Category Archives: Branson Shows

Branson Up Close and Personal With Mickey Gilley

Mickey Gilley during interview.

Mickey Gilley during in depth interview.

National entertainment legend, Mickey Gilley came to Branson in the early 90s and is starting his 26th year in Branson in 2015. Known for his honky-tonk piano playing style and a string of 17 Number 1 hits, this country music icon, even in the face of a paralyzing injury, which would have put a lesser man down, is starring in the Mickey Gilley show. Along with the “Urbanettes” and the “Urban Cowboy Band,” this consummate entertainer, with his genuine talent, warmth and smile provides an unforgettable memorable one of a kind musical entertainment experience.

“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 Mickey Gilley (MG) 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 was one of the “”highs” of your life and one of the “lows?”
: High in my life was in 1974 when “Room Full of Roses” hit and went to Number 1 for me. The “low” [with a grin] was trying to follow my cousin Jerry Lee Lewis for 17 years before I had the hit.

BTC: What is your favorite childhood memory?
MG: Telling my sister that I was not going to go to the back of the house while she was sweeping and cleaning the front room floors. I grabbed the door and shook it and she ran after me. The race was on, and I outran her.

BTC: Of all the hits you have had which one is your personal favorite and why?
MG: That’s a hard one to answer because my fans have given me 17 top ten songs. I will say that “Room Full of Roses” has a special place in my heart, “Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time” was the best song ever given to me and that my favorite recording and one of my favorite records is “That’s All That Matters To Me.”

BTC: What one song do you enjoy performing the most?
MG: “Stand By Me,” a beautiful song, from the soundtrack of “The Urban Cowboy.” I am using to close my show this year.

BTC: Of all the professional moments and performances you have had, which has meant the most to you?
MG: When I met Conway Twitty in 1974 and opened a show for him in my night club in Pasadena, TX.

 BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?
MG: In 1959 I had a chart record, “Is It Wrong For Loving You,” that Kenny Rogers played the base on. Also, probably a lot of people don’t know that I had Commercial Pilot and Instrument Ratings and have flown my airplane for over 8,000 hours. I am also in the process of bringing Gilleys Beer back on the market.

BTC: If you could perform on stage with any other performer, living or dead, who would it be?
MG: Elvis Presley because he was always one of my favorites.

BTC: What is your favorite part in your current Branson show?
MG: When we do the music from the soundtrack of “Urban Cowboy” because it has some great music in it.

BTC: Was your first trip to Branson, business or pleasure?
MG: My first trip to Branson was in 1987 when I played for Mr. Jim Thomas at the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
MG: Was wondering what was going on in this little town that I had never heard of.

BTC: In what year did you open your own theatre?
MG: Jim Thomas opened the “Mickey Gilley Theatre” in 1989 and in 1990 I it took over.

BTC: How many years have you been performing in Branson?
MG: This is my 25th year.

BTC: Are you celebrating that in a special way?
MG: We’ve got a celebration coming up on October 5th. We are going to start at 2:00 p.m. and go until the ending. I don’t know how long that’s going to be, but we have a lot of other people coming in to celebrate with us. I don’t know who they are because it’s supposed to be a surprise.

BTC: Where and when were you born?
MG: I was born in Natchez, MS on March 9, 1936.

BTC: What relationship is Jerry Lee Lewis to you?
MG: First Cousin.

BTC: What relationship is Jimmy Swaggart?
MG: Second Cousin

BTC: Did either, separately or together, have any influence on your decision to become an entertainer?
MG: Jerry Lee Lewis.

BTC: How?
MG: He played piano, sang and had “hits” in the 50’s. I was making $1.25 per hour doing construction work and when I saw the kind of money he was making I thought, “If he can do it I can too” and decided to jump in. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that everyone was going to compare me to my cousin Jerry Lee Lewis. Actually, although I didn’t think about it at the time, in essence, what I was doing was performing a tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis and I was successful because I could do his music.

BTC: How long have you been performing professionally?
MG: Since 1957.

BTC: Where and when did you make your first professional appearance?
MG: That’s hard to pinpoint, but the first successful run I had in a “nightclub” was at The “Nesadel Club”, located on Spencer Highway in Pasadena Texas from 1960 to 1970. I worked six nights a week, did four sets a night and played piano, organ and sang along with a little three piece band.

BTC: When did “Gilley’s open?
MG: In 1971. I had decided to throw in the towel as far as recording goes and a partner and I started “Gilleys,” a honkytonk bar located on Spencer Highway not too far from the “Nesadel Club,”. In the first month in business with him I made more money than I had made since I had been in the music business period.

BTC: How did you get back in the recording business?
MG: In 1973 the lady who had the juke boxes in the club wanted me to record the song, “She Called Me Baby All-Night Long.” I told her I had not made a record in three and a half to four years, but I went in and made the recording for her putting “Room Full of Roses” on the flip, “B,” side. It took off locally in the Houston area in 1973 and became my first national hit in 1974.

BTC: What made you decide to open a theatre in Branson?
MG: My friend Jim Thomas thought it would be a good mix with those who were already  performing here and I was ready to get off the road.

BTC: You have been recovering from a horrific injury suffered in 2009. In terms of 100% how close are you to where you want to be?
MG: I’m about 80% recovered. I am walking performing and doing pretty well except that I can’t play the keyboards. My ultimate goal is to play golf again and play the  piano, but I think I will probably make the golf course before I make the piano.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MG: I would like them to know that Branson has some great entertainers and shows, we have a lot of wonderful people who are trying very hard to please the people who come to Branson and with all the great things it has to offer is a great place to come to vacation. I would like to invite everyone,  “To come and see us.”

Well I sure know who Billy Dean is now!


Bill Dean during opening set.

Bill Dean during opening set.

When I first heard the name Billy Dean in association with him coming to Branson to star in Kenny Rogers’ “The Toy Shoppe” last year I said, “Billy Dean who?” It didn’t take too long for someone to set me straight however, and let me know that he is a Grammy winner who has sold over four million albums, has had 11 top ten singles, five number one hits and that the song, “Somewhere In My Broken Heart,” which he wrote, won a CMA song of the year award. Earlier this year during an interview for an article entitled Branson Up Close and Personal with singer song writer Billy Dean I was impressed with his warmth, friendliness, the story of his career and his family priorities, but I had still had never seen him perform. I had the chance to go to his Billy Dean Live! show last week and all I can say is, “Wow, now I know why everyone in the world except me knew who Billy Dean was when he came to Branson.” He is one great entertainer; no gimmicks, just great music, most of it sung by the man who wrote it, surrounded by a great band, and one of the funniest comedians in Branson. What a unique, wonderful and fun filled two hours.

Billy laughing during a comedy skit with Jarrett Dougherty as Security Officer Billy Club.

Billy laughing during a comedy skit with Jarrett Dougherty as Security Officer Billy Club.

From a musical perspective, the show is presented in a concert format by Billy and his band “The Steel Horses.” He also Emcees and works the comedy with Dougherty as it is artfully woven into the show starting with the appearance of “Security Officer Billy Club” warning him that a woman called “Ima Pain,” who might be stalking him, had been seen out in the parking lot. “Ima” and some other zany characters kept me laughing during strategically placed skits that all tie into Billy already being on stage doing something else as he is “drawn” into the skit. The comedy just seems to naturally fit in with the flow of the show. The show opens with a high energy performance, by Dean and his band “The Steel Horses,” of the John Denver classic “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” one of the few “cover songs” in the show, but one Dean recorded in 2004 that went into the top 30 in “Billboard’s U.S.Hot Country Singles & Tracks Charts.” This production does not rely on “glitz and glamor.” Oh there’s great lighting and some special effects, but the show is primarily about the man, his music and his special ability to relate his stories about his life, career and family to his audience in a manner that they relate to and, even if for just a few moments, become vested in. In most cases, as the writer of most of the songs he sang, he gave an introduction as to how the song came to be or what it means to him. What a joy it was to see his vision come to life as I sat and listened to his music, not just the melody, but the lyrics. Although there were many highlights in this show two that stand out to me in this regard was his performance of “Let Them Be Little” with the video screens showing his children growing up and illustrating the songs point and his introduction to how the song “Good Brown Gravy” explaining how it had been written. It really added to my enjoyment of the performance of this unique and entertaining song. It’s almost like you are feeling the genuineness of the man through his music and the way he interacts with the audience. I loved the performance of his first number one hit, “Only Here For A Little While” and the lyrics. What wonderful wisdom so beautifully expressed. Another favorite moment for me was when Billy and his steel guitar player, Robbie Springfield, performed Merle Haggard’s classic country hit, “You Take Me For Granted.” Its beauty and simplicity made for a special elegant musical moment. As is the case with most Branson shows, the content is suitable for children. In addition, most children will like the color and characters of Jarrett Dougherty and the way Billy, through music and videos relates to his children and his own childhood. Both kids and adults will enjoy finding out, Billy Dean style, why “Billy The Kid” was actually “Harold The Kid.” The “Steel Horse Band,” is composed of Dusty Gross – lead guitar; Jason Pritchett, an “America’s Got Talent Finalist,” – Vocals, acoustic guitar; Robbie Blackwood – Drums; Steve Leech – Bass and Robbie Springfield- Steel, Guitar. The musicians do a fabulous job throughout the show and they are nothing, but pure talent and energy. If you want a show filed with great music, personality, fun, and comedy that will have you leaving entertained and inspired two hours later, wondering how the time passed so quickly, this is the show for you. For additional information or tickets for the Billy Dean Live! show, or any of Branson’s other 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 through its website,           Material Connection

Missed the “shot,” but got the “picture” of Branson’s Doug Gabriel

Doug Gabriel playing his famous "Mufftar." (File Photo)

Doug Gabriel playing his famous “Mufftar.” (File Photo)

Even in Branson things don’t always go as planned, but perhaps for a reason. The plan was to take a couple of photos from about four morning shows all within about an hour for a story I was planning on writing. Things were on schedule as I walked into Doug Gabriel’s #1 Hits Tribute Show hoping to get a couple of quick shots of one of Branson’s premier vocalists performing.

Now you must understand that the success of the plan depended on getting in and out of each show quickly. I arrived in the middle of a pretty funny skit involving the shows comedian, Doug’s son Jordon, known as “The Flying J,” breaking in a new “horn” section comprised of audience volunteers. The new section was to accompany the band, with him as “director” and Doug in performing the Elvis hit, “It’s Now Or Never.” It was hilarious and, wow, “The Flying J” has some neat moves. Reminds me of some of the great moves made by Justin Clark as “Elwood Blues” in the “Blues Brothers” segment of the Legends in Concert Show, but I digress because, as enjoyable as it was, my time to get a picture of Doug performing was fast passing by.

“What luck,” I thought when Doug walked out on the stage with his “Mufftar.” It’s a one of a kind instrument made out of a 1969 Ford Thunderbird muffler by Doug’s dad, Don, when Doug first decided he wanted to play the guitar as a child. It has a very pleasant distinctive sound and he announced that he was going to play both parts of “Dueling Banjoes.” There he was, just where I wanted him, playing the very instrument he has made famous. I lined up the shot and took it only to find out that I had not put the memory card in the camera. Well so much for the pictures for the big “Branson Morning Show Story.”

As Doug played however, it didn’t make any difference. I like the sound of the Mufftar and the way Doug was playing the song so I thought, “Let’s just set a spell and listen,” and boy am I glad I did. Just about the time I figured Doug was through playing I saw something that I had not seen before as the band members all came forward with instruments they had made from car parts and joined him for one of the most exciting, unique and entertaining renditions of “Dueling Banjos” I have ever heard. Doug later told me that the band members had made the instruments originally to surprise him for his 50th birthday and that he liked it so much he kept “The Car Parts Band” in the show.

As I listened to him sing, “Unchained Melody” and experienced his performance of “Malaguena” on the acoustical guitar and “Chariots of Fire” on the piano I “got the picture” and was reminded of why Doug Gabriel has won so many Branson entertainment awards, been a Branson entertainment staple for over 29 years and, along with his lovely wife, the very talented Cheryl Gabriel, are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their own show this year. I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Doug Gabriel’s #1 Hits Tribute Show involves the whole Gabriel family, with son Jordon doing the comedy, Josh playing drums and Jasmine doing vocals. It is truly a show that the whole family will enjoy and relate to.

Might not have gotten the pictures, but perhaps today was meant to simply enjoy the moment. That I surely did.

A unique Branson entertainment experience of legendary proportions


Kenney Chesney, recreated by Todd Bradshaw, with dancers having "A Beer In Mexico."

Kenney Chesney, recreated by Todd Bradshaw, with dancers having “A Beer In Mexico.”

Is the Super Bowl just another football game or does it occupy a legendary place in the annals of football? In like fashion, Branson’s Legends in Concert occupies a legendary place in the annals of tribute artist shows not only in Branson, but worldwide. Where else, except Legends in Concert in Branson, can someone find recreations of Kenny Chesney, The Blues Brothers, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Whitney Houston and Elvis Presley ensconced in one spectacular entertainment production with talented dancers, great musicians, colorful costumes and great special effects and sets? The answer is, “Nowhere” and during the first week of July I had the chance to experience this wonderful production first hand.

It is obvious, that the “Legends” being recreated are the focal point of the show, but my enjoyment of the show, as a total entertainment experience, was greatly enhanced by the shows dancers, backup vocalists and the band. The shows dancers are Larry Miller, Jamie Curry, Stephanie Young, Cindy Dardas, Elisha Conner and Desta Pritchett with Conner and Pritchett also providing backup vocals. The band is composed of Kevin Allen, musical director and lead guitar; Eddie Howard, drums; Brian Zerbe, bass guitar and Lyman Clark, keyboards.

Katy Perry performing with Dancer in one of the many colorful costumes she wears during her set.

Katy Perry performing with the dancers in one of the many colorful costumes she wears during her set.

Each of the “Legends” being recreated has their own style and type of music. The talent, versatility, and energy of the dancers and band is beautiful to see and hear as they seamlessly adapt to the different styles and genres of music being performed by the individual super stars being recreated. Although there are many such occasions during the show, one that really stuck out in my mind came during the “Katy Perry” set when she was performing her “Part of Me /Dance Break/ET Medley.” The dancing, lighting and special effects were stunning and that’s just one number in one set.

Each of the performing “Legends” or “Superstars” does a set of four plus numbers including some of their biggest hits. Here’s a synopsis of each, in order of appearance, along with one of my favorite numbers from each set:

Kenney Chesney, recreated by Todd Bradshaw, a Branson favorite, starts the show off in grand style doing a number of Chesney’s top hits including “When the Sun Goes Down,” “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and others. Ok, I just have to say it, “I don’t know why ‘she thought his tractor was sexy,’ but I know why I think his tractor is sexy and so will you after seeing and hearing it performed Legends in Concert style. My favorite number from his set was “You Had Me From Hello.” Not only was it a great job on a very beautiful song, but he invited folks to come down to the front and dance to it which many did. It’s hard to describe, but it was a special moment.

Another thing that’s really neat, and goes on periodically throughout the show, is the large screens on either side of the theatre showing some of the original artists performing, minus sound, while the recreator performs. The similarities and mannerisms between the original performances and what I saw and heard going on live before my very eyes was uncanny.

Justin Timberlake recreated by Scott Jordon during his set.

Justin Timberlake recreated by Scott Jordon during his set.

The Blues Brothers, performed by Justin Clark as Elwood Blues and Bucky Heard as Jake Blues, are permanent Branson cast members, but no matter how many times I have seen them perform I am always amazed at their performance. “From their first number to the last they are nothing, but pure energy and entertainment and a joy to see and hear.” My favorite number from their set was “Shout” because it ties the talents of the two Blue Brothers together with the dancers, back up vocalists and band into another extremely energetic and entertaining production number.

Katy Perry, recreated by Stacey Whitton, gave a colorful high energy performance of some of Perry’s top hits including “California Gurls,” “Part of Me” and others with some of the quickest and “neatest” costume changes I have ever seen a vocalist make on a Branson stage. The use of the dancers, and the special effects during this set, particularly as noted above, coupled with her performance, and costuming really made for an exciting and colorful set.

My favorite number was her performance of “Firework” with her inspirational introduction and invitation for the “kids” in the audience to come up on stage and “help” her, which many did. I don’t know that I have ever seen the younger crowd in an audience as excited in a Legends show as I did during this set; they just loved her. Now I have to confess, I honestly did not know who “Katy Perry” was, but I do now.

Justin Timberlake, recreated by Scott Jordan, did a beautiful job performing a number of his top hits including “Suit and Tie, “Mirrors,” “My Love” and others. As the side videos played and I compared his sound, looks and mannerisms to those of Timberlake himself I was amazed. This guy is good. My favorite number was his performance of “SexyBack” with the shows dancers and backup vocalists.

Cynthia Minx as Whitney Houston singing "I Will Always Love You."

Cynthia Minx as Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You.”

Whitney Houston, recreated by Cynthia Minx, started her set with a beautiful powerful rendition of “Every Woman” that set the tenor for the set. With Whitney Houston it was all about the voice and this lady has the voice. I just sat there and listened in joyful bliss as she sang “I Wanna Dance;” “Greatest Love,” which she dedicated to the children, and “I’ll Always Love You” which blew my socks off. What an extraordinary vocal performance!

Elvis was performed by Dean Z who won the national “2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest,” sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. As he performs a number of Elvis’ hits, from “Jail House Rock” to “If I can Dream,” it’s easy to see why. My favorite part was when he and the band had an informal jam session and took requests from the audience including, among others, “Steamroller Blues,” which Elvis added to his concerts in the 1970s. Although Dean Z lives in Branson and has been a permanent Branson cast member for a number of years he is traveling to other Legends in Concert venues at various times this year, but is currently performing in Branson.

Legends in Concert, with just the mini concerts of its “superstar” impersonators, would be great entertainment in itself. However, with the addition of colorful costuming, the band and dancers all seamlessly choreographed into the performances of the “superstars” the show becomes an entertainment production and experience of legendary proportions that truly has something for everyone. It truly is a unique Branson entertainment experience of legendary proportions.

For additional information or tickets for Legends in Concert 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 by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website




Material Connection

Incredible show celebrates Acrobats of China 16th year in Branson


This rolling pyramid is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

This rolling pyramid is as dangerous as it is beautiful.

When Mr Lizhi Zhao, the CEO and Owner of the Acrobats of China, first brought the show to Branson 16 years ago it seemed like a strange fit, music shows, primarily country at the time, and a Chinese Acrobatic show. The years have shown however, that Branson audiences appreciate the skill, grace, uniqueness and quality of the show as it celebrates its 16th year in Branson at a new venue, the “RFD-TV Theatre,” with an entirely new troupe of performers, the award winning Jinan Troupe, who premiered for the first time in Branson on June 30.

Lovely Fish, Director of Sales for the show said, “While we’ve enjoyed other acrobatic troupes through the years, this is hands down the best we’ve seen yet!” After seeing the premier Branson performance of Jinan Troupe it’s easy to see why she feels that way and why they are considered to be one of the most skilled and highly awarded Chinese Acrobatic Troupes. Their performance was nothing short of incredible.

This from a man who has been seeing this show for about 12 of its 16 years in Branson. From the high energy, colorful and spirited opening to its curtain call, its 16 acts left me sitting in awe at the beauty, grace, talent, strength and daring I had just witnessed. And if that’s all there was that would have been enough, but it is all presented in a beautiful choreographed production that includes extremely colorful costuming, music, dance and theatrics for each act as the show smoothly transition from one act to the next.

The show truly has something for everyone, but the really neat thing is that the vast majority of it will appeal to the whole family. The Wright family’s comments after seeing the show illustrate this point. Mr. Wright said the show was, “Fantastic,” that his favorite acts were the “strength act” with the guy on the pole [The Human Flag Pole] and the Chair Stacking act and he would absolutely recommend the show for families. Their 12 year old son said that he enjoyed “everything,” his favorite act was when they were jumping through the rings [Hoop Jumping] and believes that other kids his age would enjoy the show as much as he did.

I would echo Mr. Wright’s sentiments. It is a fantastic show that will appeal to the whole family because of its color, energy, daring, skill and variety. Covering everything from juggling with machetes to a fantastic synchronized performance with the Diabolo, Chinese yoyo, to Multi Bowl Tossing from High Unicycles, Hoop Diving, Cycling and more; this show is one incredible entertainment experience.

Acrobat somersaulting through loop as the same time the one twirling it is jumping in and out of the loop.

Acrobat somersaulting through loop at the same time the one twirling it is jumping in and out of the loop.

My favorite three acts would be the “Human Flag Pole,” “Poles and Ropes” and the “Cycling” acts. Formally called, “Handstand on a Pole,” it is what some have described as the “Human Flag Pole ” because, at one point, the acrobat is perfectly perpendicular to the pole, held in a flag like position with only his two arms, skill and strength holding on to the pole. His display of grace and strength as he moves through intricate movements in slow motion being held up by just his arms was an audience favorite, is absolutely incredible and like nothing I have ever seen.

“Poles and Ropes,” is an exciting example of what these superb acrobats can do when their acrobatic and athletic skills are combined with their rope twirling It’s absolutely incredible and again, something I have never seen before. Oh yes, I have seen rope twirlers, but nothing like this. Most of us have seen someone twirl a rope and jump in an out, but until last night I never saw someone twirl and rope and as he was jumping in and out a guy comes out of nowhere, ok so he came from somewhere, and did a somersault through the same loop while he was doing it.

The “Synchronized Cycling” act involved six or more of the female acrobats performing a synchronized act on bicycles that was as beautiful and graceful as it was dangerous. The pyramid of nine girls as the base of four bicycles kept moving was amazing and this incredible act was topped off by “How many acrobats going around on one bicycle?”

There was no aerial silk act because they were in the process of installing the rigging, but when it is up it will make an incredible show even more so. If you want to see something unique, exciting, colorful, that the whole family will enjoy and in a class by itself, even among Chinese acrobatic shows, then you don’t want to miss these championship acrobats 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,




Five Branson show reviews from recent Branson showgoers

Hamners' Unbelievable Variety Show .

Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show .

Many, including myself, write reviews, articles and posts about Branson shows, but for a current inside look at Branson shows from those who have an insider’s view because they have seen the shows recently, and for that matter everything else “Branson,” along with information and feedback, from locals and visitors alike, it’s hard to beat the Forums of 1Branson.Com, Branson’s biggest message board. Specifically, be they abbreviated or extensive, the show reviews in its Show Forum provide a unique perspective and freshness.

The following reviews recently posted in the “Show Forum, are listed alphabetically and followed by the name of the poster and date posted in italics:

AYO staring Voices of Glory – Went to see AYO again last night. If you want a show that will touch your heart, AYO is it. If you want a fast paced show, AYO is it. If you want to see talented performers, AYO is it. The boys are very talented & excellent singers. Nadia, was voted young entertainer of the year. Branson has a lot of very good female vocalists. I’m not going to say, she’s the best, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said she was. She certainly is right at the top of the list. As far as being the best female entertainer, in totality, in my opinion, she is the total package & the best in Branson. I feel confident, in saying, put AYO (Voices of Glory) on your must see list, you won’t be sorry. Helppitch, June 21, 2014

Acrobats of ChinaYesterday we attended the Amazing Acrobats of China, and they were amazing. We’d never been to this one before and wanted to try it out. We weren’t disappointed and found the culture lesson that was included with the performance very interesting. How those young people accomplish all that balancing in those various situations is beyond me. Branson Junkie, June 24, 2014

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies – We have seen both the “12 Irish Tenors” and “Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies”…some of the same guys that were in the 12 Irish Tenors are also in the new show. They do many of the same songs in the new show that they did in the old one…The 4 girls in the new show are very good, and bring a good variety of songs… Wait until you hear one of them do Nessun Dorma…I had never heard that sung by a woman until this show, but she does a fabulous job! All that to say, this is a good show and I’m sure you would enjoy it. Lots of energy, lots of variety, the guys and girls do some numbers together and seem to have a good time working with each other. Try it out. thesaint, June 17

Grand JubileeJust returned from our Saturday night show – Grand Jubilee.  WOW!  WOW!  WOW!  New South quartet is excellent, Jackie Brown is excellent, the Grand Band is excellent, Mike Patrick is excellent and Jim Dandy is so multi-talented it’s amazing. Branson Junkie, June 21, 2014

Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show – Really, REALLY dug the new show and format… While I always found Jim entertaining, his set hadn’t changed too much throughout the past few years… With the new show, a true Variety show in every sense of the word, it looks like Dave Hamner has been reinvigorated and it shows on stage… Really fun show with just about everything you’d expect to see in a great show… Highly recommend it. Writingfool, June 13, 2014

Want funny in Branson? Here’s five of its funniest comedians

Gary Presley, "Herkimer" with son Erik, "Cecil" in one of their hilarious skits.

Gary Presley, “Herkimer” with son Erik, “Cecil” in one of their hilarious skits.

BRANSON, Mo., June 27, 2014 – Offering shows as diverse as the Acrobats of China to Jonah, Mickey Gilley, the Haygoods and Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Branson’s reputation for the variety, quantity and quality of its shows is unmatched by travel destinations anywhere near its size. Primarily known for its music shows covering just about every musical genre, Branson also offers some of the most unique, funny and family friendly comedy available anywhere.

Comedy has been a major part of the Branson shows ever since the Baldknobbers “started it all” with its mixture of music and comedy. Here is an overview of five of Branson’s best comedians from four of its most popular shows:

1. Gary Presley of Presleys’ Country Jubilee has been entertaining Branson audiences ever since the Presleys’ opened the first theatre on what is now known as “The Branson Strip” in 1967 with its mixture of music and comedy. Known on stage as “Herkimer,” Gary is the consummate master of his craft, and with a combination of his unique style of humor and “Ozark hillbilly” costume has been making Branson audiences laugh longer than any other comedian on the Branson strip. Along with his son Erik, Presley “,Cecil” on stage, and a combination of comedy skits, one liners, jokes on current events and other common topics, action routines, some great props, and special effects, this creative comedy duo keeps audiences of all ages laughing and wondering about what’s coming next.

Jamie Haage, "Jim Dandy," and Mike Patrick.

Jamie Haage, “Jim Dandy,” and Mike Patrick.

2. Paul Harris, the comedian in Paul Harris & The Cleverlys Show, has been having Branson audiences “busting their guts” laughing for over 20 years. Paul’s style is standup comedy and boy is he ever funny. Where else will you find out why it’s not a great idea to go swimming with a Sperm Whale? His comedy has that good old boy comfort of Jeff Foxworthy, turns almost anything worth talking about into an occasion of laughter and while “‘cutting edge’ he always walks the line and keeps his show clean.”

3. Jarrett Dougherty, currently performing with the Billy Dean Live Show, is another very funny man who will have you laughing from the beginning to the end of the show with his comedy. His comedy is most often presented through the various “characters” he becomes and often involves a straight man. It will have you laughing and sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what he is going to come up with next, but one thing is for sure, this is one funny guy.

4. The multitalented Jamie Haage does a hilariously funny job of playing “Jim Dandy” and providing the comedy in the Grand Jubilee show. You’ve heard of “dark comedy,” well welcome to “orange comedy,” where, strategically placed throughout the show, Jim Dandy, along with his straight man, the shows Emcee Mike Patrick, will have you laughing until you hurt with a blend of comedy and one liners.

For additional information or tickets on the shows mentioned in the article 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,

Did you know this about Branson’s “Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies?”

"Celtic Ladies" performing "Moon River" tribute to Andy Williams.

“Celtic Ladies” performing “Moon River” tribute to Andy Williams.

As a big fan of the “Twelve Irish Tenors,” it was with some trepidation that I attended the show that has replaced it at the Kings Castle Theatre in Branson, Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies on June11th. It didn’t take but two notes, ok so maybe it was a bar or two, of the “Celtic Ladies” beautiful show opening performance of “Danny Boy” to put my mind at ease and let me know that the tradition of beautiful and powerful Irish and, I was soon to find out, “Celtic” music, was not only alive and well at the Kings Castle, but evolving into a new and even more entertaining show establishing its own unique tradition and standard of entertainment excellence.

By the time they had finished their first set including “Scarborough Fair,” an acapella performance of “Loch Lomand” and the “Sky Boat Song” and Maggie Moore’s beautiful solo of “O Mio Babbino Caro” I was thinking “12 Irish Who?” Just kidding, but the performance of “Celtic Ladies,” Maggie Moore, Kelly Osbourne, Heather Peterson and Sarah Tochtrop was a wonderful way to start the show and set the bar, in terms of audience expectation, for what was to follow.

Dublins Irish Tenors

Dublins Irish Tenors

Not to be outdone, the “Dublin Irish enors,” Tony Turner, Robert Quibell, Jay MacManus, Alex Webster and Chism Ruden, opened their first set. They started with, among others, an inspirational performance of “You Raised Me Up,” a medley of Irish Songs including “Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Sweet Rosie O Grady, “McNamara’s Band and “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral” and Elton Johns “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.”

Each of these vocalists, in their own right, is impressive, but when combined with the others in their group and with both groups together the result is a beautiful, powerful and unique vocal performance that is not available on any other Branson stage. Their presentation of the shows unique blend of Celtic music mixed with just the right amount of current contemporary and classical favorites is a joy to experience and will be enjoyed by “music lovers of all ages.” Add great lighting effects, sound, sets, costuming and choreography surprises with virtually every number and the result is a completely wonderful, entertaining and inspiring entertainment experience.

Will children enjoy this show? There are no animals, peer performances by other children or segments specifically designed for children, but when combined with its sets, costuming and dancing, children who have an appreciation of or simply enjoy music will like this show. [An aside, for a show that will “knock the socks off adults” as well as children don’t miss Le Grand Cirque also at the Kings Castle Theatre.]

In a show packed with some of the most touching and beautiful music of all time, presented by singers with such talent and energy, there are many highlights .From those, three of my favorites were the Celtic Ladies performance of the show’s opening number, “Danny Boy,” the opening Irish medley by the Dublin Tenors and their combined performances of “I Believe” and, my all-time favorite song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” My absolute favorite however, was Maggie Moore’s magnificent performance of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.” What a beautiful job!

For additional information or tickets for Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies 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 through its website,


Recent Branson show goers really dig Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show

Earlier this year I wrote a “review” of what at the time was Branson’s newest show, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety show entitled,Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show Is “Unbelievably” Entertaining.

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

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

In that review I said, “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.'”

This week [June 14], a series of posts were made to the “Show Forum,” on Branson’s biggest message board, www.1Branson.Com about the show by those who have seen the show more recently. In view of the fact that this is the time of the year when many families with children come to Branson we thought it timely to share these more recent personal reviews. As indicated in the following excerpts from the posts, prefaced with the name of the poster in bold, they too were impressed with the show and recommend it:

Writingfool: Really, REALLY dug the new show and format…With the new show, a true Variety show in every sense of the word. Really fun show with just about everything you’d expect to see in a great show… Highly recommend it

Helppitch: …they have put together a very nice show. A couple nice Russian dancers/acrobats, also a very good/funny ventriloquist, plus Tamra & Jeff & the Hamners with their birds.

Leftsaidted: Yes! Saw it just a week or so ago. The show has been good in the past, but this year is MUCH better! The Russian father/daughter team are outstanding. She is amazing when performing even by herself. The female ventriloquist is very, very funny. The illusion/magic acts are also very well done, some new ones…this year. Put it on your MUST SEE for 2014.

Particularly, at this time of year when a lot of families are coming to Branson I would point out the area in our previous review where I said, “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 majority of the show; Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show is one of those shows.

Material Connection

Four things to consider when picking a Branson show for children

Children love "Jonah." It has it all action, color, spectacle, peer performers and an ageless story.

Children love “Jonah.” It has it all action, color, spectacle, peer performers and an ageless story.

“One question we get asked quite often, especially at this time of year with many of families vacationing in Branson, is ‘What are the best shows for children?'” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “All of Branson’s shows, in terms of content, are suitable for children but ‘what is best’ for a particular child depends on their age, attention span, interests and other factors,” she added.

Based on my experience with Branson shows over the last 28 years, Johnson’s advice is right on. She’s in an excellent position to know because the Branson Tourism Center will sell its four millionth ticket this month and many of those tickets were sold to families with children. Ask most Branson shows and they will tell you that there is something in their show “for children of every age.” That might very well be true for a short portion of the show, but some shows, more than others are more likely to hold the interests of children throughout more of the show than others. Realizing that these may overlap, here’s three things to consider when considering a Branson show for children:

1. Does the show have a lot of action or animals throughout that will appeal to your children? Most children like action and variety throughout the show. Some shows have a lot of action and variety that naturally and obviously appeals to children such as the Acrobats of China, Amazing Pets, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety ShowLe Grand Cirque, Dixie Stampede, Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience, Illusionist Rick Thomas and Jonah among others.

2. Does the show have performers in it that your children will relate to on a peer to peer basis? This one is tricky because it’s not just a matter of having children performing; it’s about the quality of their performance and how it relates to the total entertainment experience of everyone in the audience because these shows, although designed to hold the interests of children throughout with key peer to peer performances, are primarily music shows. Some do it with a mixture of performers going from their star parents to younger children; prime examples of this type of show would be the Duttons, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, and it at the Hughes Brothers Theatre. In others, such as the Haygoods and Ayo staring the Voices of Glory, the stars themselves are the peer to peer performers that children, particularly teenagers, will relate to.

3. Does the show have enough color, spectacle, or action to hold your child’s interest throughout the show? Is there enough color, spectacle and action intermixed throughout the show, whether intended specifically for children or not, to hold their interest? Presleys’ Country Jubilee is an excellent example of this type of show where their colorful costumes and the hilarious action filled comedy of “Herkimer” and his son “Cecil” combine with outstanding music into a show that has been successfully and continuously entertaining families visiting Branson since 1967.

4. Does the child have the attention span to sit through the show? This is primarily age related and something only the parent or adult thinking of taking a child to a show would know. If after considering the three factors listed above the answer is, “No,” then it might be advisable to spend the time and money enjoying one of Branson’s many other activities such as the Titanic Museum Attraction, a sightseeing cruise aboard the river boat replica Lake Queen, the Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery or any one of the dozens of other Branson Attractions.