“Branson is well known for the quality and variety of its live shows and entertainment,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Its great music shows, covering just about every genre of music, are legend, but, while perhaps not as well known, Branson is also blessed with a variety of some of the funniest comedians anywhere. From Branson’s longest performing comedian, the incomparable Gary Presley as “Herkimer” in Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee to the comical characters of Jarrett Dougherty at the Billy Dean Live show, the antics of Jamie Haage of the Grand Jubilee , the great standup comedy of Paul Harris from Paul Harris and the Cleverlys and many others, Branson audiences are full of laughter every day,” she added. Wood said that the announcement this week about the future of Paul Harris, one of Branson’s longtime favorites, is both an example of the quality of comedians Branson has, but also their wit and humor. The announcement of his future plans, which still involves doing shows in Branson, was accompanied by a photo featuring him wearing a “standout” pair of sunglasses and Paul saying, “The futures so bright I gotta wear shades.” Recently Harris and The Cleverlys have had to make some changes to their Branson show schedule at the Starlight Theatre to accommodate some of the opportunities coming their way. One of those opportunities is touring” with the most awarded band in country music’s history, “Alabama.” In addition, Harris has become the national spokesman for Bad Boy Mowers,”the mower with an attitude,” built by American workers “right in the middle of the country in the Ozarks Mountains” and has a recording deal and a TV project in the works. The Starlite Theatre said that they are ecstatic about the possibilities for Paul and have been working with him on scheduling to free up time for these opportunities that are beneficial to both Paul and Branson. Harris said that he is appreciative of not only the theatres flexibility, but that of his fans. Branson Tourism Center’s Wood reminds those coming to Branson of the advice contained in the announcement saying, “Don’t miss your chance to see Paul before his craziness is unleased upon America in a big way!” She points out that even while taking advantage of these opportunities Paul Harris and the Cleverlys are scheduled to perform a number of Branson performances between now and the end of December. For their latest schedule, information and tickets please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550.
Branson “Buzz of the Month” - The Branson autumn foliage will reach its peak color from the middle to the end of October
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. In a concise and easy to read format, it conveniently provides pertinent and timely comments, information and a list of the major special events, shows and activities that are timely for the month being “Buzzed.”
Although it’s not on any event calendar etc., it is worth noting that typically, depending on the weather, the autumn foliage will reach its peak color from the middle to the end of October.
October is also an important month for those who want to see the full 2014 regular season performances of most Branson shows because it is the last month many shows will be performing their full regular season shows. Starting with their first November performance, most shows will be shifting into their Christmas show format. Except for those shows such as the Andy Williams Christmas Show, Christmas Wonderland and the Shoji Tabuchi Show that are strictly Christmas, most shows will be a blend of Christmas and highlights from their 2014 regular show.
Kids, locals and visitors alike, will enjoy the free “Harvest Festival” at “Branson Hills” near the “Home Depot” on Oct. 4 from Noon to 3:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Shoppes at Branson Hills & Branson Hills Plaza, it promises fun for all ages with free pumpkins for the kids, games prizes, face painting, a Bounce House, crafts, and candy for kids in costumes. On Halloween Day, Oct. 31 there will be a safe trick or treat event for kids, local or visitors, in costumes at both the “Tanger Outlets Mall” and “Branson Landing.”
Another unique October event is College of the Ozarks’ “Farm to Fork” event, on Oct. 25. It is a combination educational and culinary experience providing “a day of farm-to-table cooking with award-winning Executive Chef Robert Stricklin. Call the college at 417-690-2122 for costs and additional information.
The following list of major October events and activities is sorted by date and contains a link or telephone contact for further information.
Oct. 1 – 31: Titanic Museum Attraction – Tribute to Musicians
Oct. 1 – 25: Silver Dollar City National Harvest & Cowboy Festival
Oct. 1: Titanic Jewelry Collection on Jewelry Television 12 – 2 p.m.
Oct. 4: Harvest Festival at Branson Hills near Home Depot Noon to 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 10: Limited Engagement – Bill Cosby
Oct. 11: 5th Annual Paint the Landing Pink Day for Breast Cancer Awareness 417-239-3002
Oct. 11:Makenna & Brock Breast Cancer Benefit Concert, Branson Landing, 417-239-3002
Oct. 15 – 20: Titanic Museum, Book Signing, Bruce Caplan, “The Sinking of Titanic,” 800-381-7670
Oct. 17 – 19: Branson Classic: 2014 Pickleball Tournament, 417-334-5927
Oct. 19: Limited Engagement - Charley Pride
Oct 22: Limited Engagement – John Conlee & Ronnie McDowell
Oct. 24 – 25: Limited Engagement – Clint Black
Oct. 25: Farm to Fork, Keeter Center College of the Ozarks 417-690-2122
Oct. 31: Halloween TangerStyle or Treat at Tanger Mall
Oct. 31: Halloween Safe Street Trick or Treat at Branson Landing 417-239-3002
Please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 for further information on what’s “Buzzin” in Branson or for assistance with show and attraction reservations or tickets or for lodging.
The Quality Inn On the 76 Strip is a prime example of the quality, service and amenities offered at the Combs family of Branson hotels,” said Tammy Johnson, the General Manager for the Branson Tourism Center.” Their commitment and dedication to the quality of their properties and making sure each of their guests has the best Branson experience possible makes them a great lodging partner and their properties a great choice for Branson visitors.”
The Inn is centrally located in the heart of the Branson Strip just across the street from the Baldknobbers and between the Grand Village and Presley’s Country Jubilee. It offers 113 clean comfortable rooms including 2 family suites, a leisure suite, eight Jacuzzi rooms and eight traditional king rooms with the balance consisting of traditional double queen rooms.
The Inn is open all year round, features a guitar shaped outdoor pool and an indoor pool with a hot tub; has a limited number of smoking rooms; is pet friendly and offers a full complement of other amenities. These include free wireless internet throughout the property, a meeting room, 32 inch flat screen televisions in each room, a guest laundry and one of their most popular items a complementary “Hot Deluxe” breakfast each morning.
During a recent interview with Kirk Paige and Amanda Turney, the Inn’s General Manager and Assistant General Manager, respectively, they pointed out an important intangible the Inn offers. Its central location in the middle of the famed “Branson Strip” provides easy access to all of Branson’s Alternate Colored Routes making it easy to get to when arriving in Branson and exit when leaving.
In terms of what Branson offers, by car its location is minutes away from shows, attractions, restaurants, shopping and everything else Branson offers; less than 15 minutes from Branson Landing, three minutes from the Tanger Outlet Mall and a straight shot out Highway 76 to Silver Dollar City. Better yet it is within walking distance of shows like the Baldknobbers, Presley’s Country Jubilee, Clay Cooper‘s Country Express, The Haygoods, Billy Dean, The Texas Tenors and more; attractions such as the Titanic Museum Attraction and Hollywood Wax Museum; shopping at the Grand Village and a variety of restaurants and other shops.
Paige said, “As important as our facility, amenities and location are, it is our customer service and the commitment of our staff in insuring that each guest has the best lodging experience possible as part of a great Branson experience. Turney added, “We are as fully concerned about our guests enjoying their time in Branson as they are and want to be a positive part of their positive Branson experience.”
For additional information or reservations for The Quality Inn On the 76 Strip please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.
After one his of his most successful Summer Tours ever, Shoji Tabuchi has returned to Branson and is again performing the Shoji Tabuchi Show at his theatre. From the Deep South to New England, Shoji and his 14 vocalists, dancers and musicians gave his audiences a taste of the live entertainment that Branson is famous for.
Branson’s consummate entertainer said that many of the dates were sold out and that he was amazed that everywhere they went, and as far away from Branson as New London, CT, people were aware of Branson. In fact they were so aware that he had two near sold out performances at the “Garde Arts Theatre in New London CT” on August 20. His tour took him from Midland, TX to New London, CT; Lancaster and Greenburg, PA; Mentor and Columbus, OH and Shipshewana, IN.
Everywhere they went people were excited to see the show and experience a bit of what Branson is all about. “I was so happy to have the chance to talk with so many people about Branson,” he added. After seeing the show many were so impressed that they said they would be coming to Branson to see more of what it has to offer.
Tabuchi said, “It was a great tour and we met a lot of wonderful people. We could not have asked for anything more.” He went on to say that as exciting as it was, he is thrilled to be back in Branson performing at his theatre.
Shoji will be performing his regular show through Oct. 23. On November 1 they will premier their spectacular Christmas Show which will run through Dec. 10 when Shoji will go on his Christmas Tour.
“The Fall foliage in Branson is a spectacular sight to see and there’s not a better place to become immersed and surrounded by it than Silver Dollar City,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center.”From the very beginning, the park was designed to blend in with the surrounding Ozarks hills whose heritage it celebrates and the Fall foliage surrounding the parks visitors everywhere they look is proof positive of how successfully that has been done,” she added.
Johnson said that the Ozarks Fall foliage season starts and normally peaks during, Silver Dollar City’s annual “National Harvest & Cowboy Festival” (Festival), which will run from September 12 – October 25 providing the parks visitors with an excellent opportunity to view the Branson’s Fall foliage up close and personal. In addition, they will have a first hand opportunity to see why the U.S. Congress proclaimed Silver Dollar City as ‘The Home of American Craftsmanship” in honor of its five decades of presenting and promoting that craftsmanship.
The Festival will feature not only the 100 demonstrating craftsmen of Silver Dollar City, but “125 top craftsmen from around the country, including ‘Best of Missouri Hands’ juried artists and a showcase of Western artists” and is one of the largest gatherings of American craftsmen and artists in America. It is an unparalleled opportunity to experience and see demonstrations on a variety of American crafts all in one place including copper enamel jewelry, gourd carving, blacksmithing, pottery, copper and stone sculpture, basket weaving, soap making, stained glass, quilt making, knife making and dozens more.
The Festival also celebrates the history and tradition of the American Cowboy. This will be the final year for “The Pinkerton Man,” an original Western stunt show that debuted during the 2012 Festival filled with “high-flying action and special effects, including dramatic 3-story falls, high-slide rappels, hero fights, pyrotechnic effects and explosions, with professional stunt men and women leading a cast of 16, plus live animals, comedy and original live music performed by the ‘Sons of the Silver Dollar.’”
Reminiscent of the Wild West shows of the 1880s, the new “Silver Dollar City Wild West Show” will feature “a trick riding troupe, a horse-riding female sharpshooter, trick roping, bullwhip artistry, comedy canines and Native American hoop dancing.” The show will be “hosted by rodeo rider and roper A.J. Silver, named Act of the Year by the International Rodeo Association and features “Nakotah LaRance, 6-time world champion Native American Hoop Dancer whose skills were showcased in Cirque du Soleil’s touring show ‘Totem.’”
The Festival’s entertainment also includes Western and Bluegrass music performed by musicians including “Home Rangers,” “Nothin’ Fancy,” “Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band,” “Link Union,”” Southern Raised” and “The Bankesters.”Other featured events include the “Extreme Mustang Makeover,” with mustang expert Fred Woehl taming and training rescued wild mustangs; Kent Rollins, a ranch owner whose chuck wagon cooking talents have been featured on the Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” demonstrating trail-side cooking; three-time winner of the Academy of Western Artists’ “Will Rogers Award,” Cowboy Poet Chris Isaacs presenting cowboy stories and poems and the return of the popular “Barn Dance” with Silver Dollar City’s own “Horsecreek Band,” who are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, providing the music.
Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson points out that all of the activities of the National Harvest & Cowboy Festival are in addition to everything else the award winning 1880′s theme park offers on a daily basis. This includes 30 rides and attractions and the park’s Outlaw Run wooden coaster “which was named Best New Ride of 2013 worldwide in an industry poll conducted by ‘Amusement Today’ magazine, winner of the ‘Travel Channel’s Insane Coaster Wars: World Domination’ in Episode 2, and recently named one of the 12 biggest game-changers in the history of theme park attractions by CNN.com.”
In terms of value and being able to enjoy all that Silver Dollar City has to offer at your leisure, Johnson points out that the Branson Tourism Center offers a two day Silver Dollar City Pass that is a great value and offers a discount over buying two separate one day passes. For additional information or tickets for Silver Dollar City, the “National Harvest & Cowboy Festival” or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact BTC by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/.
Having seen and written about the George Dyer Show for each of the five years it has been in Branson and having just seen his 2014 show on September 5, I can say, without a doubt, this is his best Branson show ever and that’s saying a lot! I have previously described George as “Branson’s tenor extraordinaire” not only because of the power and beauty of his voice, which is one of the finest tenor voices I have ever heard, but his ability to connect to the audience and draw them into their own entertainment experience with a genuine warmth and charisma that provides an amazing and unforgettable entertainment experience.
We’ll comeback to George in a minute, but first let’s look at some of the other major elements in the show starting with his amazingly talented family, wife, Clarisse; daughters Kendra and Kassidy and son Mitchell who all perform during the show. Three of my favorite “family” numbers were the “Flower Duet, “from Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé performed beautifully by Clarisse and Kendra; the performance of the song “At Last” from the 1941 movie “Orchestra Wives” by Kassidy, which was remarkable not only in terms of its vocal acuity, but a presentation that belies the fact that she is still in high school and Mitchell’s entertaining performance of the Fred Astaire classic “Singing In The Rain.”
It has been my pleasure to watch Kendra Dyer develop as a performer over the last five years and in this show she really blossoms forth. From “Habanera,” the famous aria from the opera “Carmen,” to “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Misérables,” her original song “Surrender” and others, her performance was a joy to see and hear.
The shows live band consists of Ricki Holmes, Pianist and Band Conductor; Bogie Bohinc, Lead Guitar; Rob Wilson-Drums and Maryann Daversa, Keyboard. They were phenomenal not only in terms of their considerable musical talents, but in interacting with George and the audience at key times all of which combined to help make the George Dyer show the great entertainment experience it is.
From his opening number “You Are Loved,” to the last note of theAndrea Bocelli‘s “It’s Time to Say Goodbye,” the power and beauty of not only his singing, but his genuine warmth, gives combine to give his audience something special that I just have to believe will become a favorite Branson memory. Another really neat thing is the way he gives a little “back story” on most numbers before he sings them which not only lets the audience know a little bit about the number itself , but helps set the mood.
I have previously written, “The magnificent rich tenor voice of George Dyer is just a joy to hear as he covers a variety of music as only he can. His singing would be enough, but when combined with his personality, interaction with the audience and the unique way he introduces each number the end result is a wonderful and unique musical entertainment experience without equal.” That has not changed one iota. From among many, three of my personal favorite performances would be “Bring Him Home” from “Les Misérables;””Hallelujah” with the delightful way he used the audience to set the performance up and “They Call the Wind Mariah” from “Paint Your Wagon.”
Although the vast majority of the show has no opera in it there is a unique and powerful opera segment featuring George, Clarissa and Kendra. Strangely, although I can’t read a note of music and didn’t have a clue what they were singing, two of my favorite performances were from that segment, Kendra’s solo of “Habanera” from “Carmen” and the “Flower Duet, “from the opera “Lakmé” that she sang with her mother. Although every number George sings in the show demonstrates why he is “Branson’s Tenor Extraordinaire,” it takes on a special relevancy when he sings opera. There couldn’t have been a better way to demonstrate that than to close the segment and first half of the show with his extraordinary performance of the popular “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.”
The use of the Josh Groben song “You Raised Me Up” as the basis of the Veteran’s Tribute was inspired. The acapella performance of the family singing “Nearer My God To Thee” was as soul touching as it was inspirational and exquisitely performed. As George sang the closing number, “Time To Say Goodbye,” it seemed as if the two hours had flown by and that the time to say goodbye had come all too soon. If you love great vocals, a beautiful tenor voice and want to be entertained and inspired you don’t want to miss this show.
“For about four to six weeks in the fall of every year, ‘Mother Nature’ provides the greatest show in Branson as the foliage covering its surrounding, hills, valleys and lakeshores turns into a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors,” said Tammy Johnson, the General Manager for the Branson Tourism Center. Johnson points out that precisely when the leaves turn, how fast and how long the season lasts is based on the weather, but, based on the average year, here are five answers to common questions our customers commonly ask about viewing Branson’s Fall foliage:
1. When does the Fall foliage season start and end? In southwestern Missouri it generally starts around the third week of September and runs for four to six weeks depending on the weather.
2. What are the first and last trees to start changing color? According to the Missouri Department of Conservation “sassafras, sumac, and Virginia Creeper” are the first to start changing color followed by “black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood” and “maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories” later in the season.
3. What is the “peak” time to view the most colorful foliage in Branson? That is difficult to predict, but typically the peak for Fall color, again depending on the weather, is around mid-October when maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories are displaying their most vivid colors.
4. What is the best way to view the Fall foliage in Branson? Just get outdoors and enjoy all that Branson has to offer. From Silver Dollar City to the Lake Taneycomo bluffs that are readily visible from Branson Landing and just about anywhere else you would travel in and about Branson you will be surrounded by the beauty of the Ozark Mountains dressed in their Fall colors.
5. Do you have any recommendations on the best spots to view the Fall colors? Yes, here are a few of our favorites:
Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower – The 230 foot tall tower located at The Shepherd of the Hills Homestead on top of Inspiration Point, one of the highest points in southwest Missouri, provides an unparalleled panoramic view of the Ozark’s foliage. Glass elevators transport guests up to the enclosed Observation Deck from which, on a clear day, they can see over 90 miles and hundreds of square miles of foliage presenting a spectacular panoramic view of the Branson’s Fall foliage that is not available anywhere else.
Scenic Lookouts – A number of “Scenic Lookouts” provide a superb panoramic view of the Ozark’s Fall foliage. These include the Lookouts on State Route 165, about a mile south of its intersection with State Route 265; the Table Rock Dam Overlook, located on the south end of Table Rock Dam across the road from the Visitors Center and the Henning Conservation Area Lookout located about a mile west of the junction of State Route 76 and State Route 376 on the north side of the road.
“Point Lookout – ” Located on the Campus of the College of the Ozarks on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo “Point Lookout provides a breath taking and unique view of Branson’s Fall foliage not available anywhere else with Lake Taneycomo winding through it. While at the college you might want to plan to eat at the Keeter Center and visit the “Edwards Grist Mill” and the “Ralph Foster Museum,” called the “Smithsonian of the Ozarks.”
Branson Tourism Center’s Johnson also points out that a cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle, on Table Rock Lake, or a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway also provide unique views of Branson’s Fall foliage. She says that the Fall foliage season, coupled with Silver Dollar City’s National Craft Festival, is a busy time and recommends that advanced reservations be made for shows, attractions and lodging. For more information on the Fall foliage in Branson or assistance with information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.
After having seen The Adventures of Marco Polo last week I can say that it is a remarkable and unique show the likes of which has never been seen on a Branson stage before. This spectacular production, through the use of a 2000 square foot LED screen, an extremely talented international cast of over 60 dancers, acrobats and other performers, over 300 colorful costume changes and magnificent sets, vividly and colorfully brings the essence of Marco Polo’s epic 20 year plus adventures in central Asia and China to life on the stage all wrapped in a touching love story.
The panoramic sweep of the production, in terms of what it covers, is amazing. From one of the most dramatic and action filled shipwreck scenes most people will ever see on a stage, to Marco’s near death in the cold snows of Mongolia, his rescue by the Princess Sa Ren, his time amid the grandeur of the court of the China’s Kublai Khan and his travel throughout Asia this production is a “cultural experience” filled with pageantry; beautiful dancing, featuring ballet and a variety of other dances all impeccably performed by the shows cast. It makes no difference if it’s an exquisite ballet duet or an ensemble number, each is superbly performed with a grace, precision and beauty that is almost spellbinding.
You do want to be in your seat for the start of the show as Marco starts his adventure and ends up in a shipwreck. The integration of lighting, sound, special effects and acrobatics of the crew with the huge 2000 square foot LED screen across the back of the stage results in one of the most exciting beginnings to any show that I have ever seen in Branson.
The shows format does not involve any spoken parts by the cast, English or otherwise. The audience is guided from one scene to the next by a short introductory narrative, in English, that explains what it is that is being portrayed next. The cast’s communication with the audience, whether using ballet, another form of dancing, acrobatics or other action, is through their performance with no dialogue, but it was easy to follow and it did not impact on my enjoyment of the show.
In the first half of the show Marco travels from Venice to China; delivers a message from the Pope to China’s Kublai Khan in Dadu, China, which is today named “Beijing” and develops his relationship with the “Great Kahn.” The journey takes years during which he is involved in a ship wreck, almost dies in the snowy cold of a Mongolian winter and is rescued by the Princess Sa Ren, with whom he falls in love during his recovery and has to leave to continue his journey.
During the second half, as Marco travels China serving the Kublai Kahn, the story is told with a mixture of dance and “cirque” as performers are infused into the performance at different times with the Chinese Boomerang; the Diabolo, Chinese Yoyo, a unique Chair Stacking Act and other surprises. Marco is reunited with Sa Ran, but is all too soon separated from her as he is required by Kublai Khan to escort another Chinese Princess to Persia to be married to a Persian monarch. Marco is never to return to China.
The poignant ending to the show, features a very old Marco still dreaming of Sa Ren and a beautifully orchestrated ending to the story that is at the same time sad, but fulfilling. It is a spectacular, touching and beautiful ending to the show involving an absolutely exquisite dance, the LED screen, special effects and a high flying Silk Routine and one that touched my heart.
The Adventures of Marco Polo is a wonderful cultural experience, based on an historical event that most are familiar with that is presented through one of the most spectacular productions every to appear on a Branson stage. For additional information or tickets for The Adventures of Marco Polo please call the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.
That might seem like an odd headline, but along with “two pennies” and a trust in God, “Against All Odds” is not only the name of a book that Susan Abar wrote telling her remarkable story of courage, endurance and faith, but an accurate summary of what her chances were of living; let alone ever opening and operating a gift shop in historic downtown Branson or, for that matter, anywhere else. “The Copper Coin,” operated with her husband Ron, sells many gifts, but its spirit is based on our National Motto, “In God We Trust,” and the shop features a line of custom jewelry and other gift items incorporating a single copper penny into their design, delivering that message in an exclusive and beautiful way.
Perhaps the way I came across this story tells the message of why the Copper Coin is so special and helps make Branson the unique wonderful place it is, to not only live, but visit. I was talking with Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, and she slid a key ring with a beautiful charm on it across her desk. The charm had a shiny cooper penny inlaid inside a rectangular case with an American Flag. She told me that two of her Group Mangers, Randi McCormick and Melissa McGowan, had received it from the owners of the “Copper Coin” while they were discussing the “2015 Branson.Com Honors Purple Heart Recipients” which will be held in Branson on April 23-25, 2015.
Wood pointed out that McCormick and McGowan were amazed to hear that the “Copper Coin,” which sells the key ring in their store, gives them away free to any Veteran who comes in and asks for one. As they talked with the owner and she shared her story of how the penny and “In God We Trust” became the focal point for her calling to design and market her exclusive jewelry line and gifts, they became even more amazed. When Wood told me the story, I decided that I just had to meet with this extraordinary woman, write a piece about what she and her husband were doing for Veterans and thank them.
The first day I went into the Copper Coin Susan and Ron were off, but when asked the lady that was there if it was true, that every Veteran who came into the store could get the patriotic “In God We Trust” key ring for free she said, “Yes, are you a Veteran?” I replied, “Yes” and with that she reached up on the wall, where the key rings were selling , took one down, handed it to me and, with a big smile on her face, said, “Thank you for your service.”
Two day later, when I went back into the shop to meet Susan and Ron, she was waiting on a customer. As I waited I saw that the book, “Against All Odds,” the story of “Two pennies, A Rainbow and a Woman Called Mercy” by Susan Abar was for sale in the shop. Initially I did not know that its author was the woman I was waiting to meet, but as I waited for her to finish chatting with the customer and ring up their order, I saw her autographing the book and kind of put two and two together.
When I got to meet her, she was kind enough to go with me to get a cup of coffee and chat. Although, I went to do the story about their gift to Veterans I would be remiss, it I did not point out that the gift started with a woman who, within about a six month period, lost her job, found out she had breast cancer, had a Mastectomy and then found out she also had Pancreatic Cancer. “Against All Odds,” she persevered and, because of a surrender, two pennies, a rainbow and a woman named Mercy, became part of what most of us would call a miracle.
When I asked her about her gift to the Veterans she said, “We give them to our Veterans and Active Duty military personnel to show our appreciation for the sacrifices that they make for our country.” She pointed out, that from a personal perspective it honors the service of her father, husband and her son and daughter in law, both of whom are on active duty in the Army.
The “focal point” of the key ring, part of her exclusive line of jewelry, is the “charm” involving the penny, and the motto “In God We Trust,” which was designed by Susan. From the prepping of the penny and assembly to the application of the resin and its setup time, each piece, is processed by hand by Susan and her husband and takes about three hours to complete.
The Copper Coin is yet another example of unique variety that makes shopping in Branson such a wonderful experience. Open 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, it is located in Historic Downtown Branson at 109 N. Commercial St.
Having just seen the Clay Cooper’s Country Express Show on Aug. 24 the only way I can describe it is by saying, “WOW!” When you take an entertainer like Clay Cooper and blend in a great band, some of the best dancers and choreographed dance routines in Branson, the comedy of Matt Gumm, the rope and gun handling performance of Johnny Lonestar and the strategically placed vocal performances of other cast members, it is over two hours of the finest nonstop “express,” or otherwise, entertainment in Branson.
The “engineer” of this “express,” at least while on stage, is the show’s star, Clay Cooper. From his “zipping” entry onto the stage and the show’s full cast opening number, “Fever” until his performance of the original song, ” America Stand Strong,” written by his wife Tina, in the show’s patriotic finale, Clay’s vocal talents and charisma are the “tracks” upon which this express speeds along.
During the show he performs a number of vocals covering a variety of musical genres with, the emphasis on country music performed as only he can. From among many, my two favorites were the Hank Williams hit “Kaw-Liga.” Loved the whole number, but wait for “the notes.” You’ll know what I mean when you hear them. His performance of the Roy Orbison hit “Crying” was beautifully done and was yet another demonstration of Clay’s vocal range and talent.
As remarkable as his singing is, it is surpassed by his personal charisma and ability to not only relate to the crowd, but interact with them in a way that entertains the whole audience. In the past I have described it as that “innate Neil McCoy ability to relate to his audience and draw them into their own entertainment experience,” but Clay takes it a step beyond. He triggers responses from audience members that lets him interact simultaneously with them personally and the audience with a warm comfortable humor that has everyone laughing, having fun and wondering what is coming next.
And Clays not the only one performing vocals. R. P. Harrell’s performance of “Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy” during the Gospel segment of the show was simply beautiful and I loved “Down By the Riverside” performed acapella by “the girls.” Among others the vocal highlights include Matt Gumm’s performance of “I Want Crazy,” ten year old Colt Cooper’s performance of “Rockin Robin” and 11 year old Ezrah Noelle’s performance of “He Taught Me How To Yodel.”
This show should have a lot of appeal for kids. There is constant action, color, dancing and a number of costume changes which helps holds the attention of adults and kids alike. In addition with acts like Johnny Lonestar, Matt Gumm’s “horn” routine and strategic “peer to peer” performances of Colt and Ezrah along with an assist from young Master Caden Cooper, kids are entertained, simultaneously with adults throughout the show.
A unique aspect of this show is its dancing troupe. 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. The way the dance routines are seamlessly integrated into almost every vocal performance, whether it’s one or two of the dancers or the whole troupe is a thing of beauty, adds so much to the show and easily sets it apart from every other country music show most of us have ever seen.
And it’s not just the dancing, it is the way they dance; no matter what style, it is done with an energy, race and precision that demonstrates why they are one of the top dancing troupes in Branson. Although there are many dancing highlights, their performance during the show’s opening number, “Fever” and “House Is A Rocking” illustrate their talent, choreography and how much it adds to the total entertainment experience the show provides. In addition to Tina Cooper, the “Country Express Dancers” include Jenn Turner, Kelly Smith, Kristen Chandler, Elizabeth Harris, Lara Moffett Menard, Matthew Smith, Todd Coker, Clark Roberts, Nate Bittner and Sarah Blackerby.
The “Country Express Band” consists of R.P. Harrell, piano and Musical Producer; John Lance, keyboard and vocals; Barry Bales guitar and vocals; Dave Clark, bass guitar, Mark Pearman fiddle and steel guitar and Grant Moody, utility player. Although their talent is obvious throughout the whole show it is highlighted in their performance of the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running.” Dave Clark’s bass guitar solo performance of “Amazing Grace” was as beautiful as it was unique.
I would be remiss if I did not specifically mention the outstanding job that that the versatile Matt Gumm did throughout the show. From the preshow comedy and his extremely entertaining “Teamwork” piece to his “wind instrument audition” piece he demonstrates his comedic talents which when combined with the subtle comedy of Clay, as he interacts with the audience, creates one of the funniest shows in Branson. Gumm’s talents do not stop there however, as he also sings and is featured playing the drums and hammered dulcimer in the show.
In my last “review” of this show I wrote, ” 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.” After seeing the 2014 edition of this outstanding show there is not one word that I would change except to add “Wow!” before the word “From.”
For additional information on the Clay Cooper’s 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.