Category Archives: Branson Shows

Branson’s amazing shows are absolutely not just country!

The Million Dollar Quartet, Moses, and Acrobats of China illustrate the diversity of Branson's shows.Branson's many non-country music shows

The Million Dollar Quartet, Moses, and Acrobats of China illustrate the diversity of Branson’s shows.

“It’s amazing how many people still think that Branson’s live shows are predominantly country,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “The amazing truth is that, while Branson offers some of the finest country music shows available anywhere, the majority of Branson’s great shows are absolutely not country and offer a wide variety of entertainment covering about every musical genre and things as diversified as biblical spectaculars, magic, acrobatics, and so, much more,” she continued.

From dozens, here’s ten shows, mostly from our list of Branson’s Most Popular Shows, that illustrate the diversity and excitement of the live shows Branson offers every day:

Acrobats of China is a colorful fast moving “circus” type of show appealing to children because of its many different acts of strength, agility, coordination and daring, along with constant action, colorful costumes, beauty and pageantry. The same thing that makes it a great entertainment experience for children makes it a great show for adults too

Amazing Pets will hold children’s interest from the beginning to the end. It combines the antics of well-trained cats and dogs, many of whom were rescued from animal shelters, and beautiful exotic birds with costuming, and an execution that provides a great entertainment experience for children and adults alike. Without spoiling the surprise, one thing is for sure, whether it’s the most unusual marriage ceremony most people have ever seen or a duplication of the cat jumping from the wire in the movie “Big Fish,” the antics of these pets are truly “amazing.”

Dixie Stampede features exciting entertainment and a fantastic four-course feast eaten “Dixie Stampede Style.” “Dixie” boasts a variety of fun features that include lumberjack relay, racing pigs, buffalo, 32 beautiful horses, all presented amid constant excitement, color, and pageantry. Add in the excitement of a friendly competition and you have an adventure and entertainment experience that the whole family will be immersed in from beginning to end.

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies: Some of Ireland’s best bring a bit of Ireland to Branson. This exciting production combines two great groups of performers; four beautiful ladies with angelic voices and five of the country’s finest tenors, performing a unique blend of traditional Irish folk ballads and classical and adult contemporary favorites.

The Haygoods: An amazing Branson experience! Excellent choreography, exquisite harmonies, state-of-the-art sound and special effects, a delightful sense of humor, and energy that never quits, you get it all in one show from one phenomenal family!

Illusionist Rick Thomas will have you wondering if it’s only an illusion…or truly magic? He uses his exceptional showmanship and incredible gracefulness, honed by years of ballroom dancing, to present a Branson show of stunning illusions and spectacular beauty! In doing so, he demonstrates an amazing ability to interact with the kids in the audience, actually uses some of them in his illusions, and has a special inspiring message for them.

Million Dollar Quartet: A singular moment, when four of the most extraordinary musical talents of our time, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, came together for one unforgettable night, is captured in this amazing production based on an actual event! Even neater, is the fact that the music in this show, songs such as That’s All Right, I Walk the Line, Riders in the Sky, Hound Dog, Peace in the Valley, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Blue Suede Shoes, and many more, are songs many already know and grew up with, not songs specifically written for the show.

Moses: Sight and Sound’s new Branson spectacular brings the Bible tale of Moses to life on its giant 300-foot wrap around stage. This epic and powerful story of one man’s journey, from being a humble and broken man, to the leader used by God to deliver the children of Israel from enslavement, is presented by a phenomenal cast with astonishing sets, live animals, wonderful music, and stunning costumes.

Reza – Edge of Illusion: Reza, the young master illusionist is back in Branson and is ready to bewilder and befuddle your brain with everything from big dazzling illusions to charming sleight-of-hand trickery!  “Reza” always leaves you scratching your head; struggling to rationalize what your eyes have seen with what you know is humanly impossible!

SIX: Branson’s sensational sibling singing group that, quite simply, defines the art of performing music without instruments! It’s sensational harmonizing, polished professionalism, zany on-stage antics presented by six of the most talented guys you’ll ever meet!

Wood points out that these are just ten from literally dozens of non-country shows that Branson visitors can pick from on a daily basis. For more information on these, and all the other shows that Branson offers, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

The amazing skill of The Acrobats of China is simply mind-blowing entertainment!

Fun shot of the cast of The Acrobats of China Featuring The New Shanghai Circus

Fun shot of the cast of The Acrobats of China Featuring The New Shanghai Circus

Over the years, different adjectives, such as “incredible” and “amazing” have been used to describe the Acrobats of China Featuring The New Shanghai Circus Branson show. After seeing their 2016 performance yesterday [May 25, 2016] I would have to add one more, “unbelievable,” as one amazing act after another performed incredible acrobatic feats that, in many cases, seemed “magical,” even though I knew it was the skill, endurance, strength, and agility of some amazing performers actually performing what I was seeing.

I have seen this show many times during the 18 years it has been performing in Branson and am so entertained and amazed each time I see it, but one thing has been constant, the bar is raised each year even though the previous year’s show was top notch, and 2016 is no exception. From the use of a rider on a hover board, to changes in costuming, music, and choreography as well as the acts themselves, it was like I was seeing a brand new show and, what a show it was!

Except for intermission, from the time the curtain went up until they took their final bow, there is a fresh constant flow of exciting acts from strength acts, and the juggling of everything from drums, hats, and humans to pole climbing, high-flying Silks, amazing group cycle riding, and much more. Each act is like a separate show, in terms of colorful costuming, set design, lighting, choreography, music, and presentation yet they flow seamlessly from one to the other with no dead time providing about 2 hours of the most amazing, incredible, and unbelievable entertainment in Branson.

I had the opportunity to talk with a grandmother and her six-year-old granddaughter who were visiting Branson from Moberly Mo. Six-year-old Belle said that she really liked the show and thought that other kids her age would too. The grandmother said that she had brought her older granddaughter to see the show several years ago and liked it so much that she brought her two younger granddaughters back to see it this year. When I asked her if she liked it she said that it was great and that she was really enjoying it.

I also asked, “Do you think that this show can entertain kids and adults simultaneously?” With a big smile on her face she replied, “Definitely!” Particularly with Branson entering that part of its season where families, with kids of all ages, come for vacation that’s important. In terms of content, all the Branson shows that I have seen over the last 30 years are “kid friendly” but, in terms of things in a show that will hold their interest throughout the majority of the show there are very few. There are fewer yet that can entertain both kids and adults simultaneously throughout the majority of the show. The Acrobats of China Featuring The New Shanghai Circus, is absolutely one of those few shows!

Typically, when I review a show I pick three of my favorite things to emphasize. For this show that would be:

The Human Strength was a demonstration of strength, beauty, agility, and elegance.

The Human Strength set is a demonstration of strength, beauty, agility, and elegance.

Human Strength: A beautiful, graceful, and elegant demonstration of strength performed by a man and three girls. It was amazing and easily the most enjoyable strength act I have ever seen.

Cycling: It had all the beauty, color, excitement, and daring that I expected, based on what I have seen in the past, and “then some.” It’s almost amazing when one of the riders flips from one moving cycle to the other and how many they fit on one cycle. No, actually, it’s unbelievable, but I saw it with my own eyes!

Rope Skills: It has rope twirling, as you have never seen it before, performed by both individuals and groups as well as a jump rope set, unlike anything I have ever seen. Figuratively speaking, this unique high energy act blew my socks off.

Hoop Diving: Folks this isn’t your grandmother’s hoop diving act. This high energy, high flying act had more action going on than you could shake a stick at. Even though I had seen hoop diving in the show before, this segment was unbelievable as these guys take hoop diving to a new exciting level.

I know there are four, but I couldn’t help myself.

If you are looking for a Branson show filled with high energy, color, daring, and excitement that will entertain kids and adults simultaneously as they sit on the edge of their seat waiting to see what’s coming next, the Acrobats of China Featuring The New Shanghai Circus is your show. For additional information or tickets please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

You won’t want to say “Goodbye” to the George Dyer Show

George Dyer performing "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You."

George Dyer performing “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.”

Even as he sings his signature closing number, Time To Say Goodbye, if you are like me, and many others who have experienced the amazing George Dyer and his family perform in Branson, you are not ready for the show to end. His magnificent rich tenor voice is just a joy to hear as he covers a variety of music as only he can. Dyer’s amazing singing would be enough, but when combined with his personality, interaction with the audience, the unique way he introduces each number, one of the best live bands in Branson, and his extremely talented family, the end result is a wonderful and unique musical entertainment experience.

Clarissa and Kendra performing the "Flower Duet" from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé.

Clarissa and Kendra singing the “Flower Duet” from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé.

Before we get to George, let’s look at some of the other major aspects of the George Dyer Show. George’s wife Clarisse, son Garrett, and daughter Kendra are all extremely talented, both individually and in combination with other family members, add another entertaining element to an already great show. Whether it’s Garrett and George performing a one of the funniest and entertaining exercise routines I have ever seen, while singing a Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra medley; Kendra’s unique version of I Dreamed A Dream from “Les Misérables;” George and Clarisse’s wonderful performance of Somewhere Out There, from “An American Tail;” or something else, each is performed beautifully.

My favorite family number was the trio of Clarisse, Garrett, and George singing Hallelujah. It was as inspirational as it was beautiful; a special moment that showed not only the innate vocal talent of this family, but allowed a glimpse into their commitment to each other and the One whom they serve.

George and Garrett Dyer during their unique and entertaining Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra medley.

George and Garrett Dyer during their unique and entertaining Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra medley.

To say the show’s band was outstanding would be an understatement. Long time guitar player, Bogie Bohinc plays guitar and is also the band director, with Will Clarke on keyboards, Daniel Dossey on drums and percussion and Shaun Munday on Bass. These guys play it all, from country to opera and everything in between, adding an exciting musical dynamic to the show that only musicians of their caliber can. Munday even displays his considerable vocal talents as he is featured singing the James Brown hit, It’s a Man’s World. A change of tempo by itself, gets even more so when Shaun is joined by George resulting in one of the most unique and entertaining renditions of that song ever.

I have previously described George Dyer as “Branson’s tenor extraordinaire.” His magnificent rich tenor voice is just a joy to hear as he covers a variety of music from country to Broadway, pop, rock, opera, and more. It doesn’t end there however, as his ability to connect to his audience and draw them into the performance with a genuine charisma and warmth provides a unique, amazing, and unforgettable entertainment experience not available anywhere else in Branson. From among many, three of my personal favorite performances would be Bring Him Home from “Les Misérables,” They Call the Wind Mariah from “Paint Your Wagon,” and How Great Thou Art.

Although the vast majority of the show has no opera in it, and every song George sings is a joy to hear and experience, why he is “Branson’s Tenor Extraordinaire,” takes on a special relevancy when he sings opera. Nowhere is that better demonstrated than when he ends the first half singing the popular “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.” It was magnificent!

The George Dyer Show is a one of a kind Branson musical entertainment experience that should not be missed. For additional information or tickets for the George Dyer Show, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, 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 visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Amazing country music and comedy with Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett

Billy Dean doing what he does best and enjoying it!

Billy Dean enjoying what he loves to do.

Simply put, Billy Dean 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. The Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett show is two of the most musical, unique, funny, and fun filled hours most people, but especially those who love country music, will ever experience.

The opening number sets the musical tenor for the show with Billy Dean and Jason Pritchett singing a duet of their new song, Already a Dead Man. As is the case with many of Dean’s songs, it tells a story; this one of a young gunslinger trying to make a name for himself by challenging an older gunslinger to a duel and how there really is no winner for those who live by the gun. It was beautifully sung and played by the pair, with Jason singing the part of the younger and Billy the older. What a wonderful way to open the show.

Dean’s band, the Steel Horses, consists of Jason Pritchett, acoustic guitar; Steve Leach, bass guitar; Robbie Blackwood, drums; and Matt Hanshaw, lead guitar. They are superb musicians and vocalists using their talents to add a wonderful element to the vocal performances. Moments such as Matt Henshaw’s guitar feature during Deans performance of Only Here For A Little While and Jason Pritchett’s opening duet with Dean, as well as his performance of his hit single, Good Show added another dimension to an already great show.

As would be expected from a man who’s combined writing and singing have resulted in more than twenty hit singles on the Billboard country charts, eleven of which were Top Ten hits, the show features a number of hits that were written and performed by Dean. How special is it to sit in a theatre and not only hear hit after hit performed by the man who wrote them, but to be able to get the story behind many of them?

And, it’s not just what he does, but the way he does it. There is that Neal McCoy way of interacting with the audience that reeks of genuineness and just adds so much to the entertainment experience of the audience he draws them into the performance. Three of my favorite show highlights was the opening duet of Already A Dead Man by Dean and Pritchett, his performance of Only Here For A Little While with Henshaw’s guitar feature, and his performance of his first hit, Somewhere In My Broken Heart, as he plays the piano and relates how he came to write it.

Billy Dean meets Afelia Payne.

Billy Dean meets Afelia Payne.

The comedy of one of Branson’s most beloved comedians, Jarrett Dougherty is woven in strategically throughout the show. As the show’s emcee Dean gets to be the “straight man” for some pretty funny characters such as “Jay Walker,” “Afelia Payne,” and “Cam Payne.” Dougherty is one funny man and one thing is for sure, once you hear Cam Payne’s political platform for president you will have a different perspective on the national presidential campaign and might just want a brokered convention to get him on the ticket. At least that way there would be something “serious to laugh about.”

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 in Concert with Jarrett 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, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

How did the amazing acapella group SIX really get its start?

The stars of SIX, Lynn, left, Curtis, Barry, Owen, Jak, and Kevin.

The stars of SIX, Lynn, left, Curtis, Barry, Owen, Jak, and Kevin.

This and other questions were answered recently when Kevin and Jak Knudsen, two of the six brothers making up one of Branson’s most popular shows SIX, were interviewed by the Branson Tourism Center. Highlights from that interview are presented below in a Q & A format and provide interesting perspective and insight into this amazing family of performers:

BTC: How did SIX come to be?
SIX: Our parents started having children. They really wanted a girl, but they kept having boys. and ended up with ten. Our dad taught us how to sing and the SIX oldest have been singing together since the late 70s. We are the longest running original cast acapella group in the world.

BTC: Tell us about the colorful SIX cars.
SIX: It’s a good way for each of us to drive a fun car while we promote our show. Each new high performance Camaro is decorated to promote the show as we drive around town. It’s really neat to see the way people react to the cars, especially when we all get together and form the “SIX Train.” As we go by, you see people taking pictures and smiling It’s pretty good when you can get in your car and, just by driving it, make people smile.

BTC: It seems that each of you has a “color” theme associated with you in terms of jackets, stage props, and promotional pieces. How did you pick the colors and decide which one would get what color?
SIX: Well the colors kind of picked us. About 20 years ago we were in Los Angeles and went shopping for jackets. They had seven different colors. We picked out which size fit us and that became our color. [Lynn – yellow, Curtis – blue, Barry – red, Owen – Purple, Kevin – Orange, and Jak – Green.]

BTC: What’s your personal favorite part in this year’s show?
KEVIN: The country medley that we do including, Momma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys and Rhinestone Cowboy.
JAK: The Eagles medley is a blast to do and I have a lot of fun doing it. We sing Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane, Heartache Tonight and others.

BTC: You guys do a lot of interviews, but is there one question that you wondered why they didn’t ask or isn’t asked very often?
SIX: What differentiates you guys from other shows?
BTC: And the answer would be?
SIX:  It’s all live with every sound coming from our voices. In this day and age, we might just be one of the few truly live 100 percent shows left. We don’t use any tracks, or sick tracks. If someone is sick, we adjust the performance accordingly or pull the number.

BTC: What can someone who has never been to a SIX show expect to see when they attend for the first time?
SIX: They will experience a fast moving show filled with comedy, music, and our unique acapella musical performance, covering just about every genre of music, both vocally and instrumentally except, there are no instruments! They will think they are hearing instruments, but every sound they will hear comes from our mouths. [Authors Note: As many times as I have seen SIX perform, I still look for the band even though I know there is none and that every sound is coming from them. It’s simply amazing!]

BTC: Why are you guys still together?
SIX:We love doing what we do and it’s nice to know you are working with people you can trust and who you care about.

BTC: Do you do a Christmas show and how is it different from your regular show?
SIX: Yes, starting with our first November show. The first half of the show is highlights from our regular season show this year. The second half is totally Christmas. Although the show has not been finalized, one number that is traditionally in it, and I expect again this year, is the “Little Drummer Boy.” It’s one my favorite Christmas songs and the unique way SIX performs it is a special Christmas blessing. (This last question was presented to, and answered by, Doug Fogelquist, the Director of Operations for SIX, on October 3, 2016.)

For additional information or tickets for SIX, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Sure fire popular Branson shows younger kids will really love

Just one of the colorful and exciting acts that kids and their families will see in the "Acrobats of China."

Just one of the colorful and exciting acts that kids and their families will enjoy in the “Acrobats of China.”

“Kids just love all there is to do in Branson,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “From lakes and go-karts, to zip lines, acrobats, tigers, rides, amusements of all kinds and live shows, one would be hard pressed to find a place anywhere in the world where kids and families together can have a more fun filled vacation than in Branson, Missouri,” she continued.

Branson is known far and wide for the quality, variety, and quantity of the live shows it offers on a daily basis. That said however, Wood points out that while the content of all Branson shows is certainly suitable for children, not all shows will be as enjoyable to younger children as some others.

In this writer’s opinion, based on observing younger children’s reactions to Branson shows over the last 30 years, their enjoyment of a show will be directly proportional to the parts of the show that appeals to the things that they like. Although there are certainly individual cases that are an exception, this typically involves color, action, or something they can relate to such as the characters, story, peer performers, appreciation for a particular type of music, or some other factor. Typically, the longer that relationship lasts throughout the show the more they will enjoy it. The following shows are among some of our most popular Branson shows that, in our opinion, do that:

Acrobats of China is a colorful fast moving “circus” type of show appealing to children because of its many different acts of strength, agility, coordination and daring, along with constant action, colorful costumes, beauty and pageantry. The same thing that makes it a great entertainment experience for children makes it a great show for adults too

These pets do some truly amazing things!

These pets do some truly amazing things!

Amazing Pets will hold children’s interest from the beginning to the end. It combines the antics of well trained cats and dogs, many of whom were rescued from animal shelters, and beautiful exotic birds with costuming, and an execution that provides a great entertainment experience for children and adults alike. Without spoiling the surprise, one thing is for sure, whether it’s the most unusual marriage ceremony most people have ever seen or a duplication of the cat jumping from the wire in the movie “Big Fish,” the antics of these pets are truly “amazing.”

Buckets N Boards Comedy Percussion Show features co-creators Matt and Gareth sharing their impeccable and slightly wacky skills that include precise percussion on a variety of surfaces, accompanied by delightfully silly songs, tap dancing, and lots of laughter! Kids and families just love this show and, when not in Branson, it is one of the most requested shows on Disney Cruise Lines.

Dixie Stampede features exciting entertainment and a fantastic four-course feast eaten “Dixie Stampede Style.” “Dixie” boasts a variety of fun features that include lumberjack relay, racing pigs, buffalo, 32 beautiful horses, all presented amid constant excitement, color, and pageantry. Add in the excitement of a friendly competition and you have an adventure and entertainment experience that the whole family will be immersed in from beginning to end.

it Starring the Hughes Brothers & Their Families combines color, action, and the incredible talents of this family into one of the most entertaining shows on any Branson stage. It simultaneously entertains both adults and kids throughout the entire show. From a kid’s perspective, in addition to everything else it offers, the strategically placed peer performances from kids of various ages throughout the show, holds their interest and increases their enjoyment from the beginning to the end.

Sight and Sound’s Moses brings the classic Bible story to life in an exciting production on their 300-foot surround stage. The color, excitement, live animals coming on an off stage, astonishing sets, stunning costumes, and a story that most kids can relate to combine in a spectacular production that will hold the interests of kids and their families throughout the whole show.

What kid doesn’t love magic? Here are two of Branson’s best:

Illusionist Rick Thomas will have you wondering if it’s only an illusion…or truly magic? He uses his exceptional showmanship and incredible gracefulness, honed by years of ballroom dancing, to present a Branson show of stunning illusions and spectacular beauty! In doing so, he demonstrates an amazing ability to interact with the kids in the audience, actually uses some of them in his illusions, and has a special inspiring message for them.

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The amazing Reza!

Reza – Edge of Illusion, starring the magical master illusionist Reza, will bewilder and befuddle your brain with everything from big dazzling illusions to charming sleight of-hand trickery! He always leaves his audiences scratching their heads; struggling to rationalize what their eyes have seen with what they know is humanly possible! He is a young magician and kids love not only his magic, but the relationship he builds with them as he shares his cutting edge magic with them and get them invested in his performance.

For additional information or tickets for any of these shows or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. BTC can be reached by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

An amazing swift change made from the classroom to the Legends

Elizabeth Scarbourough performing her Taylor Swift tribute at Legends in Concert.

Elizabeth Scarbourough performing her Taylor Swift tribute at Legends in Concert.

One of the reasons that Legends in Concert is “the world’s greatest live tribute show” is the infusion of quality new tribute artists, and the stars they pay tribute to, into its lineup of “legends.” Elizabeth Scarbourough and her Taylor Swift tribute is a wonderful example. In the summer of 2015, as she was concluding her engagement at Branson’s Legends in Concert, she was kind enough to share her amazing story, and we held it until now so there would be a tie-in with her 2016 summer appearance at Branson’s Legends in Concert.

“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. Except as noted below, this interview with Elizabeth Scarbourough (ES) was conducted, in August, 2015, for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 30 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: When were you born?
ES: April 9, 1993

BTC: Where?
ES: Charleston, SC.

BTC: You have graduated from college fairly recently. Where and when?
ES: The University of South Carolina on May 11, 2015.

BTC: In what was your degree?
ES: Public Relations from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a Minor in Spanish.

BTC: How do you prefer your act to be categorized? i.e. Impersonator, Tribute Artist etc.
ES: I prefer Tribute Artist, because everything we do is live and we are proud of that.

BTC: Were you singing and dancing before you first became interested in Taylor Swift?
ES: No.

BTC: How old were you when you first became interested in Taylor Swift?
ES: I was 12 and I heard her sing “Tim McGraw” from her first single on the radio.

BTC: What was the first Taylor Swift song you did and how many chords did you play?
ES: “Love Story” and I played four chords.

BTC: How did your first Taylor Swift guitar evolve?
ES: Well, I kind of borrowed it from my church on non-returning grounds. It was an old guitar without strings that had been in a closet for over a year without any use. My brother who was with the Praise Team said, “Take it and learn to play.” I took it, sanded it down, put silver glitter all over it to make it look like her diamond guitar and restrung it.

BTC: When did you first perform publicly?
ES: It was in school at a Halloween Carnival where I appeared as Taylor Swift and played, “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.”

BTC: What made you decide to turn professional?
ES: I had been doing kids’ birthday parties at home until I went to college, but when I started college I had to build a new audience so I decided to market my Taylor Swift skills by putting up a Facebook page. I put up TaylorSwiftTribute with a few videos that I took myself. I got some bookings working kids’ birthday parties and nursing homes, but it resulted in getting a call from Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach in early in 2014.

BTC: How long have you been performing Taylor Swift professionally?
ES: If you go from the very beginning to right now it’s been just about a year, but for ten months of that year I was finishing my degree in school.

BTC: Where did you perform your first gig as Taylor Swift?
ES: It was on my spring break of 2014, at BorderFest in Hidalgo, TX.

BTC: How long have you been performing Taylor Swift for Legends in Concert?
ES: Last summer [2014] I performed for Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach, SC. My contract expired just a few days before I returned to school for my final year.

BTC: What’s the most challenging part of portraying the character of Taylor Swift?
ES:  Balancing the up to the minute details about what Taylor is currently doing or the way she looks with the general look, actions, and perceptions that my general audiences expect.

BTC: Have you ever met Taylor Swift personally or been to her concerts?
ES: I have never met her personally, but I have been to some of her concerts and am going to one in September [2015.]

BTC: Before we go into the more Branson related questions is there anything you would like to add?
ES: It’s like a dream come true for me. I would have been happy just playing birthday parties and nursing homes, but I am so happy that Legends picked me up.

BTC: Is this your first time performing in Branson?
ES: Yes.

BTC: Had you ever been to Branson before?
ES: No.

BTC: When you found out you were coming to Branson, for the first time what did you expect?
ES: I had no idea.

BTC: Had you ever heard of Branson and if so what had you heard?
ES: Yes. That it was a small country version of Las Vegas.

BTC: Now that you’ve been here for a while, what is your first impression of Branson?
ES:  I think that it’s a really neat place with special character, a small town feel, and a lot going on.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
ES: The people are so nice and appreciative.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ES: I enjoy hiking the local trails and do that about every day.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased), outside of Taylor Swift who would it be and why?
ES: The Beatles because they are the definition of a legend.

BTC:  Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
ES: Hiking with “Rerun,” my Black Lab.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
ES: I am the exact same height as Taylor Swift.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while performing in front of an audience?
ES: I was performing and one of my boots split open so I had to stop and take them off in the middle of the set. I gave them to a little girl in the audience and finished the set in a pair of mismatched polka dot socks.

BTC: What part of your current act do you enjoy performing the most and why?
ES: The song “Blank Space” because its high energy and dramatic interaction with our male dancers.

BTC: What is your favorite Taylor Swift song and why?
ES: “Wildest Dreams” because it’s so beautiful, romantic, and leaves you questioning.

BTC: What is your favorite non Taylor Swift song and why?
ES: I love Jason Pritchett’s new song, “Good Show.”

BTC: Where do you go when you leave Branson?
ES: I will be performing for five months in Las Vegas with Legends in Concert.

The following was from a short interview conducted by telephone on March 28, 2016, to bring things current:

BTC: How did the Las Vegas gig go and what have you been doing since you left Branson?
ES: It went great and I have, been working with Legends in Concert since I left Branson. Currently, I am doing a spring engagement with them at Myrtle Beach.

BTC: When will you be returning to Branson?
ES: I finish up in Myrtle Beach and then come to Branson for the most of the summer season starting June 1.

BTC: Are you looking forward to coming back to Branson?
ES: I absolutely love Branson and am so excited about coming back.

Jeannie Horton, General Manager of the Legends in Concert in Branson, said that they are just so excited to have Elizabeth back with her Taylor Swift tribute for the summer season because it’s a perfect fit for the younger family audiences that normally attend at that time of the year. Horton points out that the Taylor Swift tribute will be performed from June 1 through August 15.

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

Andy Williams Performing Arts Center promises an amazing, magical star studded 2016

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“The renaming of the Andy William’s Moon River Theatre to the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and Theatre (AWPAC) is really calling it what it was really meant to be by Andy’s design,” said Jimmy Osmond in a recent interview. He points out that, although used primarily as a theatre, the building was designed as a multi-use performance space that can handle large and small scale productions of various types of performing arts from Broadway productions, to concerts, dance, drama, music, and more. “Another important aspect of AWPAC’s operation is our performing arts educational efforts through our affiliations with various colleges and other schools where we work with their students to provide mentor ship programs and offer practical first-hand experience in an actual working environment,” he added.

Osmond is really pleased with the amazing, magical, and star studded entertainment that will be presented in the AWPAC during 2016. He said, “From magic and comedy, to music from just about every genre, concerts and spectacular productions, we are offering Branson visitors a wide variety of entertainment that follows the Andy Williams tradition for variety and quality.” The schedule is a blend of short, mostly one-day limited engagement performances by national stars such as Jennifer Nettles, LeAnn Rimes, Loretta Lynn, Ray Stevens, and others with extended performances from our resident shows, such as the magic of Illusionist Rick Thomas and the Andy Williams Christmas Spectacular starring the Osmonds and Lennon Sisters.

The full schedule of shows and concerts, as of March 22, is listed below sorted by the date of their first performance.

Illusionist Rick Thomas:  Mar 11 – Oct 29*
CMT Presents Jennifer Nettles with 2016 Next Women of Country Tour:  Apr 8
Moon River and Me:  Apr 28 – May 12*
LeAnn Rimes:  Apr 29
The Lettermen :  May 13 – June 4 and Sep 1 – Dec 10*
Ray Stevens:  May 14
Rockapella:  June 13 – Jul 16*
MJ LIVE:  Sep 24
Bill Engvall:  Oct 7
David Cassidy:  Oct 15
Loretta Lynn :  Oct 22
Jeanne Robertson:  Oct 29
Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza:  Nov 1 – Dec 10*
Hallmark Presents Maxine’s Christmas Carol:  Nov 1 – Dec 10*
Southern Fried Chicks:  Nov 1
James Gregory with Keith Alberstadt:  Nov 3 – 5

Osmond says that the excitement they feel about the variety and talent of the nationally known entertainers coming in for limited engagement performances extends to their extended performance and resident shows which include:

Illusionist Rick Thomas: In a recent review of this show I wrote, “From the time the show starts until it ends with a ‘blast,’ it’s two hours of truly magical non-stop entertainment with a variety of illusions; close up magic; what I call ‘mind magic;’ doves, dogs, color, brightness, dancing, music and action that will ‘knock your socks off.’ The magic is illusionary, but the fun, excitement and enjoyment I experienced, and witnessed others enjoying was real.'”

The Lettermen: Continue to be one of music’s most romantic pop groups, making them an excellent show for couples; and with that untarnished, all-American image, every performance is perfect to share with the family! Although their biggest hits graced the airwaves back in the 60’s, that classic sound has endured in the decades since, thrilling their long-time fans and finding a new audience with a younger generation.

Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza:  This special show is a shining example of why there’s no place like Christmas in Branson.  Carrying on the tradition of “Mr. Christmas,” the late and much-loved singer Andy Williams, famous sibling acts – The Lennons and The Osmonds – headline one of Branson’s hottest Christmas shows, in a not to be missed production filled with the spirit of Christmas, gorgeous costumes, festive sets, and amazing Christmas music!

Hallmark Presents Maxine’s Christmas Carol:  With this show, Branson has a holiday show even the Grinch would envy! Charles Dickens could never have imagined the role of Scrooge inhabited by a sassy sourpuss like Maxine. The call-it-like-she-sees-it, lovable curmudgeon delivers the iconic story with song, dance, and a heaping helping of merry and mirth, sprinkled with the best of her rude mood, and just a dash of attitude! Introduced to us by way of greeting card covers from Hallmark, the self-appointed Queen of Crabbiness, Maxine, has been a popular Hallmark character for over three decades and is now making her debut in Branson for Christmas 2016.

For additional information on any of the shows at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and Theatre, or any of the many other exciting things there are to do in Branson, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center and talk with one of their Branson-based Travel Planners. They’ll be delighted to assist you! BTC can be reached by calling 1-800-785-1550 from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM seven days a week, or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

* Indicates  extended performance or resident show.

Do you want awesome vocals, a Grand Band, and hilarious comedy?

The quartet "New South," Luke Menard, left, David Ragan, Jon Drockelman; and Mark McCauley.

The quartet “New South,” Luke Menard, left, David Ragan, Jon Drockelman; and Mark McCauley.

Then don’t miss the Grand Jubilee show; it’s all that and then some! Whenever I go to this show, I am enthralled by amazing vocals, hilarious comedy, the great live music of the “Grand Band,” and how the show’s emcee and producer, Mike Patrick, ties it all together into an awesome entertainment experience.

From the pre-show to the final curtain, this grand production is filled with some of the finest vocals, comedy, and live music appearing anywhere on any Branson stage. The quartet, “New South,” is composed of Lead Vocalist, David Ragan; Tenor, Luke Menard; Baritone, Jon Drockelman; and Bass, Mark McCauley. Although each, on their own, has a great voice, the harmony and power of their combined voices is a joy to experience. It’s obvious that they love entertaining their audience and are having fun, and, from where I was sitting, it was apparent that they were conveying that feeling to the audience.

They perform a variety of music covering many genres including country, gospel, pop, and patriotic covering decades of hits and do an amazing job on them all. From among many, and although certainly subjective, some of my favorites were “You Gave Me A Mountain,” what I consider their signature number, “YMCA,” and my favorite, “How Great Thou Art.” It is one of the most powerful and inspirational renditions of that song I have ever heard. Listen for “the note;” when you hear it you’ll know!

Branson Female Vocalist of the Year, Jackie Brown.

Branson Female Vocalist of the Year, Jackie Brown.

Jackie Brown, who just won the BRAMMY Award as the Best Female Vocalist of 2015, showed why on a variety of numbers throughout the show. My personal favorites were her performance of the Jamie O’Neal hit, “When I Think About Angels” and her duet of the Dolly Parton Porter Wagoner hit, “I Will Always Love You,” that she performed with Luke Menard.

The “Grand Band,” or as its fans refer to it “The Rhinestone Mafia,” includes some of the most talented musicians in Branson. It is composed of Michael W. Davis, Piano/Keyboard & Vocals; Wayne Massengale, Fiddle and Acoustic Guitar; Larry Allred, Bass Guitar; Rob Blackburn, Drums; David Creech, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Gene Mulvaney, Steel Guitar, Electric Guitar, Banjo and Band Director.

These guys are not just great musicians; they interact with others in the cast and the audience throughout the show. Whether it’s simply playing music in support of the vocalists, a short feature during a vocal such as their individual participation in New South’s performance of “Sweet Country Music,” or a solo performance such as Michael Davis’ beautiful piano vocal performance of “Candle In The Wind,” these consummate entertainers add so much to the audiences enjoyment of the show.

“Jim Dandy,” played by multi-talented Jamie Haage, along with “straight man” Mike Patrick, kept me laughing throughout the show, from the preshow to the end with a marvelous combination of one liners and comedy skits. It can be safely said, “No dark comedy here, just orange comedy that is skillfully choreographed into the show so that it flows in with the music at exactly the right time to keep the show moving seamlessly from one colorful and entertaining “set” to another.

As many times as I have seen it, watching the metamorphosis of Haage from comedian to instrumentalist and vocalist is a special treat to see and hear. His playing of the banjo, steel guitar, drums, piano and fiddle, especially his “train duet” of the “Wabash Cannonball” and ” Orange Blossom Special” with Wayne Massengale, was a joy to experience, not only testifying to the versatility and talents of this “grand” entertainer, but as yet another thing that makes the Grand Jubilee unique among Branson shows.

Sure it’s a show filled with talent, but it is the way that talent is all brought together with its choreography, colorful costumes, sound, and lighting that makes it the outstanding production it is and that’s thanks to the show’s producer and director, Mike Patrick and associate producer Andy Holloway. And if that’s not enough, Mike is also Emcee, Jim Dandy’s straight man, and plays a mean honky-tonk piano version of “Balls of Fire” surrounded by some great special effects.

In previous reviews of the Grand Jubilee I said, “It might seem like a cliché, but the Grand Jubilee is truly ‘grand’ entertainment. I laughed until I hurt, listened to some of the most talented musicians and vocalists I have ever heard, in Branson or anywhere else, and was thoroughly entertained by a fast moving production that held my interest throughout. It was over all too quickly. Isn’t it wonderful that some things never change except to get better!” All I could add for the 2016 show that I saw was, “Ditto!”

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

 

Shocked winner of $1000 Grand Prize in 2016 Spring Break Sweepstakes loves Branson shows

The first thing that Beverly and Rob Johnson, the Grand Prize winners in Branson Tourism Center's 2016 Spring Break Sweepstakes, are going to do with their prize is see "Moses" and the "Million Dollar Quartet."

The first thing that Beverly and Rob Johnson, the Grand Prize winners in Branson Tourism Center’s 2016 Spring Break Sweepstakes, are going to do with their prize is see “Moses” and the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

When Beverly Johnson of Arkadelphia, AR, opened up her email, after coming home from work the evening of March 4, 2016, she was shocked to discover that she had won Branson Tourism Center’s 2016 Spring Break Sweepstakes grand prize of a $1,000 Branson Gift Card! She said that she had to read it five times before she believed it. She showed it to her husband Rob saying, “I think I’ve won this.” He said, “What” before reading it, agreeing, and getting excited for both of them.

Earlier this week, Beverly (BJ) was kind enough to participate in a telephone interview with the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) about her initial experience with the Sweepstakes, how she feels about Branson, and more. The interview uses a “Question and Answer” format, and was conducted for BTC by Gary Groman, a 30-year resident of the Branson area and a local columnist, and freelance writer.

BTC: What is the first thing in Branson you are going to use your card to do?
BJ: My husband Rob, and I have been wanting to see Moses at the Sight and Sound Theatre and my husband wants to see the Million Dollar Quartet over at the Welk Theatre because he is a huge Elvis fan.

BTC: Have you been to Branson before?
BJ: Oh, Yes.

BTC: When was the last time?
BJ: Beginning of August 2014.

BTC: When will you be coming to Branson again?
BJ: We will be coming in the middle of April for a few days, but my husband wants to see Jimmy Fortune when he comes later in the year so I’m sure we’ll be coming back to Branson again.

BTC: In addition to seeing Moses and the Million Dollar Quartet what else do you plan to do?
BJ: A little shopping, we always have to hit the Bass Pro Shop and go over to the little Amish Store. As far as the other shows go, we will play that by ear after we get there.

BTC: What do you like to do most when you come to Branson?
BJ: We like the shows the most. My husband plays the drums so we are all for going to the shows.

BTC: Have you dealt with the Branson Tourism Center before?
BJ: Yes, a few times.

BTC: How did you find out about the contest?
BJ: I actually get the emails from Branson Tourism [Center] all the time. I had seen the contest on Facebook and then got an email about the “Sweetheart Packages” for February. I clicked on one of the packages to see what was in it and saw the contest on the page. I thought that’s the one I saw on Facebook the other day so I entered.

BTC: When you first saw it did you think it was some sort of “scam trying to set you up for something?”
BJ: No, not really. It depends on where it’s coming from, whether I have those doubts or not, but being from Branson Tourism Center I didn’t even think about it.

BTC: When did you receive your first phone call from the Branson Tourism Center?
BJ: I got the email late Friday evening. The first phone call I received from BTC was from Megan Miller on Monday.

“Our thanks to everyone who entered and congratulations to Beverly on winning our Grand Prize,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “We look forward to meeting the Johnson’s again when they visit in April and being a small part in, what we know will be, another great Branson experience.