Three “free” Branson activities for families to enjoy

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousand Rainbow and Brown Trout.

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousands of Rainbow and Brown Trout.

“Branson is one of the best vacation values in the country,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “It becomes even more so if the great value of its lodging, shows, and attractions is supplemented by one or more of the “free” activities available for visitors to enjoy,” she added.

From miles of trails, to a grist mill, scenic overlooks, and a $7.5 million synchronized fire; to water and music fountain show; a trout hatchery and much more, Branson has a variety of free activities for its visitors to enjoy. From among the many, here’s a list of three things selected especially for families with children:

1. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery,” is located at the foot of Table Rock Dam. It is located just off State Highway 165, is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and is part of a complex consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center features an interesting nature display and a short video on the hatchery and the process involved with producing the trout that makes Lake Taneycomo one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation. It also has a huge aquarium with some “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout showing the size that some of the trout in Lake Taneycomo can reach.

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

2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Free Trolley:” The Free Trolley is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center, Branson Landing, and the Lake Taneycomo shoreline. It operates on a constant loop which passes a number of Branson landmarks including the grave site of the man the city of Branson is named after, Ruben S. Branson; the Owens Theatre, Branson’s first theatre, the Branson Convention Center, Branson Landing and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over half a century ago.

Although there are many places to board the trolley in historic downtown Branson, we would recommend boarding at Branson Landing, either at its southern end near Bass Pro Shops or its northern end by the Belk store. This avoids the two-hour parking limitations that cover most of the parking in the historic district. The trolley operates March-December daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In February, the schedule is Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.

3. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: The “unofficial “duck feeding area, that most people coming to Branson never see, is located just south of Branson Landing in the shadow of Scotty’s Trout Dock, near the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Campground. Not only is it a lot of fun for the kids to feed the ducks and geese, it provides a unique one of a kind Branson photo opportunity.

For more information on these activities, Branson shows, attractions, and lodging, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.

 

Acrobats of China is incredible amazing entertainment your whole family will absolutely love

How many is that on one bicycle?

How many is that on one bicycle?

“Wow!” is my impression of the 2015 edition of the Acrobats of China featuring “The New Shanghai Circus” and starring the “Fenton Acrobatic Troupe.” That’s a big “Wow” for me because, as the show starts its 17th year in Branson, I have seen them perform about 14 out of those 17 years and, although it seems I have said this a lot over the years, this is absolutely the best yet. The world renowned skill, expertise and variety of exciting acts along with the great choreography, color and pageantry of years past is there, but it is presented in a brand new format that adds an entirely new dynamic to what was already one of Branson’s most popular shows.

The theme of the show, carried out throughout, is exploring “the ancient art of Chinese Acrobatics, Chinese Culture and stories taken from the 200 year old ‘Beijing Opera,’ which is an exciting and beautiful form of theatre encompassing storytelling, singing, acting, dance, costume, stagecraft, gymnastics, martial arts and makeup.” Most of the shows many acts are preceded by an introduction beautifully tying the act into Chinese history or the opera. This takes the acrobatic or gymnastic skills of the performer(s) and embeds it into the act’s “mini story” adding another entertainment element for the audience to enjoy.

The shows high flying Silk Act was amazing and flawlessly performed. Its introduction and presentation was framed around tragic opera, “The Goddess of Luo River,” in which Zhen Mi, the beautiful daughter of a high ranking official is forced by her father to marry the wrong man. Her true love, Cao Zhi, saddened by her marriage, composed a poem describing how they met and fell in love. It’s interesting to see how each different skill set and act is seamlessly melded into its historical or operatic partner.

Continuing on the same theme, and an entirely new act this year, is the exciting and amazing “Fork in the Road,” combines a mixture of the Beijing Opera and Chinese Kung Fu to tell the story of a weary warrior who stops at an inn for the night and defends himself when the inn keeper and his evil friends sneak in to attack him and steal his goods. This is a “black light” performance is one of the most unique and exciting acts I have ever seen performed in the show. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that you will be unable to “mask” your amazement as they “levitate” the action and excitement of the show to a new level.

Hoop Jumping is just one of  the many exciting and dangerous acts that are performed.

Hoop Jumping is just one of the many exciting and dangerous acts that you will see.

From juggling to strength acts, hoop jumping, an unbelievable bike act, pole climbing and so much more this show truly entertains the entire family throughout the entire two hours of the show, entertaining kids and adults simultaneously. Each act seamlessly transitions from one to another, almost like magic, with no dead time. The skill and energy of these performers is amazing even to the way they leave the stage and rush out to the lobby to meet and greet the audience after the show.

Just sitting in the back, watching the reaction of the kids and, for that matter, the adults during the show, was a joy. After the show the Fine family from Higginsville, Missouri was kind enough to share their opinion of the show with me. That’s the good news, the bad news is that because of “operator error” my recorder “misfired,” but as best as I can recollect, Mrs. Fine said she loved the show and the interactive way it was presented. Her two young daughters, ages 7 and 9 I believe, enthusiastically said that they really liked the show and felt that other kids there age would too.

If you want to share something unique, exciting, colorful, that the whole family will enjoy and is in a class by itself in terms of the skill and daring displayed throughout, then you don’t want to miss these championship acrobats as they perform in this incredible production.

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

Five reasons you and your family shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the amazing Jonah

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

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

When I went to see Jonah at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson as it premiered last year I did so in the context of having seen all of the spectacular Sight and Sound Branson shows, “Noah, the Musical,” “Miracle of Christmas,” and “Joseph.” I expected to see a show with great music, vocals, spectacular sets and costuming presented as only Sight and Sound can do it. Well, I got what I expected and, in terms of what most people think about what swallowed “Jonah” a “whale” of lot more.”

Recently, Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, reminded me that although Jonah’s Branson premier was just a year ago that time is running out for Branson visitors to see it because it will be replaced by another production, “Moses” next year. If you have not seen this fantastic show here are a few reasons why we believe that you should consider seeing it and sharing it with your family before it leaves Branson:

1. The whole family can enjoy it together: All Branson shows are family friendly in terms of content, but some are more kid friendly, in terms of their content being able to hold their interest throughout the majority of the show. Still fewer can entertain children of different ages and adults simultaneously and at entertainment level they all enjoy. Jonah does.

2. Spectacular Props and Sets: Sight and Sound is known for their spectacular props and sets and as great as they have been in their other Sight and Sound Branson productions, in Jonah they are just about unbelievable. One example is the ship from which Jonah is thrown into the sea; took two years to build and weighs 30,000 pounds.

3. Action and Special Effects: Sight and Sound are experts at filling their 300 foot surround sound stage with music, action, dancing, drama and special effects melded into magnificent productions. The action scenes of the ship breaking up; Jonah flying through the air, particularly as he departs the belly of the great “fish;” the set of Jonah in the belly of the fish and the underwater scene with the great “fish” are simply magnificent and something no one has ever come close to seeing on a Branson stage.

4. The Magnificent Underwater Segment: As Jonah is thrown into the sea by the crew of the ship and sinks into the ocean depths, the audience is literally “immersed,” in a spectacular underwater environment as beautiful fish swim by, Jelly Fish float about and the great “fish” 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 “fish” is not seen. One minute the fish is swimming toward him and the next, there is a set with Jonah in the belly of the fish. Jonah’s exit from the belly of the fish was a “high flying” experience that delighted the audience.

5. An Epic Biblical Story Spectacularly Brought to Life: Jonah has it all, drama; original music produced specifically for the show and performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra; great vocals sung live on stage by the shows cast; dancing; 30 live animals ; colorful costuming and great sound, special effects and lighting and simply spectacular sets. That said however, it is the energy and talent of the shows cast of 41 performers that brings the epic bible story of Jonah, and how he tried to run from what he knew God wanted him to do, to life in a very special, inspirational and entertaining way.

In a nutshell, Jonah is unlike anything that most people will every see live on stage, a pure joy to experience and something is that every member of the family can enjoy together and remember for a lifetime. Jonah will be performed through December 29, 2015.

For additional information or tickets for Jonah 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

Answers to your questions about the famed Branson Strip

The iconic Presley's Theatre, home of the "first show" on the "Branson Strip," "Presleys' Country Music Jubilee."

The iconic Presley’s Theatre, home of the “first show” on the “Branson Strip,” “Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee.”

“Just about everyone who comes to Branson, wants to see the famed Branson Strip and will, whether they want to or not because of its location,” says Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. Here’s some answers to some of the most asked questions about The Strip that we hope you will find interesting:

Where does the Branson Strip Actually Start and end? That depends. An argument could be made that, on its east side, it starts at the junction of Roark Valley Road and Highway 76, at the Veteran’s Memorial Park and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end. Most however, say it starts .8 miles west on Highway 76 at the intersection of Fall Creek Road and Highway 76, and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end, because that’s where the theatres and most of the attractions start. For purposes of this piece we are going with the majority view as to the eastern start of “The Strip.” There is minimal, if any, debate on its western end.

How long is the Branson Strip? As measured on my odometer today it is 3.3 miles long from its eastern end at the Intersection of the Fall Creek Road and Highway 76.

What is the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, the home of two of Branson’s most popular shows the fabulous Legends in Concert Show and the Bretts morning show, is the first theatre on the Branson Strip. It’s right across the street from another of Branson’s most popular theatre attractions, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.

Wasn’t the Presleys’ theatre the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Yes, it was, it’s a matter of “tense.” In 1967, when they first opened and started performing Presleys’ Country Jubilee, there was no “Branson Strip” and not much of anything else near them, just Highway 76 heading west toward Silver Dollar City. As other theatres were built east and west of them what is now known as the “Branson Strip” developed, but first there was the Presleys and the Presleys’ Country Jubilee which has been performing there continuously ever since and is, perennially, one of Branson’s most popular and beloved shows. It has been said, “You haven’t seen Branson until you’ve seen Presleys’ Country Jubilee.”

Is there any formal signage showing that you are on the Branson Strip? No, but if you are on Highway 76, and you see a theatre marquee you are on “The Strip.”

Is Silver Dollar City or Branson Landing on the Branson Strip? No. Although Silver Dollar City, the 1880’s styled award winning theme park that is Branson’s most popular paid attraction is located on Highway 76, it is miles west of “The Strip” and is not actually inside the city limits of Branson. Branson Landing is located east of “The Strip” at the end of Main Street.

Didn’t the tornado of 2012 tear up “The Strip?” Actually very little damage was done to most of the attractions and theatres on “The Strip” by the tornado. The three major theatres that were extensively damaged have all been remodeled and are in operation. Interestingly, and illustrating just how spotty the damage was, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre was extensively damaged resulting in just about a new theatre while the Dixie Stampede, located immediately across the street, wasn’t damaged at all.

Where is the biggest concentration of shows and attractions on The Strip? Although there are dozens of major attractions up and down the strip it is hard to imagine that there is a more concentrated area than the .6 miles from Andy’s Custard west to the World’s Largest Toy Museum that includes White Water; popular Branson shows such as SIX, It starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families, the Duttons, George Dyer, Ayo staring the Voices of Glory and others along with everything from mini golf to multi story high go-kart tracks.

It’s no illusion the Illusionist Rick Thomas show is an amazing magical entertainment “10” your whole family will enjoy

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

The short and quick of it is, if you want to see one of the best magic shows to ever appear on a Branson stage you don’t want you and your family to miss the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show at the Moon River Theatre. In over 28 years of seeing magic shows in Branson I have never been as amazed or entertained by a magic show as I was by this show when I saw it on the night of May 23 with many of my peers from the Branson Tourism Center and the Branson tourism industry.

Rick and Lightening.

Rick and Lightning.

From the time the show starts until it ends with a “blast,” it is 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.

There’s no aloofness or mystery here, just a man who obviously relates well to both adults and kids, getting them invested in the show early on and keeping them enthralled throughout. He is a master at his craft and just seems to be able to communicate to his audience that he is having so much fun doing what he is doing as he draws them into that fun. It is simply magical in its own right and adds so much to the excitement and enjoyment of the show.

With his beautiful and talented assistant, Tara Edgerton and dancers Shelley Tess-Webster, Jenna Perez, Sarah Tochtrop Thomas Gray, Lewis Darlington and Gareth Evans, he combines beautiful music and dancing with some of the “most intriguing and innovative Grand Illusions in the world” into a spectacular entertainment experience. Whether it was Rick performing one of his illusions, the dancers dancing or him working the audience, this fast paced show had me sitting on the edge of my seat marveling at what I had just seen and anxious to see what was coming next.

This is one of those shows that both adults and children can simultaneously enjoy together throughout. Kids and adults alike love the magic and the dancing and even on the couple of occasions when kids were brought up on stage to interact with him it was seamlessly done in a way that not only gave the children in the audience a chance to relate to their peers on stage, but enhanced the quality of the entertainment experience of the adults in the audience at the same time.

Because it is a magic show and surprise and awe is such a big part of its excitement I will not go into the specifics of the illusions except to say, “From birds and motorcycles to Lightning, seeing time stand still and from dogs to beautiful women you will be amazed and dazzled by the illusions of Rick Thomas as they come at you one after the other as part of this wonderful magical experience.

The start of the amazing,  unique "Air Adage."

The start of the amazing, unique “Air Adage.”

OK, I have to mention one. The “Air Adage” illusion with Tara dancing so gracefully high above the stage is as beautiful as it is amazing, not only from an illusion perspective, but from the grace and skill of the dancing itself. It is a unique one of a kind illusion that I will never forget and bet you won’t either.

I asked two of my compatriots from the Branson tourism industry who attended the same show, what they thought of it. “I’d rate it a ’10!’ said Megan Miller who has seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years. When asked what she liked best Megan said that she liked the illusions involving the dog, the way he relates to the audience and the “blast” at the end of the show.

Noell Chapman, another Branson tourism professional, has also seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years and when asked how she would rank it on a 10 point scale she said, “10 plus!” When asked what her one favorite part of the show was she said, “I loved the way they levitated into ‘the sky’ and gracefully floated above the stage like they were swimming in water, but there’s no water!” She said that she has never seen anything like it, highly recommends the show and would definitely recommend if for families with kids.”

For additional information or tickets for the Illusionist Rick Thomas 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.

Five great ways you can guarantee your family an amazing Branson hotel or resort experience

Part of the spacious relaxing grounds of the Welk Resort.

Part of the spacious relaxing grounds of the Welk Resort.

“From budget conscious motel rooms to luxuriously appointed suites and condos, it’s easy to find the perfect place to stay in Branson with your family on vacation,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Not only can you find the perfect place for you and your family to stay, but at a great value. ”

The following five hotels and resorts have all received excellent reviews from Branson Tourism Center (BTC) customers; represent a good cross section of the lodging available in Branson in terms of amenities, location and price and participate in Branson Tourism Center’s Lowest Rate Lock Guarantee Program guaranteeing that the price you pay for your lodging accommodations will be the lowest rate available. If you find a lower price offered for the same room on the same dates anytime between when you book your room and when you arrive in Branson, BTC will match the lower rate.

The properties are listed in alphabetical order along with links to more complete information and rates:

Grand Plaza HotelAt the “Grand Plaza Hotel,” you’ll enjoy a fabulous view of the Ozark Mountains. Centrally located, it’s just a block off the famed “Branson Strip,” right next to fantastic shopping at Tanger Outlets and near the great lineup of shows at the King’s Castle and Andy Williams Moon River Theatre. Its amenities include an incredible pool complex with an indoor pool, hot tub, fitness room, and game room.

Honeysuckle Inn & Conference CenterThe “Honeysuckle Inn & Conference Center” provides exceptional Branson lodging. You’ll find an indoor pool, one of the area’s largest outdoor pools; kidney-shaped with both shallow and deep areas; an indoor hot tub, meeting space, and guest-accessible, beautifully landscaped grounds with flower gardens and a picnic table.

Lynina Inn conveniently located to all Branson offers on the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.

Lynina Inn provides easy access to all Branson offers from its convenient Shepherd of the Hills Expressway location.

Lynina InnStay at Branson’s “Lynina Inn,” where hospitality is the number one amenity! Conveniently located on the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway near the IMAX Complex and Shoji Tabuchi Show, the knowledgeable staff takes great pride in making sure your stay is enjoyable! There are spacious rooms to fit every need, including deluxe or standard king and queen rooms and Jacuzzi suites, as well as a delicious complimentary breakfast.

Radisson HotelThe “Radisson Hotel” in Branson offers a wide range of amenities throughout this stunning property that recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. You’ll find a spectacular indoor/outdoor pool, sauna, whirlpool, and a top-notch fitness center as well as beautifully appointed, updated guest rooms. It is located within easy walking distance of the great lineup of shows at the King’s Castle and Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.

Welk Resort“Welk Resort” boasts a perfect location; close to all of Branson’s exciting activities yet located where you’ll find beautiful views of the Ozark Mountains and close to Table Rock Lake’s Moonshine Beach, Discover beautifully appointed rooms, a mini-golf course, a patio overlooking landscaped gardens, and an amazing 10,000 square foot “Splash-A-Torium” indoor water park! It is a full service resort, the home of the Welk Theatre, featuring Branson’s newest show, the Million Dollar Quartet and is located across the street from the Pointe Royale Golf Course.

Collin Raye to stir Branson hearts and souls with his irresistible country music

Collin Raye, Grammy winning country star who gets to the soul of country music.

Collin Raye, Grammy winning country star who sings to the soul of country music.

Jimmy Osmond, the new owner of the Moon River Theatre said that he is honored to be able to maintain and continue the tradition and legacy of Andy Williams by providing the type of entertainment that is consistent with the desire and love, his friend and mentor, had for Branson and the quality of entertainment it offered. Osmond said that there will be over 300 performances in the theatre this year including their outstanding lineup of “house shows” with Illusionist Rick Thomas, The Lettermen, Moon River and Me, and The Andy Williams Christmas Show; limited engagement performances from stars such as Loretta Lynn, and over a dozen others and “The Hits” series

“The Hits,” is a series of shows involving three award winning stars performing at different times through the rest of the year:

June 1 – Sep 19: The Hits starring Collin Raye
Sep 21 – 31: The Hits starring Mary Wilson
Oct 19 – Oct 31: The Hits starring the Osmonds

Osmond was excited about Collin Raye’s upcoming performances for the summer season. He said, “I’m so thrilled that Collin is playing our Theatre in Branson. I’ve been a fan and a friend of Collin for some time and I know it will be great for his fans to treat their families to the award winning HITS of his great Variety Show, along with the hilarious comedy of Two Time Comedy Magician of the Year, Chipper Lowell.”

It has been said, “Country music, at its core, is all about stirring the heart and healing the soul, and nobody does both better than the irresistible ‘Collin Raye.’” He has won a “Grammy,” nine combined awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association and has 20 Top Ten hits including songs such as, Love, Me; My Kind of Girl; In This Life; and I Can Still Feel You that all made #1 on “Billboard.”

Jimmy wasn’t the only one enthused about Raye coming to Branson. Collin said, “I am so excited to be in Branson this summer! A great destination of fun and entertainment for American families. Our show at the Moon River Theatre will be like nothing my fans have seen before. A variety of music, in a place where God and country still rule the day.”

“With the music of Collin Raye and the comedy and magic of Chipper Lowell, this will be a great show for the entire family,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. For more information on The Hits starring Collin Raye, or tickets, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/

 

No fiddling around, the Shoji Tabuchi show is amazing entertainment

Shoji Tabuchi playing "Listen to the Mocking Bird."

Shoji Tabuchi playing “Listen to the Mocking Bird.”

Shoji Tabuchi has said, “The fiddle and violin are the same instrument, their difference is how you ‘fiddle” around with them.” After seeing his show recently I can say, regardless of which instrument he is “fiddling around with,” from the first note to the last, it is simply a joy to listen to this master as he performs a variety of music ranging from “Live and Let Die,” the title song of the James Bond movie with the same name to “The Orange Blossom Special,” “Listen to the Mocking Bird,” a classical “Humoresque” and many styles in between.

If there was only Shoji that would be enough, but he is part of a production involving a live orchestra, singers and dancers, colorful costumes, beautiful choreography and excellent audience interaction. It is all superbly woven together into a two hour extravaganza of fast paced musical entertainment, by co-producers Dorothy and Christina Tabuchi that concludes all too quickly.

The dancers and vocalists, Alicia Winking, Robyn Hurst, Jeremy Sterling, Jonny Laughlin, Adam Henry and Norvin Breeck who is also the co-dance captain, are led by Shoji’s daughter, Christina Lingo-Tabuchi. She is also the show’s feature vocalist, vocal director, co-dance captain and the show’s co-producer. The versatility, talent and energy of these entertainers explodes onto the stage with a burst of energy and color as they open the show with “”Shake It Off” and, whether its dancing, singing a duet or playing the part of a cow, chicken or penguin, doesn’t let up until the curtain falls.

Christina Tabuchi, right and Alicia Winking during their performance of "Somethin' Bad."

Christina Tabuchi, right and Alicia Winking during their performance of “Somethin’ Bad.”

Christina Tabuchi, in addition to being the co dance captain, is the show’s featured vocalist and sings a variety of solos and duets throughout the show demonstrating the range of her vocal talents. Two of my favorites would be her duet of the Miranda Lambert/Carrie Underwood hit, “Somethin’ Bad,” with Alicia Winking and her solo performance of the Lee Ann Womack hit, “I Hope You Dance,” which was simply beautiful and was dedicated to her daughter.

The show’s band, composed of Duggie Dugan, director and guitar player; Landon Rolf, bass; Anthony Walter:, drums, William Green, percussion; John Turner, piano; Carl Hose, Trombone and Wes Smith, flute and sax; does a magnificent job, not only from an instrumental perspective but in supporting all the diverse elements of the show. Of many, a prime example would be the shows big band number “Fly Me To The Moon” featuring the band, Shoji and the singers and dancers.

Of course the star of the show is the incredible Shoji Tabuchi who has been delighting Branson audiences with his blend of showmanship and fiddle and violin mastery for over 30 years. Whether he is playing the fiddle, which he does for the majority of the show, or the violin, from the first to the last note of every piece it is obvious that you are hearing and seeing a master of his craft performing.

From country to rock and roll to Elvis, Led Zeppelin and Brahms he performs a variety of musical styles. It’s extremely unlikely that there will be a greater variety of music presented at any concert or show featuring an instrumentalist playing the “fiddle and violin” and it’s a virtual certainty that you won’t hear one do it better. From among many, my three favorites were, “Through the Eyes of Love” from the movie “Ice Castles; the classical segment with “Humoresque,” “Brahms Lullaby” and “Little Night Music” and his extremely entertaining version of the song that turned a young Japanese violinist into a master fiddle player, “Listen to the Mocking Bird,” which he first heard performed when Roy Acuff and his band did a concert in Japan.

Giant Japanese "Taiko Drum."

Giant Japanese “Taiko Drum.”

You will not want to miss the opening of the second half of the show, where the shows vocalists and dancers again demonstrate how multi-talented they are as, along with others, they open it with the “Taiko Drums,” from Shoji’s native Japan. Ten drummers play three different drums including the large “Odaiko” in a unique one of a kind performance. Make sure you watch the movements of the drummers on the smaller drums! Shoji plays “Sakura Sakura” and does a duet of “Sukiyaki,” with his daughter, Christina. The whole segment from the drums to the costuming and the music is something that will not soon be forgotten.

As I was watching the show I could not help but notice how much the group sitting just behind me was enjoying the show. At intermission I had a chance to chat with one of them, Jason Gillem, from Apple Valley, MN. He said that he was enjoying the show, would absolutely recommend it to others and that it was unique, energetic and reached out to all members of the audience.

Although an intangible, Shoji’s ability to relate to his audience, while playing, telling the story of how he came to be an American citizen or anyone of a variety of other anecdotes he shares periodically throughout the show, is an inherent part of the whole experience. As I have written before and would again ratify, “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.”

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

Six current Branson performers you might have seen on TV

Luke Menard, far right with "New South," David Ragan to his right,  Mark  McCauley and Drockelman.

Luke Menard, far right with the rest of “New South,” David Ragan to his right, Mark McCauley and Drockelman.

Branson visitors are blessed to be able to see many national stars, including Billy Dean, The Osmonds, Collin Raye, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Jimmy Fortune and many others whom they have probably seen on TV throughout their award winning careers. However, it would be impossible to offer the tremendous live entertainment Branson offers on a regular basis without the wealth of talent possessed by the many Branson performers who, although not blessed with national careers, are in many cases no less talented.

Just how talented is often reflected in how well they do, or have done, when they perform against literally thousands on national TV shows such as the prime time hits America’s Got Talent, American Idol and others. Let’s take a look at some who progressed beyond the preliminary rounds and where you may see them currently performing in Branson:

Jason Pritchard: Appeared on Season 2 of America’s Got Talent and made it to the Final 8.He is currently the band leader/guitarist for the “Steel Horses Band” and a featured vocalist in one of Branson’s most popular shows Billy Dean in Concert With Jarrett. In addition, he has “just released his first single, ‘Good Show’, off his upcoming EP ‘Independence Cowboy’ which was co-written by Billy Dean and is already climbing the charts!”

Luke Menard: Appeared on Season 7 of American Idol and was a Semi-Finalist. He is currently performing with one of Branson’s premier quartets “New South” in another of Branson’s most popular shows Grand Jubilee.

Jason Yeager: Also appeared on Season 7 of American Idol and was a Semi-Finalist. He is currently appearing on the Showboat Branson Belle, and is the vocalist for its “Celebrate Gold” show.

Texas Tenors: Were in the top four during Season 4 of America’s Got Talent. Although they have an extensive touring schedule, they perform throughout the year in Branson and their show, The Texas Tenors, is another of Branson’s most popular shows.

The Voices of Glory: Also appeared during Season 4 of America’s Got Talent finishing in 5th Place. They are currently appearing in their own Branson show, Ayo starring the Voices of Glory.

The Duttons: Appeared during Season 2 of America’s Got Talent, the season Terry Fator won, finishing in the top 10. The Duttons own their own theatre in Branson where they perform their extremely popular Duttons show during the regular Branson season.

Ok, we just have to add a seventh who most of you probably never saw on national TV because she was the first and did it before the current series of shows got started. That would be Ambrus Presley who, at the time was 13 and performed under her maiden name, Ambrus Smith, and won Ed McMahon’s “Next Biggest Star.” She had been performing, very successfully, in a variety of Branson shows since she was eight. Subsequently, Ambrus  started performing for Presleys’ Country Jubilee as a lead vocalist, where she is still performing today, married John Presley and is the proud mother of two boys Henry and Hank .

Here’s the facts you need to know about what’s “Buzzin in Branson” for you enjoy during June 2015

World famous Harlem Globetrotters featured at Silver Dollar City's "Star Spangled Summer Festival"

World famous Harlem Globetrotters featured at Silver Dollar City’s “Star Spangled Summer Festival” *

Buzzin in Branson” is a concise and easy to read list of the major events and activities taking place in Branson, Missouri during the month being “Buzzed,” which is June of 2015 for this issue. Each issue contains the “Branson Buzz of the Month,” and a list of the major special events, shows and activities for the month.

Branson's newest show, the "Million Dollar Quartet," premiers on June 25.

Branson’s newest show, the “Million Dollar Quartet,” premiers on June 25.

Branson “Buzz of the Month for June 2015

The opening of Branson’s newest show, Million Dollar Quartet, limited engagement performance of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and the Harlem Globetrotters at Silver Dollar City’s “Star Spangled Summer Festival.”

The following list of major special events, shows and activities taking place in Branson during June is sorted by event date and contains pertinent and timely comments and contact information, through either a link or phone number, that can be used to obtain additional information where appropriate:

Jun 1 – 30: The Hits Starring Collin Raye
Jun 1 -30: Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Jun 5 – 26: Buckets N Boards
Jun 6 – Jul 19: Star Spangled Summer Festival at Silver Dollar City
Jun 6: White River Valley Trail Trek
Jun 6: IMAX Smokin’ Summer Kickoff Party (417-335-3533)
Jun 6: Smokin Summer Kickoff BBQ Cook-Off (417-335-3533)
Jun 6: Afternoon Tea at The Keeter Center (417-690-2120)
Jun 12: The Dan Benton Band- Branson Landing (417-239-3002)
Jun 18 – Jun 20: Ozark Mountain Thunder Motorcycle Rally 2015
Jun 12 – 14: U.S. Bow Fishing Fair and Tournament
Jun 13: Craig Wayne Boyd
Jun 20 – Jun 2: Boot Daddy Presents Gene Watson
Jun 20 – Jun 2:Titanic Museum Attraction Branson Father’s Day Boat Show
Jun 20: Etiquette Class at The Keeter Center (417-690-2120)
Jun 21: Father’s Day
Jun 21: Father’s Day Brunch & Car Show at Keeter Center
Jun 21: Father’s Day Brunch at Chateau on the Lake
Jun 21: Father’s Day Champagne Brunch at Chateau on the Lake
Jun 25: Opening Day of Branson’s newest show Million Dollar Quartet
Jun 27: 2015 Branson Dollhouse Miniature Show
Jun 28: Honor America Celebrate America 4th of July Celebration – College of the Ozarks

“Buzzin in Branson” is produced monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson to give them a “heads up” about what’s happening in Branson next month. If you have any further questions about these events or want information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or lodging 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.

* Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City