BRANSON, Mo., September 15, 2013 – If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to read long “review,” pieces about shows, here’s all you have to know. Saying Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express Show in Branson is just another country music show makes about as much sense as saying “a California Redwood” is just another tree.” There’s trees and there’s California Redwoods; there’s country music shows and there’s Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express.
What makes it so exceptional? In a nutshell, the overall quality of the production; its star, both in terms of his voice and ability to actually make the audience a part of the performance; the magnificent choreography and dancing and its supporting cast. From before the curtain goes up until it drops this show is an “express” ride through two plus hours of the most engaging, energetic and talented entertainment available in Branson hosted by a performer who can work an audience as beautifully as he sings and his wife choreographs and dances.
As I stood in line at the ticket window, about 30 minutes before the show started, I was behind two older ladies who were working out a ticket exchange with a lady in the box office for a performance the next day. The caring way that the person in the box office handled the situation touched my heart, no pressure, no hurry, just, “How can we serve you best?”
They didn’t know it, but they were talking with Tina Cooper, the wife of Clay Cooper, who would be dancing in the opening number of the show about 25 minutes later. During the show Clay points out all the things she does, choreography, dancing and more, but what stands out in my mind is the way she does what she does. The grace, elegance and beauty of her dancing in the show, to this writer, was a reflection of what I witnessed as she served those two women before the show and represents the spirit and culture that resonates throughout the show.
Obviously the show’s star is Clay Cooper who performs a variety of music during the show. From the Glen Campbell hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy” to a neat impersonation of the Blues Brother’s “Soul Man” with his son Colton, the singing talents of Clay Cooper on just about any style of music is evident. This writer’s two favorite “Clay” numbers were the Roy Orbison hit ballad “Crying” and his performance of “You Are the Love of My Life” sung as part of a beautiful duet where Clay sang and his wife Tina danced creating a unique beautiful, elegant and touching entertainment memory.
If that was his only talent that would be enough, but he has that innate Neil McCoy ability to relate to his audience and draw them into their own entertainment experience. I am sure that some of his lines are triggers for the crowd, but once they are pulled or he adlibs on his own, the result is a warm comfortable humor where everyone is laughing, having fun and wondering what is coming next. If our show was any indication it could be anything, even a delivery from Walgreen’s, delivered to the surprise and delight of the audience. One thing for sure, whether it is his singing or interacting with the crowd Clay Cooper is a master at his craft and one with his audience.
The second major element in the show is the shows dancing. It’s choreographer, and one of the dancers herself is Tina Cooper, who has been dancing professionally since 1989 and holds a “Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Music Theatre with a Minor in Dance” from the University of Oklahoma. What a joy it is to is sit back and enjoy the beauty, grace and elegance of the way that she and “Country Express Dancers” Sarah Blackerby, Kelly Smith, Jenn Turner, Kristin Chandler, Elizabeth Harris, Corey Hanson, Matthew Smith and Tommy D’Amico as they add a new unique dimension to one of the most entertaining shows in Branson and demonstrate why they are one of its top dancing troupes.
The “Country Express Band” is composed of RP Harrell, Piano and Musical Producer; John Lance, keyboard; Barry Bales, guitar; Dave Clark, bass guitar and Jimmy Hyde, drums. Although their talent is obvious throughout the whole show it is highlighted in their performance of the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running.” On an individual basis, RP Harrell’s performance of “Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy” and Dave Clark’s unique bass guitar performance of “Amazing Grace” were beautiful “Wow” moments.
Then there’s the preshow comedic antics of Matt Gumm, his talent as a musician and vocalist during the rest of the show; the amazing things that Johnny Lonestar does with a whip and rope and the voice and personality of ten year old singer Ezrah Noelle. When all the elements of this show are put together the result is “an ‘express’ ride through over two hours of the best, most unique, exciting, engaging and talented entertainment available in Branson.
Perhaps the words of the “two shadows,” friends who are kind enough to go with me and offer a second opinion, summed it up better. They said, “We absolutely recommend this show. Clay Cooper and the dancing is great, there is constant action, audience involvement and everyone is having fun.”
For additional information on the Clay Cooper Country Music Express Show or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website.