Category Archives: Branson Shows

Seven Branson Insider Tips for May 2014

Launch capsule being lifted into place on top of White Water's "KaPau Plummet."

Launch capsule being lifted into place on top of White Water’s “KaPau Plummet.”

“Branson Insider Tips” is based on information gathered personally from local Branson contacts, the “Branson experts” at the Branson Tourism Center, the Branson CVB, social media sites and other sources. They are offered in the spirit of providing Branson visitors with some tips and highlights of what will be happening in Branson during the month of May that they can use in planning a trip to Branson.

1. Featured Show: Clay Cooper’s Country Express is perennially one of Branson’s most popular shows. “This show is chock full of variety, including New York’s number one cowboy, the trick roping and gun slinging Johnny Lonestar, and a fantastic live, seven piece band. Clay’s multi-talented wife, Tina, leads a dazzling group of dancers, and other featured performers including Colt Cooper, and Oklahoma’s little sweetheart, Ezrah Noell. Of course the show stars and is hosted by one of Branson’s most talented and engaging performers, the incomparable Clay Cooper!”

2. Special Dining Tips: Recently, on their Facebook Page, the Branson Tourism Center asked the question, “Where is the one restaurant / cafe you have to eat at when you come to Branson?” With 95 people responding “Danna’s BBQ” was recommended the most, but the majority of comments provide some neat information on a variety of Branson’s top restaurants not available anywhere else. Click here to view the post and comments.

3. Limited Engagement Performances:

Gene Watson Appearing At Larry’s Country Diner

Jimmy Fortune Appearing At Larry’s Country Diner

4. White Water debuts its new $1.7 million KaPau Plummet thrill ride: When White water opens for its 2014 season on May 17, it will debut its new four story high thrill ride KaPau Plummet. It starts with you standing on a clear acrylic floor looking down at where you are about to fall, waiting, anticipating the time at which that floor drops out underneath you and you fall at an angle of 70 degrees, reaching speeds of 26 feet per second as you traverse the 240 feet of the slide down four stories through a translucent tube.

5. Unique Mother’s Day Dinner Cruise: Treat Mom to a very special and unique Mother’s Day Dinner by taking her on a special dinner cruise aboard Main Street Lakes Cruises’ 100 foot luxury yacht the Landing Princess. In addition to a special Mother’s Day Menu and complimentary Champagne, Mom can relax while leisurely cruising on beautiful Lake Taneycomo amid the beauty of the Ozarks with those she cherishes.

6. Silver Dollar City Bluegrass & Barbeque Festival: This festival, held from May 8 through June 1, features some of the top names in Bluegrass music such as Rhonda Vincent and Rage, the James King Band and dozens more along with mouthwatering BBQ. Of course all this is in addition to everything else the international award winning theme park offers on a daily basis.

7. The Shindig Shuffle: As part of the Ozark Mountain Shindig, Branson shows and entertainers, with the cooperation of Branson visitors, will attempt to perform the world’s longest line dance on Saturday, May 31, 2014 between 10:30 PM and 11:30 PM.

For information on these and the many other shows, attractions, events and shopping that Branson has to offer please feel free to contact the “Branson experts” at the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-875-1550 daily from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM CST.

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


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

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.


10 People Share Favorite Things to Do While in Branson

The Titanic Museum Attraction pictured amid the beauty of spring which can't come soon enough this year.

The Titanic Museum Attraction pictured amid the beauty of spring which can’t come soon enough this year.

“There is so much to see and do in Branson that it is often hard to decide what to do,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing, Branson Tourism Center. This week on the Branson Tourism Facebook page, in conjunction with announcing our first ever contest giving away a Branson Spring Break Family package, we asked people if they would comment on their “favorite thing to do or see in Branson.” From the many received, we picked ten in the hopes that the “favorite things to do” from people who have actually been to Branson” might be of benefit to those trying to decide what to see and do while in Branson.

The comments are listed in no particular order, and include the Facebook name of the commenter, the total comment and links to additional information:


Shoji Tabuchi and his daughter Christina.

Shoji Tabuchi and his daughter Christina.

Geneva Madding Vance: My favorite thing in Branson is the Christmas Lights and I love to watch the Branson Landing water fountain. I love to walk downtown and shop in the quaint stores. Really enjoy Six and Shoji.

Genevieve Rose: I have been to Branson four times…I could go every year if I could afford it. I love it, but the last time in 2013, at 63 yrs of age, I went Zip-lining…OHHHH…that was the most fun ever…I love the shows especially at the Sight and Sound Theatre…[Biblical spectacular Jonah premieres March 22.]


Linda Hale: I love everything about Branson. We see the shows Presleys, SIX, Clay Cooper, Gilleys, Dixie Stampede. We also love The Sight & Sound Theatre, Ride The ducks, seeing the lake [Branson has two lakes the 22 mile long cold water Lake Taneycomo and the 43,000 surface acre warm water Table Rock Lake], shopping & all the good places to eat, but what we really like is how great the people are in Branson.

Alan Mears: Branson has so much going for it! Have vacationed there for the last 19 years & consider it like my second home. It has a Christian spirit, is family friendly & family oriented with a good, honest fun attitude-filled with museums, a variety of shows, theme parks, great dining, shopping, outdoor activities, delicious food & an amazing blend of old & new talent. It has an atmosphere of hospitality & patriotism, with many different things to do for all ages-can even be a romantic getaway since it is one of the most beautiful places in America with a wide array of things to see & do throughout all the seasons. The memories are awesome, especially bringing someone to Branson for the first time. My Favorite thing is- all the above & so much more!

Pam Hook: RELAX, golf, and shows!!!!


Innovations like its new world breaking "Outlaw Run" wooden coaster have helped Silver Dollar City "Create memories worth repeating" for over 50 years.

Innovations like its new world breaking “Outlaw Run” wooden coaster have helped Silver Dollar City “Create memories worth repeating” for over 50 years.

Ashley Fuller: There’s so much to choose from! It would be nice if we had more vacation time and hours in the day to do it all! I would have to say Silver Dollar City, Branson Landing Shopping, Dixie Stampede, Sight and Sound Theater, Titanic, mini golf, Segways and Grand Country.

Joyce Soule Stump: So many things to do. It is hard to pick one or two. Love the Baldknobbers, great restaurants, great motels [Lodging], Dick’s 5 & 10, Flea markets etc.

Dee-Dee Saluppo Baker: Titanic

Deborah Gander Smith: The shows, the lake and the new riverfront [Branson Landing].

We noticed too; most had a tough time picking just one favorite thing, but isn’t that a wonderful memory to have, a vacation with so many favorite things that you couldn’t pick just one.

Rankin Brothers illustrate annual revitalization of Branson shows


Matt, Left and Mark Rankin discussing number with Band Director Cody Titus.

Three questions that come up a lot, particularly at this time of the year are “How do Branson shows keep their material fresh and exciting from year to year?” “How much of their material changes from year to year?” “Will I see the same show this year that I saw last year?” Based on my personal experience over the last 28 years, in the majority of cases, the short answers to those questions, in order are, “Hard work and effort,” “lots” and “No.”

Over the years it has been my privilege to talk about this subject with a number of different long time Branson shows including Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Clay Cooper’ Country Express, Shoji Tabuchi, Duttons, Haygoods and many more. Without exception, each spends a large part of the “off season” developing routines, numbers, costuming, special effects, lighting and other things that they believe will make their shows relevant, fresh, exciting and new while retaining those elements that their audiences like the most and look forward to them performing.

I caught up with the Rankin Brothers, Mark and Matt, the stars of one of Branson’s most entertaining shows and their dad, Larry, who is also their manager, as they were rehearsing for their 2014 show opening March 5 in the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre. These early season rehearsals are a far cry from the full scale production Branson visitors see in the actual show. No sets, special effects or costuming just the grinding work of slowly working out and putting together each element of the show.

The Rankin rehearsal was no exception. Mark and Matt were on a bare stage with their band informally working through some of the numbers that will be in the show. It’s a very informal, but purposeful process with a lot of repetitiveness to get it just the way they want it. As I watched Matt going through the dance steps and singing for just one part of one piece, time after time while interfacing with Mark and the band to make adjustments, I could not help, but have a renewed appreciation for the dedication that the Rankins, as well as the majority of other Branson performers, have for their craft and giving their audiences the very best experience they can.

As Mark took a quick break I asked him how much of the show would be changed this year. He replied, “About 70-80 percent. Among lots of others, we are adding 30 new songs including ‘I Get Around’ by the Beach Boys; a new Frankie Valli segment including ‘Let’s Hang On’ and ‘Ragdoll;’ a Shania Twain segment; as well as bringing back the ‘American Trilogy’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’ In the Elvis segment.”

After Mark went back on stage to continue the rehearsal, Larry Rankin pointed out that the nature of their show and the hits associated music of the 50’s through the 90’s gives them a lot of flexibility to continually add new material to the show. He said, “Although we have a lot of new material in the show this year we have been very careful to keep those numbers and segments that our audiences have come to love and look forward to such as ‘The Anchor Holds.’ Our feeling is that if it is memorable enough to be a favorite of those who have seen the show before it’s a great number to share with new guests coming to the show.

Having seen the Rankin Brothers show a number of times I can truly say it is a wonderful feel good show presented by one of the most talented casts in Branson who take their audiences on “a wonderful musical journey through the classic music hits and super stars of the 50s through the 90s bringing back memories of this this timeless music performed as only they can do it.” The Rankin Brothers start their 2014 Branson shows on March 5.

For additional information on the Rankin Brothers show, or for information or tickets for 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.

What you should know about the opening of Branson’s 2014 Show Season


The premier of Sight and Sounds spectacular production of "Jonah" is a highlight of Branson's 2014 show season.

Just as the Ozark hills will soon burst forth with the beauty and freshness of a new spring so too do the stages of many of Branson’s shows explode with the excitement and freshness of a new season as Branson’s live shows begin to open and present their new shows for 2014. Still others such as Sight and Sound’s biblical spectacular Jonah, opening on March 22; Hamner’s Unbelievable Variety Show on March 11 and Billy Dean Live!, staring country music star Billy Dean on March 19 will be premiering new Branson shows.

Led into the 2014 season by the show that started it all, The Baldknobbers Country Jamboree and the shows at Grand Country, Grand Jubilee the Comedy Jamboree, and Amazing Pets, many of Branson’s shows have already begun their 2014 season. Mike Patrick, General Manager & Producer of Grand Country’s shows and the MC of the Grand Jubilee said that they begin rehearsing for their new shows in November, while doing their Christmas show, to be ready for a January opening of their 2014 shows.

In addition, a wide selection of some of Branson’s most popular shows opened their 2014 Branson Season during the first two months of the year. These include shows such as Acrobats of China, Clay Coopers Country Express in the theatre’s newly remodeled auditorium; Dancing Queen ABBA’s Greatest Hits; Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede; The Haygoods, who have moved to the Clay Cooper Theatre for the 2014 season; it at the Hughes Brothers Theatre; Legends in Concert; New Jersey Nights; Pierce Arrow and others.

As the season moves into March, just in time for Spring Break, many of Branson’s other shows will also open for their 2014 season. These include some of Branson’s favorite shows such as SIX, one of the hottest shows in Branson, on March 1; Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies; March 1, Rankin Brothers, March 5 at Yakov’s Theatre; the first show on the “Branson Strip” Presleys’ Country Jubilee, March 7; Mickey Gilley; March 30, Adventures of Marco Polo, April 20; Shoji Tabuchi, April 22 and many others as the 2014 Branson season gets into full swing.

Although it’s been mentioned previously, the premier of Jonah is worth mentioning again because of the grandeur and spectacle of its presentation on Sight and Sounds 300 foot surround stage. Perhaps the words of Dan Deal, the shows Director and Associate Producer sum it up best when he said that Jonah, “Is probably the most high energy vibrant and pretty show that we have ever done. It is a nonstop energy packed powerful story that takes off and keeps running just like Jonah himself does the whole way through. You will be surrounded by the show and engulfed by the underwater experience. From start to finish the show is jammed packed. It is fun, it’s funny, it’s endearing, it’s powerful and its life changing.”

Of course, with nearly 100 live entertainment shows, only a small sample of Branson shows are mentioned in this article and even then only briefly. For complete information on Branson shows, including schedules, descriptions, pictures, prices and, in most cases, videos, please see the Branson Tourism Center Show Schedule which can be sorted by the dates you will be in Branson with a couple of “mouse clicks.” For information or tickets on any Branson show or attaction or for Branson lodging please feel free to call Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.

3 Sure Signs of Spring in Branson


The Presley Family is ready for the 2014 Branson season.

After this winter we are all ready for spring. Here in Branson our Ozark Spring, for as long as I can remember, has been signaled by three things that generally happen before the official first day of spring. They happen pretty close together and two out of the three are not weather related, but it is generally considered spring in Branson when these three things have happened:

1. Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee has its first performance of the year – This pioneering Branson paradigm show has been a harbinger of spring in the Ozarks for over 45 years ever since the Presley family built the very first theatre on what is now the “Branson Strip.” Presleys’ is a wonderful blend of “patented comedy” and music that has been entertaining Branson audiences every season since 1967 with new comedy, music and costuming that brings the same excitement and freshness to the Branson show scene as Mother Nature brings to our beautiful Ozark Mountains each spring. Their first performance for the 2014 season is on March 7.

2. Silver Dollar City’s Opening – The opening of Branson’s oldest and most popular paid attraction, the award winning 1880s styled theme park, Silver Dollar City each year is not only a sure sign that it’s Spring has come to the Ozarks, but that Branson’s tourist season is getting ready to blossom. In addition to its six world class festivals, starting with World-Fest, Apr.6 through May 5, the park has a wide selection of rides the whole family can enjoy such as Powder Keg, Fire in the Hole, The Giant Swing, Wildfire, and Outlaw Run as well as the “Grand Exposition” with family friendly rides like the Magnificent Wave Carousel, Mighty Galleon, Electro Spin Royal Tea Party, Wings of Wonder, The Ladybugs and Happy Frogs. As great and exciting as the rides and festivals are, they are just part of the Silver Dollar City experience. There are shows and activities, many festival specific, throughout the whole park and dozens of practicing craftsmen from wood carvers to candle makers and glass blowers demonstrating their craft. Silver Dollar City starts its 2014 season on March 14.

3. Budding of the Redbuds – As I have fished Lake Taneycomo each year over the past three decades an early and sure sign of spring is the beautiful sight of the Redbuds breaking out along the banks. They were soon followed in concert by a spring palette of color as the Dogwoods and others burst forth, but always it seems the Redbuds lead the way with their simple elegance signaling the freshness and excitement of another Ozark Spring.

“The Spring colors along Lake Taneycomo and over our Ozark Hills is a beautiful once a year show that proclaims in elegant style the uniqueness of spring in the Ozarks and Branson,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing, Branson Tourism Center. “Why not plan to experience it yourself while on Spring Break? There is absolutely nothing in the world like spring in Branson,” she added.