NC: I like to dance.

BTC: What do you look forward to the most as you start each new day?
NC: I look for a brand new start. You make a mistake one day, but the next day you get a chance to start fresh.

BTC: What are you the most thankful for?
NC: My family.

BTC: If you could perform with anyone on stage, whether they are alive now or not, who would it be?
NC: Whitney Houston, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think your fans are audience would enjoy hearing about?
NC: Don’t get between me a pepperoni pizza and a mug of root beer.

BTC: Have you ever thought about going back to “America’s Got Talent,” or a competition like “The Voice” or “American Idol” as a solo act?
NC: Not really because I am performing with my brothers. When you are with family you really don’t want to separate what you have between us singing wise.

BTC: That aside, did something recently happen that might cause you to consider trying out for “American Idol?”
NC: Yes, it did. I went to the “Disney American Idol Experience in Florida at Disney World Hollywood Studios. The experience gave me the opportunity to go through the American Idol experience from hair and makeup to judging, coaching and competition. At the final competition I sang “Listen” by “Beyonce” and won. As the winner of the day’s competition I received a “Dream Pass” that entitles me to be escorted to the front of the line of prospective “American Idol” television show contestants and have the opportunity to audition for the producers of the “American Idol.”

BTC: Has a book about the story of the “Voices of Glory” been released recently?
NC: Yes, we are really excited that our book, “Higher Than Me, the story of the Voices of Glory” has just been released.

BTC: Do you have personal goals for yourself and Voices of Glory?
NC: I would love to travel with Voices of Glory on mission trips using our voices to help make this world a better place and change people’s lives.

Nadia, Michael and Avery, “The Voices of Glory” are currently appearing in their own show, Ayo Staring the Voices of Glory in Branson. For additional information on Ayo please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.

 

Hamner’s Unbelievable Variety Show Is “Unbelievably” Entertaining

Dave and Denise Hamner with one of magical winged friends.

Dave and Denise Hamner with one of their “magical “winged friends.

Went to see Branson’s newest show, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show, this week. From the exciting, colorful and “magical” introduction of its cast to its spectacular inspirational and equally “magical” 911/Veterans finale, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show combines two hours of unique, colorful, exciting and entertaining acts into an entertainment experience unlike anything else appearing in Branson. From great illusions and close up magic, presented by two of the world’s finest magicians, to high flying “silk” acrobatics, an amazing strength adagio act, comedy, musical impersonations, vocals, dancing and ventriloquism the scope and variety of this show is, well, “Unbelievable.”

The show starts in a spectacular fashion with a “Grand Illusion.” Actually two “Grand Illusions,” one the musical and dancing performance of the Styx hit, “Grand Illusion” and the other, in conjunction with the first, the “Grand Illusion,” performed in true Hamner style, used to introduce the cast of the show. It was a wonderful and exciting flurry of color, excitement, illusions and action getting the show off to an absolutely “Unbelievable” start.

I could talk about the venues Dave and Denise Hamner have appeared in from Las Vegas to Disneyland and others as well as the awards they have received including the “prestigious “Magic Masters Award” by their peers in Las Vegas,” but none of it would compare to just watching these two masters of their craft perform their unbelievable illusions and interact with their audience. Their one of a kind bird act with beautiful Macaws and Cockatoos is as amazing as it is beautiful to watch; the original “Vertigo: The Fall of Death,” and Dave’s simple elegant performance of the close up magic doing a unique “baseball” twist with the “Cups and Balls” illusion were, from among many others, three of my favorite illusions.

Impressionist Jeff Brandt.

Impressionist Jeff Brandt.

From the opening number of the show, a full cast production number, the magic of the Hamners, is choreographed and combined with the talents of the shows other performers resulting in a virtual cornucopia of “Unbelievable” variety, talent and entertainment. Jeff Brandt, considered by some to be one of the top singing impressionists in the country and a featured performer in Wayne Newton’s show for 13 years performs a number of his impressions, including a “magical” appearance during the second half of the show. While performing with Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, Brandt was given the nickname “The Voice.” After seeing and hearing him perform, I know why. His incorporation of the impressions of Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. into his performance of “My Way” was remarkable and some, might even say, “Unbelieveable.”.

Vadim and Maria Serykh performing their amazing strength adagio hand balancing act.

Vadim and Maria Serykh performing their amazing strength adagio hand balancing act.

The father and daughter team of Vadim & Mariya Serykh add to the variety and excitement of the show with their amazing, beautiful and eloquent strength and balancing adagio act. Mariya adds to the excitement and danger as she rises high into the heights of the theatre over the audience and performs a beautiful acrobatic “silk” routine. To say that the audience was amazed and excited by their performance would be an understatement.

The lead female vocalist, Tamera Tinoco, has produced and sung in a number of Branson shows including “The Magnificent Seven,” in which she and her husband Joe star. I particularly liked her rendition of “Defying Gravity” from the play “Wicked.” The transition into the shows ventriloquist, Brenda Hahne and her loveable “Aunt Ruth” was, well let’s say, “in the cards.” Aunt Ruth and Brenda provided a funny and entertaining routine as they discussed, sometimes with a little help from the audience, the funny day to day “doings” of Aunt Ruth.

The shows dancing is choreographed by A. J. Herd, who along with Ken Brown, Dance Captain, and Mariya Serykh provide another unique element to this “Unbelievable” show. Whether it’s their introduction to an illusion, such as when they introduce the Hamner’s unique version of the “Origami” illusion, or the spellbinding performance of young Mariya Serykh during Tamera Tinoco’s performance of “Defying Gravity,” they add an element of grace, beauty and elegance throughout the show.

To this writer, one of the most “Unbelievable” aspects of this show is the way the individual talents of its cast are combined into a production that is as equally entertaining to adults of all ages as it is to teens and younger children throughout its entire length. All of Branson’s shows are “family friendly” in terms of their content, some are designed primarily for kids and others for adults, but very few to entertain adults and kids together for the whole show; Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show is one of those shows.

For additional information or tickets for Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show or any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for Branson lodging please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com

 

 

.

 

 

Material Connection