Branson Up Close and Personal with Sheila Dutton

Dean and Sheila Dutton

BRANSON, MO, March 13, 2013 — The Duttons have been performing as a family for over two decades and entertaining Branson audiences since 1997 with their unique sound and brand of entertainment. Millions have seen them on PBS Specials and as Finalists on the prime time NBC hit, “America’s Got Talent” and hundreds of thousands in person as they perform road shows all over the world and in their theatres in Branson and Mesa, Arizona. Little did Dean and Sheila Dutton know that violin lessons for their pre-school children to help instill “a sense of discipline and a strong work ethic” would lead to a very successful career in show business and national fame.

Sheila Dutton, the mother and grandmother of the “Duttons” and devoted wife of Dean, has been one of the linchpins of that success. In addition to her familial duties she is the CEO of the Duttons business enterprise including among other things two theaters, a motel, and a gift shop and performs in every show. We were fortunate enough to get a few moments with this remarkable woman as she shared a little about herself  her family’s professional journey.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, and is intended to provide readers with an up close and personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interview with Sheila Dutton, (SD) uses a “Question and Answer” format with the interviewing being done for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary J. Groman, a 27 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and free lance writer.

BTC: How many children do you and Dean have?

SD: We have 14 children of which seven are natural and seven are adopted.

BTC: How many perform in the show?

SD: We have a total of five children performing in the show all the time, our core group, Timothy, Benjamin, Jonathan, Amy, Abigail and Tim’s wife Judith. Two of our other children, visit us and perform occasionally Jenny and Joshua.

BTC: How many grandchildren do you and Dean have?

SD: We have just had our 24th grandchild in August [2012] and our 25th grandchild is due this month [March 2013].

BTC: How do you decide where and when to use the grandchildren in the show?

SD: We have a Dutton brand and sound which gets the priority in terms of planning and designing the show and is provided through our core Dutton group. However in looking to the future and having something extra for the younger children in our audience, the icing on the cake is choreographing our grandchildren into a few specific targeted parts of the show. It is something that many of our guests enjoy and look forward to and something that is done in a manner that enhances the overall entertainment experience for our audience.

BTC: The Duttons had been performing for a number of years before they made the decision to make full time careers out of it. When and how did that happen?

SD: In 1994 when Amy came out of the recording studio in Nashville and said, “Mom, this is the happiest day of my life,” I remember thinking, “Oh my goodness we’re going to be musicians.” At the time we were doing 200 plus dates a year, but it was kind of a “we’re having fun type of thing” that went from year to year. In 1997 we came to Branson and performed fill in dates around our national tour, and the rest is history.

BTC: How did you end up in Box Car Willies Theatre?

SD: He saw our TV special and wanted us in his theatre. We leased the theatre within two years of coming to Branson and opened our first show in the theatre on the night of April 13, 1999. In 2001 we purchased the theatre.

BTC: What instrument do you play?

SD: I play the acoustic and electric bass and the only reason I do is because my children needed a bass player. I had no prior musical experience, Timothy taught me how to play in about 1986 and I have been playing ever since.

BTC: How many months a year does your family perform?

SD: We perform about 8 months in Branson and 4 months in Arizona in the off season.

BTC: That’s 12 months. Do you ever take a vacation?

SD: We normally take two weeks off the first of January and about ten more days the first of July.

BTC: We know where you perform in Branson, but where do you perform in Arizona?

SD: We have our own theatre in Mesa. We helped complete the auditorium and stage at East Valley High School, a charter school. The “theatre” is named after us, gives us a place to perform our shows in the winter, and provides an opportunity for the school’s students to “intern” in areas like lighting and sound.

BTC: What is your biggest challenge in doing a show in Branson?

SD: Coming up with new material every year so that our audiences are always seeing something fresh and different.

BTC: Do you develope some of the new Branson material during your winter shows in Arizona?

SD: Yes, we have kind of fallen into a nice routine. Because our market actually lives there, we actually do four different shows, while we are in Arizona. When we arrive in December we do the Branson Christmas show through the rest of the year. In January we run the regular season Branson show from the previous season with a new show in February and a new show in March. Out of the new shows in February and March we draw our favorite material and that becomes the new Branson show.

BTC: What do you like best about living in Branson?

SD: I love that it is a small town community of good Christian people and that our family is here together with a great support system of friends. It has just been a tremendous blessing to meet the people we have met here that will be lifelong friends.

BTC: What has been your biggest challenge in being a mother, a grandmother, and being involved with the show?

SD: Trying to be more like my angel grandmother, a quiet person who blessed the lives of everybody. Being the CEO of our business and performing in the show I spend a lot of time in the business. I would like to be more like my grandmother who had time to sit, love, do service and kind deeds for people and yet I see myself in a position where in every show I have a few minutes with every grandchild. Life is too full for me, but at the same time I don’t know how I could replicate what I have.

BTC: What one thing stands out as a defining moment in the development of the Duttons professional careers to you personally?

SD: The joy I felt as I edited our last PBS Special. It wasn’t just the talent of our family members, but the talents of the crew with the lighting and filming, as wonderful professionals came together in a cumulative effort that resulted in something that was just truly remarkable.

BTC: Do you have a thought that you would like to share with our readers?

SD: I never envisioned or planned for this career. I had a different plan, but the Lord is in charge and sometimes His plan is different than ours, but oh what a glorious plan it is. I am just so grateful for the life, family and experiences that His plan had for me.

BTC:  Can you give us a hint about what will be in the 2013 Dutton show when it opens in Branson on April 8?

SD: Our Mesa audiences are calling this show our best ever with a superb lineup of numbers.  You won’t want to miss our new opening segment that incorporates high energy vocals, instrumentals, and dance.  Every night the audience spontaneously erupts with applause as our latest star debuts on “Danke Schoen.”  And cousin Julio (bless his heart) will have you in stitches when he plays Amy’s “Stradivarius” violin.  The new tricks he has up his sleeve are hilarious.  Along with that, we have all kinds of surprises that you are just going to have to come and see.

For additional information or tickets for the Duttons or any of Branson’s other 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 their toll free number 1-800-785-1550.

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