No Pun, Jonah’s one whale of a show!

"Jonah brings  biblical story of "Jonah" to life in   a "whale" of an entertainment experience.

“Jonah brings biblical story of God’s reluctant prophet  to life in a “whale” of an entertainment experience.

Living in Branson for 28 years and writing about it for most of those years has put me in a position to see all of the spectacular Sight and Sound Branson shows, “Noah, the Musical,” “Miracle of Christmas,” and “Joseph.” When I went to see their new Branson production, Jonah, on May 29 I expected to see a show with great music, vocals, spectacular sets and costuming presented as only Sight and Sound can do it. Well folks I got that and a “whale” of a lot more. OK so it was a “big fish,” but I like the term “whale” that is commonly used when people talk about the biblical story of “Jonah.”

As great as the special effects and scenery have been in their other productions, the special effects and scenery in Jonah are just about unbelievable. The action scenes of the ship breaking up; Jonah flying through the air, particularly as he departs the belly of the whale; the set of Jonah in the belly of the whale and the underwater scene with the great whale are simply magnificent and something no one has ever come close to seeing on a Branson stage.

30,000 pound ship "sails" the stage and breaks up during the storm.

30,000 pound ship “sails” the stage and breaks up during the storm.

The ship alone took two years to build, weighs 30,000 pounds, sails “the seas on the stage” with its crew and starts to breaks up right before your eyes as the storm plummets it about. Then, after, they throw Jonah overboard, the storm abates and the stars again sparkle in the background. Meanwhile Jonah sinks into the depth of the sea setting the stage for the visual highlight of Jonah, the underwater segment with the great whale.

The audience is immersed, in a literal sense, in a spectacular underwater environment as beautiful fish swim about, Jelly Fish come down from the ceilings and the great whale comes out of the darkness and swims slowly and gracefully out over the audience through a beautiful underwater world and then, returns to swallow Jonah. Parents need not worry, the actual swallowing of Jonah by the whale is not seen. One minute the whale is swimming toward him and the next, there is a set with Jonah in the belly of the whale. Jonah’s exit from the belly of the whale was a “high flying” experience that delighted the audience.

As a general rule, with Sight and Sound shows you want to be in your seats when the show starts and immediately after intermission. If you are not, there is a chance you will not be admitted into the auditorium until it can be done safely because of the fact that animals and cast members use the aisles. This is particularly the case right after intermission when the big underwater scene takes place.

This show has it all, drama; original music produced specifically for Jonah and performed by Prague Symphony Orchestra; great vocals sung live on stage by the shows cast; 30 live animals including sheep, highlander cattle, camels, alpacas, horses, llamas, dogs, birds and miniature donkeys, and great sound, special effects, lighting and spectacular sets. The energy and talent of the shows cast of 41 performers brings the story of “Jonah,” and how he tried to run from what he knew God wanted him to do, to life in a very special and entertaining way.

It’s hard to imagine a show with a greater appeal and spectacle than Jonah as it brings to life and illustrates one of the greatest biblical stories of all time about the lesson one of God’s own prophets had to learn about His mercy and love for us, even as he tried to run from it. The magnificent and spectacular way the story comes to life in Jonah is unlike anything that most people will every experience live on stage, a pure joy to experience and something is that special type of entertainment that every member of the family will enjoy and remember for a lifetime.

 

 

Material Connection

Hatchery hatches more than trout for Branson visitors

Visitor's Center of Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery with Table Rock Dam in the background.

Visitor’s Center of Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery with Table Rock Dam in the background.

From its 43,000 plus surface acre water playground, Table Rock Lake, to attractions, museums, shopping, theme and water parks and over 100 live shows of every kind Branson, Missouri offers a bewildering number of things to see and do. “Many like Silver Dollar City, Branson’s great live shows and the Titanic Museum Attraction, to name a few, are well known,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Among the lesser known things to do is the opportunity for Branson visitors to experience the “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery” at the foot of Table Rock Dam,” she added.

The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is part of a 211 acre complex including a “Conservation Center” consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center. It is located less than 10 minutes from the famed “Branson Strip,” just off of State Highway 165 at the foot of Table Rock Dam.

The hatchery was built in conjunction with the building of Table Rock Dam because the cold water passing through the dams generators to generate electricity was ideal for Rainbow and Brown trout, but would have a a negative impact on the warm water species prevalent before the dam was built. With the completion of the dam, the first trout were stocked in Lake Taneycomo in 1959.

As a result, Lake Taneycomo, has become one of the finest trout fisheries in America with one of its outfitters, River Run Outfitters, actually winning the coveted “Orvis Outfitter of the Year Award,” in 2006, over outfitters in the other states that are legendary for their trout fishing.

In terms of raw numbers the hatchery produces over 1.1 million Rainbow and Brown Trout annually, of which about 475,000, 10 to 12 inch trout are included in the 700,000 plus trout stocked in the lake annually. The other 225,000 trout that go into Lake Taneycomo each year come from federal hatcheries, primarily Neosho, which are required by federal law to replace the “warm water” species that the building of Table Rock Dam displaced.

Hatchery visitors are welcome to tour the “race ways,” “trout runs,” by themselves during normal business hours and will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the large “brood stock” used to produce them to the smallest of trout. In addition, guided tours of the hatchery depart the Visitors Center from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekdays at 10 and 11 AM and 1 and 2 PM. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 AM every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Displays of wildflowers and plants common to the Ozarks are displayed in a natural setting, with most being identified, in the area just outside the Visitor’s Center. Activities inside the Center include a nature display, a huge aquarium with “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout and an informative 15 minute “movie” showing how the how the hatchery produces the trout that has made Lake Taneycomo the prime trout fishery that it is.

The Visitor Center also has volunteers and Department of Conservation personnel available to answer questions as well as maps and information showing the system of four trails that winds through the undeveloped area of the Conservation Center. These trails vary in length and are ideal for families to share together. The “White River Corridor Trail” is particularly enjoyable because it parallels Lake Taneycomo for almost its entire length, is only 0.4 of a mile in length, one way, and provides a spectacular “kaleidoscope” view of the fog shrouding Lake Taneycomo early on warm summer mornings burning off as the sun rises.

Except for a coin operated dispenser for trout food for those wanting to feed the trout in the raceways, all the activities at the hatchery are free. Whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours, The Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery is another one of those things that makes Branson, Missouri the memorable unique travel destination it is.

Is the 2014 Shoji Tabuchi show the best ever?

Christina Tabuchi, right, Shoji Tabuchi and Sharlyn Smith performing during the "Dixieland "segment of the show.

Christina Tabuchi, right, Shoji Tabuchi and Sharlyn Smith performing during the “Dixieland “segment of the show.

 

“Is that Shoji Tabuchi playing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir?'” It absolutely is and to kick off his 2014 show no less! Performing for his 26th season in Branson, Shoji’s 2014 show just might be his best show ever and clearly demonstrates why he, and his show, have not only remained one of Branson’s premier entertainment experiences for so long, but are poised to continue that tradition well into the future.

I have seen dozens of great Shoji Tabuchi shows over the last 28 years great, but the one I saw on May 21st is like no other. All the hallmarks that the Shoji Tabuchi show is known for, its wide range of music; great dancing, singing and an orchestra filled with extremely talented multi instrumental musicians; colorful costuming, lighting, lasers, exciting and varied sets along with a seamless flow from one segment to another, are there in force. Although certainly an intangible it is the way that it all seems to come together, with an infectious charismatic blend of energy, excitement and the ability of the cast to convey the feeling to the audience that they are just having fun, that makes this year’s show so special.

One lady, speaking of Shoji’s playing said, “It’s not just that he is playing music that brings back some great memories, but the way he plays them just makes them so much more special.” If I were going to pick three of my favorites that Shoji played, from among many, illustrating that point I would pick “Love Me Tender,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Through The Eyes of Love.” Whether it’s the violin or the fiddle, “Kashmir” or his “patented” version of the “Orange Blossom” there is something special and magic when Shoji plays.

The singer/dancers with Shoji and Christina during a stirring gospel number.

The singer/dancers with Shoji and Christina during a stirring gospel number.

The singer/dancers are multi-talented and add and exciting dynamic to the show not only with their singing and dancing, but in other areas. The opening of the second half with the Taiko drums, from Shoji’s native Japan is but one example, as ten drummers play three different drums including the large “Odaiko” in a unique one of a kind performance. As part of the segment Shoji plays the “Shamisen,” a three string instrument that is the Japanese equivalent of the banjo and does a duet of, what I believe was “Sukiyaki,” with his daughter Christina. Sharlyn Smith, one of the singer/dancers plays the mandolin during a beautiful bluegrass duet with Shoji.

The lead female vocalist for the show is the talented Christina Lingo Tabuchi, who is also the co dance captain and Shoji’s daughter. She does an excellent job performing a variety of original and cover vocals throughout the show. My favorites were her version of “”Boondocks” and an original song she recorded in Nashville, “Breaking It Down.”

Shoji’s ability to relate to his audience, whether playing, telling the story of how he came to be an American citizen, got his “southern accent” or anyone of a variety of other anecdotes sprinkled throughout the show is an inherent part of the whole experience. As I wrote last year and will again reiterate, “Simply put, Shoji Tabuchi is a master at his craft, loves what he does, relates to his audience not only on a musical, but personal level, surrounds himself with some of the best musicians, singers and dancers in Branson and stars in a unique, colorful and exciting one of kind entertainment production.” I would add one thing for this year’s show, hold on to your seat from the moment the curtain does up because this year it’s on steroids!

For more information or tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi Show 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

 

Material Connection

Initial 2014 Cruise With The Stars experience with Billy Dean & Paul Harris

Billy Dean, right, and Paul Harris on the bridge of the "Landing Princess" during the cruise.

Billy Dean, right, and Paul Harris on the bridge of the “Landing Princess” during the cruise.

“What a pleasure it was to see the excitement and fun that both the passengers and Branson stars, Billy Dean and Paul Harris, had as they cruised together on an exclusive luncheon cruise aboard the 100 foot luxury yacht Landing Princess on May 23,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing, for the Branson Tourism Center. “It was a super way to start off a great Memorial Day weekend in Branson and our 2014 Cruise With The Stars season,” she continued.

Wood pointed out that, in addition to having lunch with Billy and Paul and the chance to interact with them in a less formal and time controlled environment than is normally available during the of the typical theatre “meet and greet” that it was a picture book day to cruise on beautiful Lake Taneycomo. In between talking with Billy and Paul, posing for pictures and getting autographs, the passengers had a chance to experience the beauty of Lake Taneycomo, scenic vistas, a unique view of Branson Landing and its $7.5 million synchronized fire, water and music fountain show, Bald Eagles and more as they leisurely cruised.

The cruise was part of the innovative “Cruise With The Stars” experience available exclusively through the Branson Tourism Center because of the special relationship it has with Branson’s shows, entertainers and Main Street Lake Cruises. The value added experience consists of choice seats at the show of the star(s) featured on the cruise and the exclusive luncheon cruise itself; providing an unparalleled Branson entertainment opportunity combining the chance to see the star(s) perform coupled with the opportunity to meet them up close and personal.

Wood reminds those who might be interested in a similar experience that this cruise was just the first of those that will be offered during the 2014 season and suggests that they check the following schedule to see if it fits in with their Branson travel plans:

Legends in Concert Show – June 19
SIX – July 17
The Duttons – Sep.12
Grand Jubilee – Sep.13
The Texas Tenors – Sep. 18
John and Ambrus Presley from Presleys’ Country Jubilee – Oct. 7
The Osmonds, American Jukebox & the Andy Williams Christmas Show – Nov. 18

Advanced reservations are recommended because each separate “Cruise With The Stars” experience is a onetime per season event controlled by the seating available on the “Landing Princess.” To get additional information or to make reservations for any of the Cruise With the Stars experiences please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550.

You’ve probably been to Branson if…

 

Silver Dollar City is Branson's most popular paid attraction.

Silver Dollar City is Branson’s most popular paid attraction.

You’ve experienced one or more of the things mentioned below. When most of us tell someone we have been to a major tourist destination there are generally certain places or things that come up in the conversation. It’s hard to imagine mentioning that you have been to New York City, particularly to someone who has been there before, and not having one or more of the following com up as part of the conversation the “Statute of Liberty,” “Broadway,” the “Empire State Building,” the “911 site” or other key things New York City is noted for.

While certainly not on the same size scale as New York City, Branson has been named as one of the top 25 U.S. Travel Destinations and, like the mention of New York City or other major travel destinations, has certain places or things that come to mind when discussing a visit to Branson. Based on a history that started with visiting Branson in 1976 and living in Branson since 1986, it would be my opinion that most discussions about having visited Branson would include at least one or more of the following:

Branson’s Spirit: It would be hard for me to imagine that the same spirit of hospitality and values that drew me back to Branson year after year, until I finally moved here over 28 years ago, would not be a special memory of a Branson visit. In my opinion, Branson’s spirit and unabashed love of family, God, country and our military; coupled with a sincere desire and commitment to insure that every Branson visitor has a great Branson experience would be something that most people who visit Branson would feel, appreciate and associate with what makes Branson so special.

The Branson Strip: Located on Highway 76, called by some “Country Music Boulevard,” the “Branson Strip” is where most of Branson’s theatres and major attractions are located. It is said that Branson “has more seats than Broadway” and its signage, particularly at night, reminds one of Las Vegas, but its entertainment, personality, value and spirit is rooted in the history and tradition of the Ozarks and family.

Silver Dollar City: This award winning 1880’s styled theme park is Branson’s oldest continually operated attraction and is easily its most popular paid attraction. It features dozens of rides, including the record setting wooden coaster, “Outlaw Run” and its “Wildfire” coaster; practicing craftsmen; shows; six world class festivals including “An Old Time Christmas,” and everything else one would expect from a world class theme park.

Branson Landing: The 95-acre, $435 million public/private multiuse project spans 1.5 miles of waterfront on Lake Taneycomo and is conveniently located adjacent to historic Downtown Branson. It’s combination of luxury condos and over 120 retail stores, kiosks and restaurants including “eclectic shops, national retailers, fine dining, intimate cafes and nightspots,” Main Street Lake Cruises, a zip line, two “floating restaurants, lakefront boardwalk on Lake Taneycomo and the spectacular free $7.5 million Branson Landing Fountain synchronized fire, water, light and music show make it one of the most popular attractions in Branson.

Branson's Titanic Museum Attraction  towers above the famed "Branson Strip."

Branson’s Titanic Museum Attraction towers above the famed “Branson Strip.”

Titanic Museum Attraction: The iconic, two story, ½ size, replica of the Titanic opened in 2006 and dominates the intersection of State Highway 165 and the Branson Strip. This permanent museum holds hundreds of Titanic artifacts in its many galleries and is an interactive adventure that makes the guests part of their own Titanic experience from beginning to end.

Inspiration Tower: Located in the historic Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, where Harold Bell Wright wrote his 1907 classic novel “The Shepherd of the Hills,” Inspiration Tower stands 230 feet above one of the highest points in southwest Missouri and on a clear day, provides a unique spectacular view of the Ozarks that extends over 90 miles into Arkansas.

Tanger Outlet Mall: It might seem strange to list an outlet mall as one of the things people who visit Branson are more than likely to talk about, but its central location in the middle of the Branson Strip, the fact that its Branson’s biggest outlet mall and one of the most popular shopping destinations in Branson combine to put it on the list.

Branson’s Live Shows: Although certainly not everyone who comes to Branson attends one of its live shows, the vast majority do and just about everyone who has visited Branson is aware of its shows. From the Acrobats of China and Jonah to Clay Coopers Country Express, Shoji Tabuchi, The Haygoods, Legends in Concert, SIX and dozens more, Branson has a variety, quantity and quality of shows that is unmatched by any travel destination anywhere near its size.

Presleys’ Theatre: Home of the Presleys’ Country Jubilee, the theatre was the first theatre on the Branson Strip in 1967. Two of its current cast members, Drummer, Steve Presley and comedian, “Herkimer,” Gary Presley have been performing continuously since that time.

Spectacular Beauty the Ozarks: Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, Branson is surrounded by the constantly changing tapestry of the beauty of the Ozark Mountains and its two pristine lakes, Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo.

 

Why SIX human voices are the hottest show in Branson

SIX, Owen, left , Kevin, Jak, Lynn, Curtis, and Barry during the gospel segment of the show.

SIX, Owen, left , Kevin, Jak, Lynn, Curtis, and Barry during the gospel segment of the show.

As many times as I have seen the amazing show SIX, I find myself looking for the band that is not there. This, even though I know that every sound I hear comes from the six human voices of siblings, Barry, Kevin, Owen, Lynn, Curtis and Jak Knudsen who make up the entire cast of one of Branson’s hottest shows, SIX. It was no different on the afternoon of May 20th, 2014 as I experienced the vocal magic of SIX performing their 2014 Branson show.

If you have never seen the show it’s hard to describe because it’s much more than a vocal band. It is a total entertainment experience consisting of great vocals covering a wide variety of music from the 60s to the present performed by an amazing “band” consisting of the same performers singing the vocals and doing the comedy. Their energy, familial harmonies and humor, coupled with the vocal band aspect of their show results in an an awesome entertainment experience that is certainly unique in Branson if not in all the world.

From the time the curtain goes up to the last number one or more, in most cases more, of SIX is on the stage entertaining. That might not seem remarkable, but when one considers that whether it’s a drum beating, a beautiful vocal or the brothers telling stories and providing a warm wonderful comedic element to the show, it is just the six of them and they do it virtually non-stop, except for intermission, for two hours.

It’s not just what they do, but how they do it. As demonstrated numerous times during the show by, among others, the performance of “Stand By Me” by Curtis; Coldplay’s “Fix You,” featuring Owen or Lynn featured in the song “Love Times Ten,” each has been blessed with a remarkable vocal talent. When that individual talent blends together in numbers such as “People of the World,” “America” and the gospel segment, the power and familial harmony is, simply put, “A joy to hear.” 

Owen, is the "drum" in the band as well as an accomplished vocalist.

Owen, is the “drum” in the band as well as an accomplished vocalist.

One minute Owen is “a drum” doing “Wipe out” and the next he is performing a beautiful rendition of “Fix You” and that’s just one of “six. “Multiply that talent and versatility by six and you begin to get an idea of just how unique and special this show is.

The comedy, mostly provided by Jak interacting with the audience or one of his brothers is funny and comfortable because much of it relates back to them. Like the vocals, that familial element takes something that is already funny and makes it a unique and special part of the total SIX entertainment experience. A perfect example is Jak and Barry, with the musical backup of the rest of the group in the “Mr. Hollywood,” segment. From the comedy to the vocals, in total, it is a vintage SIX “moment.”

From songs as varied as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight and “Pretty Woman” to “Fix You,” “Viva Las Vegas” and many more the shows choice of music will have something for just about every musical taste. Its Veterans segment with Kevin featured in “I’m An American Soldier” and their performance of “America;” their performance of “Love Times Ten,” dedicated to their mother who died all too early from Cancer and the show gospel segment are as inspirational and touching as they were powerfully and beautifully performed.

The lighting, sound and interactive use of the giant screen on the back of the stage as well as the side monitors all added significantly to the enjoyment of the show. SIX is one of the most popular shows in Branson and, to this writer, the unique, powerful high energy performance he saw today is the reason why.

For additional information or tickets for SIX 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 .

 

Five Reasons to spend Memorial Day Weekend in Branson

Silver Dollar City's iconic world class coaster "Wildfire."

Silver Dollar City’s iconic world class coaster “Wildfire.”

“Summer doesn’t officially start until June 21st, but in terms of Branson’s Summer Season it starts over Memorial Day Weekend,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC). “Memorial Day Weekend in Branson features the unique blend of natural beauty, live entertainment, lakes, attractions, shopping, Ozarks heritage, and other exciting activities that earned Branson a place in the top 25 destinations in America in the ‘2013 TripAdvisors Annual Traveler’s Choice Destination Awards‘ and makes it the ideal place for families to have fun together, relax, and make memories that will last for a lifetime,” she added.

Here’s five great reasons to spend Memorial Day Weekend in Branson, four of which are great reasons to spend your vacation in Branson anytime:

1. Pristine Lakes: With three different lakes, and thousands of miles of shoreline along Table Rock Lake, Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Taneycomo, Branson is a virtual aquatic paradise offering boating, swimming and a wide range of other aquatic activities along with some of the finest bass and trout fishing anywhere.

Whether one enjoys the lakes from a sandy beach like “Moonshine Beach,” located just minutes from the famed Branson Strip; walking along the Branson Landing Boardwalk; hiking one of many lakes trails, by boat, canoe or kayak or while cruising aboard one of the cruise boats such the Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake or the Lake Queen or Landing Princess on Lake Taneycomo, there are many opportunities to experience the beauty and relaxation of Branson’s lakes.

 

Branson's Titanic Museum Attraction takes passengers on an exciting "voyage."

Branson’s Titanic Museum Attraction takes passengers on an exciting “voyage.”

2. Attractions and Activities: It is doubtful that there is a travel destination anywhere near its size that has the variety of attractions and activities that Branson has. Two million gallons of cool wet fun await visitors to southwest Missouri’s biggest water park, the Polynesian themed White Water, with its 13 acres, 7,200 feet of water slides and its new $1.7 million thrill ride “KaPau Plummet.” Its two 240-foot slides each launches riders from a drop-floor four stories in the air into a 70-degree plunge followed by a spiraling loop to the bottom. When you add in the iconic seven story multiple slide “Kalani Towers;” “Aloha River at Hula Bay,” with over 800 feet of “unexpected twists and turns, fountains, misters, bubblers, geysers, a 30-foot tall Tiki water tower and more,” it’s easy to understand why White Water is called “Mid-America’s Nearby Island Adventure.”

And that’s just one of Branson’s many attractions! From butterflies to tigers, world class coasters to cruises, sea turtles to sharks, championship golf courses to mini golf, zip lines to hiking, go-karts  and so much more, Branson has an unbelievable choice of activities offering fun and adventure for the whole family. These include the 1880’s styled international award winning theme park, Silver Dollar City, with its dozens of rides, shows, and craftsmen which will be celebrating its “Bluegrass and BBQ Festival” during the Labor Day weekend; the Titanic Museum Attraction; the National Tiger Sanctuary; the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure and many more.

 

Dean Z, as Elvis, performing during performance of Legends in Concert.

Dean Z, as Elvis, performing  Legends in Concert.

3. Live Entertainment and Shows: Branson is known worldwide for the quality, quantity and variety of its live entertainment. From shows as diversified as the Acrobats of China, Jonah and Amazing Pets to Branson paradigm shows like Presleys’ Country Jubilee and Grand Jubilee as well as an incredible variety of top quality shows such as Shoji Tabuchi, SIX, Legends in Concert and dozens more Branson offers an unrivaled choice of live entertainment options.

4. Shopping: Memorial Day and year around, Branson offers a unique world class shopping experience. Whether it’s an item handcrafted at Silver Dollar City or a unique item from one of Branson’s many specialty shops, malls, Historic Downtown shops, Branson Landing or the hundreds of other stores, Branson offers a choice of shopping that will delight even the most avid shopper. Where else in America can you shop at an old time “5 & 10″ like “Dicks 5 & 10″ in historic downtown Branson and be shopping in a complex like Branson Landing with its 120 shops, restaurants and $7.5 million dollar fire, water, and music “five” minutes later?

5. Fireworks: Memorial Day Weekend’s two major fireworks displays take place on Sunday evening, May 25, at dusk. One display will be at Big Cedar Lodge as part of its Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks event and the other at the Chateau on the Lake as part of its Memorial Day Celebration. The public is invited to both with the best views from Table Rock Lake, the property’s grounds, or in the case of the Chateau on the Lake, the peninsula area located just north of the Table Rock Dam.

Johnson reminds visitors that Memorial Day Weekend is not only the start of Branson’s Summer Season, but one of Branson’s busiest weekends of the year. She suggests advance reservations for shows and lodging to ensure nor only availability, but the best seating and accommodations. For additional information on Branson’s Memorial Day Weekend activities or information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas – One of Nation’s Top Ten Christmas Light Displays

The City Square with its five story Christmas Tree and the "Holiday of Lights" parade passing through.

“What a well deserved honor,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center when she learned that a lighting display of Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas had been highlighted as one of the “10 Best Christmas Light Displays in the US” by AOL. She continued, “When you are on a select list with the likes of Rockefeller Center in New York, Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and the National Christmas Tree it reflects just how special the lighting at Old Time Christmas really is.”

She points out that this is at least the second year in a row where Silver Dollar City has received national recognition for its Old Time Christmas lighting displays. Last year, the award winning 1880s themed park won second place in the prestigious Golden Ticket Awards in the “Christmas Event” category, placing higher than either Disney’s ‘Magic Kingdom’ or ‘Disneyland?’ It also won first place in the “Friendliest Park Staff” category and second place in the “Best Food” category.

Although the parks celebration of Old Time Christmas is a Christmas Festival with shows, craftsmen, rides (weather permitting,) food and all the fun and excitement Silver Dollar City is known for, its millions of decorative Christmas lights and lighting displays are special. Johnson said, “Over four million sparkling lights, transform the park into a glowing Christmas spectacle.”

“The focal point,” she says, “Is the City Square and its five story tall Special Effects Christmas Tree. Each day at dusk it comes to life playing Christmas music such as “Carol of the Bells, “Joy to the World,” “Suite from Polar Express” and more as its many colored Christmas lights twinkle and dance in choreographed unison blend into the one million plus lights of the surrounding City square area. The “Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade,” with over 100,000 lights, passes through the park twice each evening if the weather permits. Although it is a spectacular sight anywhere in the park as it passes by the Christmas Tree and its lights are combined with the lights of the tree and surrounding square it is truly a breathtaking sight.

Johnson says that visitors to Branson and Ozark Mountain Christmas will be able to enjoy An Old Time Christmas Thursdays through Sundays through December 19, plus December 22-23 and from December 26-30. Hours are 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. most days. For additional information, specific hours or tickets for An Old time Christmas 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.

Why families can count on the Duttons for a great entertainment experience

 

Benjamin, Jessica, Abagail, Jonathan, Amy and Timothy during Finale.

Benjamin, Jessica, Abby, Jonathan, Amy and Timothy during Finale.

As The Duttons Show was drawing to a close on the afternoon of May 14th, I experienced, up close and personal, just how special this show and the family presenting it are as they performed their theme song, “You Can Count On Me.” Don’t know exactly what caused it, but as they performed and each of their families phased into the performance, the reality of the song and what I felt it meant to their commitment to each other and the type and quality of what I had experienced throughout the whole show touched my heart and brought tears to an old man’s eyes.

Like perhaps no other show in Branson, this show is a celebration of family as they share their family, and its considerable talents, with your family in one of the most entertaining family music shows in Branson. This show has been specifically designed, produced and presented, from beginning to end, to be as much fun for every member of the audience as it is for every member of the family that is performing it.

The core of the show, around which this fantastic entertainment experience is built, is the Dutton siblings Abby, Amy, Benjamin, Jonathan and Timothy; Timothy’s wife Judith; drummer Rob Wilson and the considerable instrumental and vocal talents of granddaughter Jessica. The instrumental and vocal talents of this core group alone is absolutely amazing. However, when coupled with performances by other family members, including some of the families 25 other grandchildren, and the artful and professional way they are seamlessly woven into the performances of the core performers, the result is a show that has more simultaneous moments of entertainment in it for every member of the family, adults as well as children, than any other music show in Branson.

The Duttons performing their inspirational and moving rendition of "You Can Count On Me."

The Duttons performing their inspirational and moving rendition of “You Can Count On Me.”

To me that’s an important aspect of this show. I am not aware of a show in Branson that is not suitable for children in terms of their content, but based on my personal experience, I can say that, with few exceptions, the vast majority of Branson’s music shows have not been designed with a consistent flow of material and performers that will appeal to the children in the audience as well as their parents, grandparents and other adults. This simultaneous ability to consistently entertain and appeal to both adults and children, on a peer to peer level, is an inherent magical part of this unique special show.

From its opening number, a full cast performance of “Uncle Penn,” to their finale, “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” it is obvious why the Duttons made it to the top ten on the NBC prime time hit show, “America’s Got Talent.” The talent of the Dutton siblings is the foundation upon which this show is built and what a foundation it is. Whether it’s the fiddle and violin playing of Amy or Abby, the dancing and humor of Benjamin, the playing of Jonathan, the multi-instrumentality and singing of Timothy the keyboard playing and singing of Judith or, as is often the case, a variation or mixture of any of the above, you can count on an experience filled with great music, fun, humor, entertainment and a special warmth.

One of my favorite numbers was “Cotton Eyed Joe.” It was musically performed beautifully; but, as they do so often during the show, it was “Duttonized” with their remarkable instrumental skill, a “black light” segment featuring some of the grandchildren and a demonstration of the superb dancing skill of Benjamin. The result was a unique and exciting performance that was as wonderful and colorful to watch as it was to hear.

This show has one of the most touching and sincere Veterans segments of any show in Branson, a unique dueling performance of the fiddle classic “Orange Blossom Special,” and a classical segment featuring an prelude by Timothy playing an introduction of “Capricho Arabe” on the classical guitar leading into Amy playing a combination of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons Summer Movement” with a touch of Vitoria Monte’s “Csárdás” that is spectacular. With a show filled with so many highlights, it’s hard to pick a favorite, and I’m sure yours will be different than mine, but here are my two favorites.

I loved the beginning of the second half as Timothy, on the guitar and Amy on the violin started playing “Viva La Vida.” As the number continued more family members were slowly added playing violins then, in a similar manner they withdrew leaving the original two. It was a simple beautiful moment of musical eloquence. Obviously, I also loved their performance of “You Can Count On Me” because, to me, it captures what makes the Duttons so special, their commitment to each other, entertaining their audience and sharing their family with us. Ok, I just have to add a third, I really enjoyed the Polynesian number “Tutuki,” performed by Bella Dutton, Jonathan’s wife, who is from “Soma;” her daughters and Rachel and Jessica. I would be remiss if I did not comment on the excellent job that Jessica Dutton does as she performs with her aunts and uncles. She is an accomplished violinist and, like her younger sister Rachel, is blessed with the vocal talents of her mom and dad, Tim and Judith Dutton. Young Master Timmy Dutton gave an excellent performance of “Danke Shoen.”

Cousin Julio, who looks a lot like Benjamin, trying to "horn" in on Jonathan's number.

Cousin Julio, who looks a lot like Benjamin, trying to “horn” in on Jonathan’s number.

Some who have seen the show, are probably wondering how Cousin Julio is doing. He’s doing fine and showed up trying to “horn” in for an audition for the show after being rejected last year. It was, from both a musical and humorous point of view a “hoot” and this time he got the job; well sort of, but you’ll see what I mean during the second half of the show.

By now you are probably asking, “Is there nothing in this show that was not a highlight?” Not much, not much at all. Previously I wrote, “From rock and roll to blue grass and country this show has a variety of music that has something for everyone. It’s not the shows content alone however, that makes the show so special. It’s how they present it, with that unique Dutton talent, instrumentality, flair, showmanship and innate ability to instill that warm directly ‘from our family’ to ‘you and your family’ feeling in its audience members, that makes this show the unique, special and wonderful Branson entertainment event that it is.” All I can say after seeing their show on May 14, is, “Ditto.”

For tickets or information for The Duttons Show or for 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 through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

A Branson show marathon by the numbers

 

The Brett’s deliver a performance that’s beyond captivating.

The Brett’s deliver a performance that’s beyond captivating.

It has been my observation over the last 28 years that one of the most popular activities for those visiting Branson is to see one or more Branson shows. That’s really not surprising when one considers the quality, variety and availability of the live shows that make Branson the place some refer to as the “Live Music show capital of the world.”

In fact, one could actually have an entertaining leisurely “Branson Show Marathon” attending shows from morning to night with a great variety of Branson’s most popular shows available for each of the three legs of the marathon “1. Morning,”” 2. Afternoon” and “3. Night.”

Although there are certainly other “marathon itineraries” that could be made up, the following list, powered by the Branson Tourism Center’s Branson Show List, contains three of Branson’s most popular and requested shows for each “leg” of the marathon with links to pictures, videos, schedules and ticketing information on each:

1. Morning:

Ayo, staring the Voices of Glory 10:00 AM
Bretts 10:00 AM
Dublin Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies 10:00 AM

2. Afternoon:

Billy Dean Live 2:00 PM
Acrobats of China 3:00 PM
Jonah 3:30 PM

3. Night:

Clay Cooper’s Country Express 7:30 PM
Grand Jubilee 7:30 PM
Shoji Tabuchi 7:30 PM

The Grand Jubilee featuring Branson’s "New South" quartet,and the outrageously funny antics of Jamie Haage, as "Jim Dandy."

The Grand Jubilee featuring Branson’s “New South” quartet,and the outrageously funny antics of Jamie Haage, as “Jim Dandy.”

The shows listed above were specifically selected to show the variety of Branson shows available on a daily basis, are some of Branson’s most popular shows and are from the schedule for May 21st. Although there could be variations, depending on scheduling for different dates; one thing will not change, the unrivaled quality and variety of the live entertainment presented by Branson’s live shows on a daily basis.

For questions or tickets on any of the above shows, any of the almost 100 more Branson shows or free help in planning your own Branson itinerary please do not hesitate 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, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Gary Groman is a freelance writer and columnist who has lived in Branson for 28 years. Currently, outside of his column, he writes exclusively for the Branson Tourism Center and can be reached through his website www.TheOleSeaGull.com.