Is the heat of summer the right time to plan for Christmas in Branson?

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the "Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade" during Silver Dollar City's "Old Time Christmas."

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the “Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade” during Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas.” (Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

“Absolutely! To some, planning a Christmas trip to Branson in the sweltering heat of summer might seem weird,” said Preston Garrison, the Operations Manager for the Branson Tourism Center. “However, to those who know how busy Branson is during its Ozark Mountain Christmas season, planning in July might just be the ‘coolest’ thing to do to ensure the ‘hottest’ deals and best availability of lodging and show seats,” he added.

Garrison points out that Ozark Mountain Christmas, runs from November 1 through December 31 each year and that it is the most colorful, exciting, inspirational, and busiest time of the year in Branson. It is a unique Christmas experience that is not available anywhere else. From the giant Adoration Scene on top of Mount Branson on the East, to Silver Dollar City and its “Old Time Christmas” to the West, Branson is aglow with Christmas lights, shows, shopping and, most important of all, the true spirit of Christmas that “resonates in the hearts of those wanting to celebrate and experience the traditional celebration of Christmas.”

Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas” is perennially named one of the top Christmas destinations in America. It features 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, over 5 million sparkling Christmas lights, a 5-story Special Effects Christmas Tree in its town square, two Broadway style shows, and the “Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade featuring Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Friends.”

Many of Branson’s other attractions will have special Christmas themes, decorations, and exhibits. Two great examples would be the Titanic Museum Attraction, as it celebrates its beautiful “Edwardian Christmas,” and the unique White Flight exhibit at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure. Another is The Shepherd of the Hills’ Trail of Lights, a two-and-a-half-mile drive through sparkling holiday lights and displays, winding through the historic Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, that also includes a trip to the top of Inspiration Tower. It is truly a one of a kind display, featuring religious, patriotic, humorous, Victorian and other themes in a setting unlike any other lighting display anywhere.

The glow of Christmas lights doesn’t stop there, as Christmas decorations and lights adorn city utility poles, Branson Landing, the Branson Ferris Wheel, and many other Branson theatres, businesses, and attractions. A Branson tradition, since it was started in 1949, is the brightly lit giant Nativity scene on top of Mount Branson. It will be lit, and followed by the Adoration Christmas Parade, starting at 5:00 PM on December 4.

And, speaking of parades, you won’t want to miss the 4th Annual “Most Wonderful Time of Year Parade,” featuring many Branson entertainers. It’s dedicated to “Mr. Christmas,” Andy Williams, and will go down the center of the Branson Landing promenade on November 19 followed by “a dozen live performances from the main stage in front of the Branson Landing fountains and a special grand finale” not to be missed.

As would be expected, in a town famous for the variety and quality of its live shows, the vast majority of Branson’s shows share the spirit of Christmas by devoting a substantial portion of their shows to the celebration of the traditional Christmas. In addition, there are a number of shows that are only available during Ozark Mountain Christmas, that are totally Christmas including the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza, staring the Osmond Brothers and Lennon Sisters; Christmas Wonderland; the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show; and others.

“Branson’s year round world class shopping experience includes Branson Landing; a large variety of unique galleries, craft shops, boutiques, and specialty shops; as well as discount malls like the Tanger Outlets and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows,” Garrison said. “When you combine that with the fun, spirit and excitement, of Ozark Mountain Christmas, it’s easy to see why so many do their Christmas shopping in Branson,”.

He points out that during the regular season there are periods when Branson shows and lodging fill up, but that, particularly with the more popular hotels and shows, is multiplied exponentially during Ozark Mountain Christmas. Not only do the chances of non-availability increase, but the chances of getting the best prices, show seats, and choice of accommodations decrease the longer one waits to make their Ozark Mountain Christmas travel plans.

For additional information on Ozark Mountain Christmas, or tickets for any of Branson’s 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 http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/ .

Can a swift thriller at Legends in Concert make a colossal ring of fire?

Legends in Concert stars Michael Jackson, Top Left, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Blues Brothers.

Legends in Concert stars Michael Jackson, Top Left, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Blues Brothers.

“Well, if it’s the summer of 2016 and Legends in Concert’s celebrating its 20th year in Branson, with a little help, that might just be a possibility,” said Preston Garrison, the Operations Manager for the Branson Tourism Center. As I watched the Legends in Concert (Legends) show last week, I experienced first-hand what Garrison was alluding to and saw, among others, Legends in Concert tribute performances by Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson performing “Thriller,” and Johnny Cash singing “Ring of Fire.”

It is a colossal show, in terms of the number of tribute artists, band members, singers and dancers performing. Legends brings to the Branson stage the same level of production, talent, and excitement that its Las Vegas, “parent” has been providing since 1983 and its “siblings” are providing at such prime destination as Waikiki, Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City, and others.

From the very beginning, the hallmark of Legends in Concert has been the quality of its tribute artists. Each performer “not only looks like the star they portray, but uses their own natural voice to pay homage to their iconic music counterpart.” The six legends portrayed in the show I saw were “Kenny Chesney” performed by Todd Bradshaw, “Taylor Swift,” performed by Elizabeth Scarborough; the “Blues Brothers,” performed by Danny Z and Clint Nievar; “Michael Jackson,” performed by Michael Knight; “Johnny Cash” performed by Paul Eve, and “Elvis Presley,” performed by Travis Powell.

Each does a four or five number “set” amid a production making each, at a minimum, a wonderful distinctive concert, and most, especially Michael Jackson’s set, a mini production, unlike anything else offered in Branson. Although, just about every number in every set could be considered a highlight, I will mention just one from each set:

Kenny Chesney: The ballad “You Had Me From Hello” and how the audience was invited to come to the front of the theatre and dance, becoming part of their own entertainment experience.

Taylor Swift: “Never Ever Getting Back Together,” along with its introduction, was extremely entertaining both musically and in the way it was presented. The costume changes during the set were amazing!

Blues Brothers: “Soulman,” as was the case with every number during their set, was energetically performed with great support from the dancers, and some great moves by “Elwood.” Don’t know how these guys can do it, but they do and the audience loved it.

Michael Jackson: “Thriller,” with Knight’s performance and the special effects, dancers, and Michael’s “moves” was probably my WOW moment in the whole show, and that’s saying a lot because it is one great show and I am not a Michael Jackson fan.

Johnny Cash: Loved his performance of “Ring of Fire” and his introduction to it.

Elvis: “My Way” was beautifully done and has special meaning to me.

Some make the mistake of getting up and leaving after Elvis, but then they miss one of the highlights of the show, the whole cast Finale including “Viva Las Vegas.” It is something you definitely don’t want to miss!

As great as the individual tribute performers are, without great special effects, choreography, and costuming; along with a great band, and dancers and singers talented enough to not only perform different genres of music, but virtually perform six different “mini shows,” for six different stars, within one amazing production, this show would not be the great entertainment experience it is. It is their consistent performance show after show, star after star that, in this writer’s opinion, is the real “legend” behind the Legends in Concert show.

The Legend’s band is composed of Kevin Allen, Band Director / Lead Guitar; Brian Zerbe, Bass Guitar; Eddie Howard, Drums; and Lyman Clark, Keyboard. Legend’s dancers are Kenya Wilhite, also a singer; Desta Pritchett, also a singer; Cindy Dardas; Aaron Lemoine; and Landy Saavedra.

This is a show that totally entertains from start to finish with “legendary” entertainers, wonderful special effects, live music, dancers, and spectacular Las Vegas choreography and production. There’s nothing else like it anywhere else in Branson and is proof positive why Legends in Concert is billed as the “World’s Greatest Live Tribute Show.” For additional information or tickets for Legends in Concert, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com

Five reasons the New South Gospel show is Grand!

Jackie Brown and New South, Jon Drockelman, Left, Luke Menard, David Ragan, and Mark McCauley during performance of "Running My Last Mile."

Jackie Brown and “New South,” Jon Drockelman, Left, Luke Menard, David Ragan, and Mark McCauley during performance of “Running My Last Mile.”

My bride and I got to experience the New South Gospel Show last week and what a wonderful experience it was! Gospel music in a Branson show is not unusual and Branson has a number of pure gospel shows, but, in my opinion, this show stands alone for a number of reasons. Here are five of those reasons:

  1. Uniqueness: This, once a week Thursday afternoon show, is the only Branson gospel show performed by a cast who also regularly performs in one of Branson’s most popular non-gospel evening shows. The stars of New South Gospel also star in the Grand Jubilee show at 7:30 PM, every evening of the week, except Sunday.
  1. Great Gospel and Inspirational Music: From the opening number, “Gonna Be Some Changes Made,” to the finale, “Statue of Liberty,” this show is filled with a wonderful variety of gospel and inspirational music including such favorites as “Havin’ A Little Talk With Jesus,” “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” “The Lighthouse,” “Peace In the Valley,” “Low Down the Chariot,” “He,” “Chariots of Fire,” and many more.
Jamie Haage, a.k.a. Jim Dandy, shown here singing, "Peace In The Valley," is as good a singer as he is a comedian and, he is one heck of a comedian.

Jamie Haage, a.k.a. Jim Dandy, shown here singing, “Peace In The Valley,” is as good a singer as he is a comedian and, he’s one heck of a comedian.

  1. Award Winning Cast: In a town filled with top notch talent, it is certainly worth noting that this cast is one of the most awarded of any show in Branson. Among others, these awards include:

New South, composed of David Ragan, Lead Vocalist; Luke Menard, Tenor; Jon Drockelman, Baritone; and Mark McCauley, Bass, has won the “Branson Quartet of the Year” and “Branson Gospel Group of the Year.”

Jackie Brown, Female Vocalist, has won the “Branson Female Vocalist of the Year,”

Jamie Haage as “Jim Dandy,” has won “Branson Comedian of the Year.”

The Grand Band, composed of Tracy Heaston, Piano/Keyboard & Music Director; Wayne Massengale, Fiddle and Acoustic Guitar; Larry Allred, Bass Guitar; Rob Blackburn, Drums; Gene Mulvaney, Steel Guitar; and Chad Cathell, Lead Guitar;  has not only won “Branson Band of the Year,” but individual awards for “Fiddle Player of the Year,” “Piano Player of the Year, “Drummer of the Year,” “Guitar Player of the Year,” and “Steel Guitar Player of the Year.”

  1. As Entertaining As It Is Inspirational: Producer Mike Patrick and Associate Producer Andy Holloway have produced a show that combines the exceptional talent, personality, and spirit of its cast with some of the greatest gospel and inspirational music of all time, colorful costuming, and a dash of “prayerful” comedy into a total experience that is as entertaining as it is inspirational. Whether it’s one of my favorites such as New South singing “Glory Road,” David Ragan’s featured solo of “The Light House,” Jackie Brown’s beautiful performance of “He,” Jim Dandy’s funny illustration on “answered prayer,” Tracy Heaston and the Grand Band’s magnificent rendition of “Chariots of Fire,” or any one of many others, this show seamlessly moves from one exciting, inspirational and entertaining moment to another.
  1. A Special Spirit: Sitting in the friendly comfort of the Grand Country Music Hall, surrounded with people who were there to share in an afternoon of gospel music, and hearing words being sung from the mouths of performers, some of whom I know personally, that I believe expresses what they feel in their hearts, filled me with peace and a special spirit. I just have to feel that I was not the only one who felt that way.

For additional information or tickets for The New South Gospel Show, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

SIX and Rockapella present Branson visitors with a unique limited time opportunity

Two of the finest a cappella groups anywhere, SIX, top, and Rockapella.

Two of the finest a cappella groups anywhere, SIX, top, and Rockapella.

“What a fantastic opportunity to experience two of the finest a cappella groups performing today,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “For a limited time, between now and July 16, Branson visitors will be able to hear and see the amazing full-band a cappella sounds of one of Branson’s most popular shows SIX and, the group considered one of the originators of the sound, Rockapella, as they perform, just down the street from each other, on the famed Branson Strip,” she added.

SIX, composed of the six Knudsen brothers, Curtis, Lynn, Kevin, Jak, Barry, and Owen, turned their passion for a cappella music into a full time profession in 1995 and have never looked back. Tens of thousands of Branson visitors have sat in awe wondering where the band is as they hear amazing vocals and a “band” performing, but see no band, just the SIX Knudsen brothers.

Their performance of the full-band style of a cappella goes far beyond just “singing” a cappella. Percussion, strings, horns and other instruments can definitely be heard, but they’re nowhere to be seen! Honed from years of performing around the world for A-List celebrities and major corporations, every sound heard during their performance is made using only their voices.

And, it’s not just their a cappella singing! These guys have a keen wit, are naturally funny; displaying superb timing as they share family stories “along with wacky antics that include silly props and sound effects that, of course, come from their mouths!”

Rockapella, formed 1986, is credited with being one of the originators of the “full-band a cappella sound.” Although none of the original members are still in the group, Rockapella, has enjoyed a “phenomenal career since their inception and introduction “to a broad audience on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, an incredibly popular PBS show in the 90’s.” The current Rockapella line-up features Scott Leonard (since 1991, High Tenor), Jeff Thacher (1993, Vocal Percussionist), Steven Dorian (2010, Tenor), Calvin Jones (2013, Tenor), and Ryan Chappelle (2015, Bass).

They have become one of the world’s most sophisticated, lasting, and imitated vocal groups and have had a profound influence on the “new era of network television a cappella shows like NBC’s The Sing-Off, movies like Pitch Perfect, and innumerable college vocal groups. They’ve toured the globe and provided a funky powerful soundtrack to several generations of vocal music fans, while keeping it all fresh along the way. With buckets of catchy original pop songs, and complete contemporary revisions of sparkling Motown, pop, and soul classics, this group has always been the one to watch.”

The full-band a cappella sound experience, that both Rockapella and SIX audiences can expect, was summed up beautifully by Rockapella’s Jeff Thacher when he said, “There’s nothing between us and the audience; it’s very human music with nothing missing. No instruments, no tracks, no mirrors…but never lame.” In reporting about Rockapella, USA Today said, “The best musical instrument of all is the human voice – if you’ve seen Rockapella you know that’s the truth.”

“A cappella music lovers, and those who just love great music and entertainment should not miss this opportunity to experience these two fabulous groups,” said Branson Tourism Center’s Wood. “What’s even better is that you can save money by buying your show tickets in a package along with lodging and attractions. For additional information or tickets for SIX or Rockapella and packages please call one of our Branson based Travel Planners at 1-866-593-9740. They will be delighted to answer any questions you might have about Branson hotels, shows, or attractions and assist you in planning your Branson trip. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

The Best of Branson July 2016 Insider Highlights

Part of the excitement and action of Buckets N Boards.

Part of the excitement and action of Buckets N Boards.

“With so many families vacationing in Branson during July, the sound of people laughing and having fun together is just about at every turn, as they enjoy all that Branson has to offer,” said Preston Garrison, the Operations Manager Branson Tourism Center. “From the delightful sandy beach on Table Rock Lake, to the new 150-foot tall Branson Ferris Wheel, acrobats, amazing pets, tigers, and over 100 live shows and other attractions Branson has a ‘lot’ of something for everyone in your family to enjoy,” he added.

In addition to everything else Branson offers, here’s our highlight list, containing some of the best of the additional events going on in Branson during July, including our Featured Show, Limited Engagement, and Event of the Month:

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

Featured Limited Engagement of the Month: Buckets N Boards delivers Branson entertainment that easily stands out in a long list of excellent shows!  Co-creators Matt and Gareth share their impeccable and slightly wacky skills that include precise percussion on a variety of surfaces, accompanied by delightfully silly songs, tap dancing, and lots of laughter!

 Featured Event of the Month: There just has to be two this month. Branson has a number of outstanding fireworks displays over the Fourth of July Weekend. Click here for more information. In addition, Santa Claus is coming to Branson in a big way as hundreds of Santa Clauses and Mrs. Santa Clauses come to Branson for the 10th Annual Discover Santa Convention July 6 through 10. Don’t miss the “Parade of Red Suits,” as they parade down the Branson Landing Promenade together starting at 8:00 AM on July 7. It is one of the largest gatherings of Santa’s anywhere and is something unique and wonderful for families to enjoy together.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT PERFORMANCES (Sorted by starting date)

Jul 1: Crystal Gayle & TG Sheppard
Jul 1-Jul 16: Rockapella
Jul 1-29: Prince Ivan
Jul 1-Jul 31: Buckets N Boards
Jul 15: Tanya Tucker
Jul 23: Wynonna Judd

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Jul 1 – Jul 24: Silver Dollar City Star Spangled Summer Festival
Jul 1 – Jul 31: 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit – Titanic Museum Attraction
Jul 2 – Jul 4: List of 4th of July Fire Works Displays and Celebrations
Jul 6 – Jul 10: Branson Star Power at Branson Convention Center
Jul 6 – Jul 10: Discover Santa 2016 Convention
Jul 7: Discover Santa 2016 – “The Parade of Red Suits”
Jul 9: Promenade Pop-Up Shop
Jul 16: Ozarks Teen Challenge – Home of Hope 5K
Jul 16: Jubilation Jazz Big Band Performance
Jul 17 – Jul 23: FASA’s Girls World Series 14U to 18U
Jul 19 – Jul 24: Showbiz National Talent Competition – 2016 National Finals
Jul 24 – Jul 30: FASA’s Girls World Series 7U to 12U
Jul 30 – Aug 5: Ball Parks of America Bring the Lumber Baseball Tournament

For additional information on these events, or 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 visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

Grand Country is the place for grand shows, food and fun!

 

 

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

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

“Regardless of the weather or the time of the year, if you’re looking for grand live entertainment, food, and fun in one place, the Grand Country Complex is hard to beat,” said Preston Garrison, the Operations Manager for the Branson Tourism Center. “With all it offers, Grand Country is virtually a ‘one stop’ vacation’ destination,” he continued.

Branson is noted for its shows and, from country and comedy to pets and gospel, the Grand Country complex’s “Grand Country Music Hall” offers a variety of shows sure to entertain just about every member of the family. A great way for families with children to start their day is by seeing Amazing Pets, a show that delights children and the young of heart. Along with many other magical surprises, a loveable troupe of cats and dogs, many which have been rescued from dog pounds and humane societies across the country, light up the faces of their audience with excitement, awe, and anticipation as they perform their amazing feats.

The award winning  Grand Jubilee performs the evening show in the Music Hall. Produced by Mike Patrick, and featuring one of Branson’s most rewarded quartets, “New South,” the vocals of Jackie Brown, along with the comedy and talents of Jamie Haage as “Jim Dandy,” this show is perennially listed on BTC’s Most Popular Shows List.

In a recent review of the Grand Jubilee I said, “It might seem like a cliché, but the Grand Jubilee is truly ‘grand’ entertainment. I laughed until I hurt, listened to some of the most talented musicians and vocalists I have ever heard, in Branson or anywhere else, and was thoroughly entertained by a fast moving production that held my interest throughout. It was over all too quickly.”

And that’s just two of the many shows that perform in the Music Hall. In addition, it is the home of Down Home Country, Comedy Jamboree, New South Gospel, Branson Country USA, Sunday Gospel Jubilee and Ozark Mountain Jubilee.

The Grand Country Inn.

The Grand Country Inn.

The “Grand Country Inn” offers a variety of clean, relaxing and spacious rooms with full amenities. “Splash Country Indoors,” Missouri’s first indoor water park, is connected to the Inn offering its guests 20,000 square feet of spraying, tumbling, and falling, watery fun, 365 days a year, regardless of what the weather is like outside.

Its “Grand Country Buffet” is one of Branson’s most popular buffets offering a bewildering selection of items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Pappa Grand’s Pizza” and “Glenn’s Frozen Custard” are also located within the complex and there are a number of restaurants within walking distance including, one of Branson’s most popular, “Billy Bob’s Dairyland.”

Grand Country also offers many other exciting things for families to enjoy. This includes a candy and fudge shop, huge gift shop, both indoor and outdoor miniature golf, and the “Fun Spot,” featuring a state of the art video arcade game facility that has the most popular video and arcade games of every style. From motocross racing to space exploring, it has all the latest arcade attractions including the “White River Black Light Mini-Golf Course” in 3D; Mini-Bowling with cool lights illuminating the bowling lanes along with rockin’ videos and music and much more

For additional information on the Grand Country Complex, its shows, lodging, or entertainment, please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Don’t miss what happens when the incredible Shoji Tabuchi fiddles around

The incredible Shoji Tabuchi "fiddling around."

The incredible Shoji Tabuchi “fiddling around.”

The first time I saw Shoji Tabuchi perform in Branson he said, “The fiddle and violin are the same instrument, their difference is how you ‘fiddle around’ with them.” I walked out of that performance in awe of just how well he “fiddled around,” thinking to myself, “Wow, that was remarkable.” Thankfully, some things never change except for the better, and recently, over three decades later, as I walked out of the Shoji Tabuchi Show, I thought, “Wow, that was so awesome!”

Another word that comes to mind and is often used to describe what Shoji does with the violin/ fiddle is, “Incredible.” Call it what you will, but from his opening number, Live and Let Die, from the James Bond movie of the same title, to his last, How Great Thou Art, this master musician and consummate entertainer, provides a one of a kind performance without equal in Branson.

If you love fiddle and violin music, this is definitely the show for you. Although Branson is blessed with some fine fiddle and violin players, no other show features a fiddle/violin player of Shoji’s talent playing the variety of music he performs during the show. It makes no difference if it’s classical, Texas Swing, country, gospel, or rock; music from Broadway and movies, Elvis Presley, or Led Zeppelin, he plays them all with that unique Tabuchi style and energy.

Three of my favorite pieces, selected from many, show the diversity of the music he plays. The classical segment on the violin, with Humoresque, Brahms’ Lullaby ,and Little Night Music was a pure pleasure to hear and watch as he blends them together into a beautiful one of a kind arrangement and experience. His fiddle performance of the song Listen to the Mocking Bird, delighted the audience as did his magnificent and inspirational performance of, what I consider his signature piece, Through the Eyes of Love from the movie “Ice Castles.”

I admit that I am an unabashed Shoji Tabuchi fan and that I love great fiddle and violin playing, so this show is right up my alley from that perspective, but it is so much more. The artful way that is combined with his extremely talented band, dancers, and vocalists, along with some neat sets, and colorful costuming adds even more excitement and variety to this extremely entertaining show. The band consists of Duggie Duggan, Band Director and guitarist; Carl Hose, trombone; Louis Claussen, piano; William Green, percussion; Anthony Walter, drums; and Landon Rolf, bass. The dancer and vocalists are Norvin Breeck, Adam Henry, Jeremy Sterling, and Christina Lingo-Tabuchi, who is also the featured vocalist.

Christina does a number of vocals throughout the show. My personal favorite was her performance of Leanne Womack’s I Hope You Dance, which she dedicated to her daughter Bailey-Jae, and  was as inspirational as it was beautifully sung.

The the giant Japanese "Odaiko," drum.

The the giant Japanese “Odaiko,” drum.

From chickens to cows and trains to drums, the show is filled with wonderful surprises. One of my favorites, and an obvious crown pleaser, was the “Taiko Drums,” from Shoji’s native Japan. The drummers, play three different Japanese drums, including the giant “Odaiko,” in a unique one of a kind performance. Don’t miss the movements of the drummers on the smaller drums! The whole segment from the drums to the costuming, Shoji playing Sakura Sakura, and his “duet” of “Sukiyaki,” with his daughter, Christina, is a unique experience that will not soon be forgotten.

In a previous review of this show I said, “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.” After seeing his 2016 show all I can say is, “Ditto!” For additional information or tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi Show please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

From Oreos to cockatoos Branson’s magic is no illusion!

They add the magic to some of Branson’s most popular magic shows, Rick and Tara Thomas, Reza,and Dave and Denise Hamner.

They add the magic to some of Branson’s most popular magic shows, Rick and Tara Thomas, Reza,and Dave and Denise Hamner.

“Branson has a ‘magical’ variety of things for families to see and do together,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “That ‘magic’ becomes even more so, in a truly magical sense, when one considers the variety of magic shows available for Branson visitors to enjoy,” she added.

Here are three of Branson’s most popular magic shows, illustrating, not only that variety, but that “Branson’s spectacular magic is no illusion:”

Illusionist Rick Thomas: 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.” New this year, in every show one lucky audience member will be chosen to come up on stage and sit in a helicopter, only to disappear, and reappear, along with the helicopter. The beauty, elegance, grace, and dancing artistry of his wife, Tara, adds a special and unique dimension to the show and many of its illusions.

Along with the magic, he demonstrates an amazing ability to interact with the kids in the audience, actually uses some of them in his illusions, and delivers his special inspiring message to them, “Nothing happens until you dream,” in a spectacular and fun filled way. In a review of this show I wrote, “The magic is illusionary, but the fun, excitement and enjoyment I experienced, and witnessed others enjoying was real.” In fact, it was so real it was actually magical.

Reza – Edge of Illusion: This young master illusionist, considered one of the hottest artists in the world of magic today, is out to change the world’s perception of the centuries-old art of magic with a show that’s captivating from beginning to end. Although there’s still a lot of appreciation for the old-style tricks; the disappearing birds, or the beautiful assistant being sawed in half, don’t expect the predictable from this fresh, cutting edge magician. His performance will “bewilder and befuddle your brain” with a variety of magic, including everything from big dazzling illusions to charming sleight-of-hand trickery, leaving you to scratch your head as you try to rationalize what your eyes have seen with what you know is humanly impossible! Even eating an Oreo becomes a magical experience that most will not soon forget.

Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show: Although, this show features a variety of entertainment, its magical centerpiece is the performance of master illusionists, Dave and Denise Hamner as these award winning illusionists perform magic that is “at once, awe-inspiring, dazzling, and touching.” Their spectacular signature illusion thrills and delights the audience, as gorgeous macaws and cockatoos appear out of nowhere and fly out into the theatre, over and around them. Another audience favorite is when a beautiful lady is turned into “Gakita the Gorilla” right in front of their eyes. And that’s just two of the many magical moments throughout the show which is capped off with their spectacular magical Veterans Tribute Finale.

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

 

Five awesome things families can enjoy for free in Branson

Dick's 5 & 10 in hisotirc downtown Branson provides one of the most unique shopping "adventures" available anywhere.

Dick’s 5 & 10 in historic downtown Branson provides one of the most unique family shopping “adventures” available anywhere.

“From live shows, to great attractions, and other activities, Branson is just filled with wonderful ways for families to have the best vacation ever,” said Preston Garrison, the Operations Manager for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest providers of tourism services and information. “Although most of Branson’s great shows and exciting attractions involve a charge, there are many things that families can enjoy together that are free,” he added.

Here’s a list of five, from among many, free things available in Branson, that we have selected because they represent a broad variety of things that families can enjoy together, are multi-age inclusive, are fun, and are either of a short duration or permit the flexibility to easily fit in with other activities such as shows and attractions or the attention span of younger children. In addition, items 1 through 3 are within five minutes of each other as are items 4 and 5:

1. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: Located directly in front of Scotty’s Trout Dock & Marina, near the public boat loading ramp on the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Camp Ground, is the “unofficial” duck feeding area that most people coming to Branson never see. “Scotty,” Lamar Patton, the owner of Scotty’s, pointed out that depending on the season, there are about 50 to 200 Mallard ducks, Canada Geese and other water fowl swimming around between his dock and the shoreline waiting for an easy meal.

Scotty sells bags of corn to feed them, but he points out that they will also eat bread and crackers etc. The duck feeding area is located just feet from the parking area and provides, what in the old days was called “a Kodak moment;” a wonderful opportunity to get some great pictures of the family feeding the ducks.

The free downtown trolley is a great way for families to get an overview of Historic downtown Branson, Branson Landing, and Lake Taneycomo.

The free downtown trolley is a great way for families to get an overview of Historic downtown Branson, Branson Landing, and Lake Taneycomo.

2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Discovery Trolley: The Trolley ride is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center and Branson Landing. Along the way, among other things, you will pass 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; Lake Taneycomo and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over 53 years ago.

Stop #2 in historic downtown Branson, located on Commercial Street at the east end of the public parking lot at the southwest corner of Commercial and Atlantic Street, is an excellent place to board the trolley. You will have three hours free parking and the trolley will drop you right back where it picked you up after completing its 15 to 20 minute loop.

3. Dicks Oldtime 5 & 10 and Historic Downtown Branson: Historic Downtown Branson is an authentic downtown that’s a Branson attraction of the best kind, with fine art, flea markets, antiques, clothing and jewelry boutiques, cafes, music shows, and more. No visitor to Branson should miss downtown’s retail centerpiece, Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10! You’ll be launched back to your childhood of visiting the local variety store, complete with green and white tiled floors, everyday household goods, and fun Branson souvenirs. Locals will tell you “if you don’t find it at Dick’s, it just can’t be found!”

4.  Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is located less than about ten minutes from the famed Branson Strip at the foot of Table Rock Dam just off of State Highway 165. It is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is part of a complex occupying 211 acres along with a “Conservation Center” consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center that is visited by a quarter of a million plus visitors annually.

The inside of 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,” “trout runs,” 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” that is used to produce them. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

A short, early morning walk along one of their extremely accessible lakeside trails, just five or ten minutes, can provide a unique sight that will not be soon forgotten. In the early morning, the fog rising off of lake Taneycomo, because of the difference in its cold temperature and the warm air, is a beautiful thing to see as it interacts with winds and the rising sun.

Table Rock Lake's Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

Table Rock Lake’s Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

5.  The Dewey Short Regional Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam: The new $7.9 million, 15,000 square foot U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visitor center has been called “the crown jewel of Table Rock Lake” and for good reason. It is one of only 11 Class A visitor centers in the U.S. and offers an unparalleled view of two of Branson’s lakes, Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo that can be seen from the floor to ceiling glass windows on the Table Rock Lake side of the building. Among other things, the Center features interactive activities, displays on area history, nature and the inner workings of Table Rock Dam, movies, a gift shop with unique merchandise and an interesting film on the construction of Table Rock Dam.

And that’s just five of the many free activities available. From grist mills, to scenic overlooks, a giant Bass kids can stand in, a $7.5 million synchronized fire, water and music show, nature and hiking trails, parks and more, Branson has a wide choice of free activities that families can enjoy together. 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.

 

 

How can one unique Branson show take you from Ireland to Broadway?

Dublin's Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies sharing fun and music in a Irish Publ setting.

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies sharing fun and music in a Irish Pub setting.

Simply put, with great performers, music, energy, and choreography. As I sat in the King’s Castle Theatre in Branson recently for a performance of Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies, I was amazed that one show could have so much vocal talent and cover such a wide variety of music. From its Irish-Celtic roots to opera, this show offers a variety of music that truly has something for every musical taste, but especially for those wanting to experience Irish and Celtic music.

The show is basically divided into two parts; the first half, primarily Irish and Celtic music and the second half, presenting a wide variety of “their” favorite music. As they explain, Irish music is really a form of Celtic music which includes the music of Ireland, Scotland and other countries from that region. For purposes of this piece I will refer to it as Irish music.

From the very first number to the very last number of the first half, the beautiful vocals of Celtic Ladies, Amber Casey, Sarah Hunter, Maggie Moore, and Heather Petersen and Dublin’s Irish Tenors, Ryan Walton, Ollie Barrow, Jay McManus, James Allen, and Rob Quibell, treat the audience to one Irish song after another. It is a wonderful, inspiring, and colorful musical journey to the Emerald Isle and the land of the Celts.

From the many Irish numbers performed, my two favorites were the opening number of the show, “Danny Boy,” sung beautifully by the Celtic Ladies and the Irish folk song “Maggie” so poignantly sung by James Allen and dedicated to all those serving in our country’s Armed Forces. The last set of the first half, from the “Drunken Sailor” to “Phil The Fluther’s Ball,” was so much fun to watch and hear.

Jay McManus during his Irish Dance performance.

Jay McManus during his Irish Dance performance.

It was highlighted by the marvelous Irish dancing of Jay McManus and was a perfect illustration of how the vocal talent and energy of its performers, colorful costuming, choreography, and energy is combined into every element of the show. What a tremendous way to end the first half!

During the second half of the show, the cast presents some of their favorite numbers which covers a variety of music from Broadway to opera all sung and performed to perfection and, along with a few surprises, will have a musical favorite for just about everyone. Two of my favorite numbers from this half of the show were “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which is not only my favorite song, but the very first song that the Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies ever sang together. Maggie Moore’s performance of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera Turandot was magnificent.

With every show a common question is, “Will children enjoy this show?” There are no animals, peer performances by other children or segments specifically designed for children, but when combined with its wide variety of music, sets, costuming, and dancing, children who have an appreciation of music or dancing should love this show.

From Ireland to Broadway, the shows unique blend of Celtic music mixed with just the right amount of current contemporary and classical favorites is a joy to experience and will be enjoyed by “music lovers of all ages.” For additional information or tickets for Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies or 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, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.