Shoji Tabuchi playing “Listen to the Mockingbird.”
For over three decades, four words – fiddle, production show, and incredible – have been synonymous with the name Shoji Tabuchi and his show. The show has become a Branson icon, not only because of the talent of its star, but because of its production, choreography, costumes, leading edge special effects, and its supporting cast that includes Shoji’s very talented daughter, Christina, and great live band.
“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. The interview with Shoji Tabuchi (ST) was conducted earlier this week for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:
BTC: What came first, the violin or the fiddle, and whichever it was, how did you learn to play it like you do?
ST: As I have said many times on stage, they are both the same instrument, it’s just how you fiddle around with them. My mother started me playing the violin using the “Suzuki method” when I was seven years old.
BTC: What caused you to start fiddling around with the violin?
ST: I started fiddling around with the violin when Mr. Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys came to Japan and did a concert that I went to out of curiosity. It included “Listen to the Mocking Bird,” played by fiddler Howdy Forrester that just knocked me out. It was that song and the music and encouragement of Mr. Acuff that inspired me to start fiddling and come to the United States.
BTC: How did your mom feel about your change to fiddling around instead of playing the classical violin?
ST: My mom was a little questionable, but she was open about it. I had a problem with my violin teacher because initially she, “Wasn’t buying it.” Eventually however, they both came around.
BTC: When did you come to the United States?
ST: A long time ago – 1967.
BTC: How did you end up in Branson?
ST: I was working in and out of Nashville, as well as all over the country performing concerts. A friend of mine told me about Branson. It sounded really interesting so I decided to come and visit. I fell in love with the beautiful surroundings and with the warmth of the people who live here.
BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
ST: The great fishing! I just loved the warm water fishing for bass in Table Rock Lake and being able to fish for trout in Lake Taneycomo.
BTC: How long have you been Performing in Branson?
ST: I have been performing in Branson for about 34 years, of which, 27 have been in my own show.
BTC: Why did you build your own theatre?
ST: Dorothy and I had a vision of the kind of show we wanted to present. There was not an available existing theatre in Branson at the time that would enable us to fulfill that vision, so we built our own.
BTC: The Shoji Tabuchi Show became the de-facto standard for a musical production show in Branson. How did that evolve?
ST: The theatre was specifically designed for a production show but, in addition, it is thanks to the vision, planning, and production of my wife Dorothy that we enjoy our reputation in that regard.
BTC: Your theatre has been recognized nationally because of its extravagant and unusual restrooms. How did they evolve?
ST: They were Dorothy’s idea. I was initially against the idea, but WOW, am I ever glad that she didn’t listen to me!
BTC: Who in your family is involved with the show?
ST: My daughter Christina sings and dances in the show and, along with my wife Dorothy, co-produces the show.
BTC: Recently you became a grandfather to a beautiful granddaughter. What is her name and the story behind how she got the name?
ST: Yukie Bailey-Jae. “Yukie” was my mom’s first name.
BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
ST: The audiences, and being able to have my own theatre, which allows me to perform my show the way that I want to and permits me to give them the very best show possible.
BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ST: I just love spending time with my family.
BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
ST: I would love to have seen and met Jascha Heifetz when he was alive. He was truly such an exceptional master of the violin.
BTC: In your career, of all the performances you have made and you have been in, no matter how big or small, which one personally meant the most to you and why?
ST: The performance that has meant the most to me personally was the first time my mom and dad came from Japan and saw me perform in my own theatre in Branson.
BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
ST: I used to fish, fish, and fish; now, I golf, golf, golf, and do a little bit of fishing.
BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
ST: I absolutely love to paint and also enjoy landscaping.
BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
ST: It wasn’t funny at that moment, but is now. It’s one of those situations that can happen any time when you have a live show. In the Finale of the show, the first four pickup notes were in the same key of the previous segment that I played, which was a gospel number. My wife Dorothy, daughter Christina, and all of the cast were on stage ready for the finale and I started playing the gospel number again. The band did not know how to follow me and I fumbled around playing until I finally got back on track with the correct song. I don’t think that many in the audience noticed anything was wrong, but we certainly did!
BTC: What part of your current show do you enjoy performing the most and why?
ST: I love talking with the audience and the variety of music we play which runs all the way from Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin to rock-n-roll, western swing, Gospel, and a lot in-between.
BTC: Of all the songs you have played in your Branson shows, which is your favorite and why?
ST: “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” from the movie “Ice Castles” because it’s such a beautiful melody and story.
BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
ST: Our goal, each and every year, is to have our guests come see the show and walk away saying, “I didn’t think it could get any better, but it has!” Making our guests feel, at all times, from the time they drive into the parking lot to the time they leave, that they are very special and deserve the very best. That is our daily goal. We want our guests to know that our dream of having our own theatre would never have been possible without their support. We would like to say a great big thank you!
For additional information or tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi Show or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, 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.