The short and quick of it is, “Don’t miss it, the Grand Jubilee show truly is “grand” entertainment for your whole family.” As many times as I have seen this show, I expect to see and experience dynamic vocals from the quartet “New South” and Jackie Brown, hilarious comedy from Jamie Haage, great music from the “Grand Band” and the excellent emceeing of the show’s producer Mike Patrick resulting in an absolutely “grand” entertainment experience. I have never been disappointed, but this year there’s a synergy and energy that just adds another dimension of anticipation, excitement and excellence to what was already one of Branson’s top shows.
From the time the curtain goes up, well maybe even a little before, it’s non-stop entertainment filled with some of the finest vocals and comedy on any Branson stage. The main vocal component is the group “New South,” composed of Lead Vocalist, David Ragan, Tenor, Luke Menard, Baritone, Jon Drockelman and Bass, Mark McCauley. New South has consistently been one of Branson’s most outstanding quartets even as different singers have rotated in and out periodically. David Regan, the newest member of the group, is starting his first full season with the group and, if the show I saw was any indication, his addition will do nothing, but enhance and grow that tradition of musical excellence.
Each member of the group has a great voice that is demonstrated in “solo” features throughout the show, but when they sing together well, that’s when you will find yourself shaking your head thinking, “These guys are good, really good.” And if it was just their singing that would be enough, but there is an energy, enthusiasm and spirit of fun that just seems to radiate from them to the audience and draw them into the performance that adds so much to the enjoyment of the show.
New South performs a variety of music from many different genres including country, gospel, patriotic, and even a dash of Irish hard rock covering decades of hits and does an amazing job on them all. From among many, and although certainly subjective, some of my favorites were “Elvira,” featuring the bass voice of Bass Mark McCauley, the Irish hard rock song, “The Boys Are Back In Town, and, my absolute favorite, “How Great Thou Art” which was simply one of the most powerful and beautiful renditions of that song I have ever heard highlighted by David Regan singing the second verse and “the note.” What’s the note? When you hear it you’ll know!
Jackie Brown is the show’s female vocalist. Her vocal talents are demonstrated on a number of songs throughout the show. My personal favorite was her performance of the Johnnie Ray classic “Cry.” What a tremendous job!
The “Grand Band” includes of some of the finest musicians in Branson. It is composed of Michael W. Davis, Piano/Keyboard & Vocals; Wayne Massengale, Fiddle and Acoustic Guitar; Larry Allred, Bass Guitar; Rob Blackburn, Drums; David Creech, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Gene Mulvaney, Steel Guitar, Electric Guitar, Banjo and Band Director.
These guys are not just great musicians, they are consummate showman. Whether it’s a musical feature like Gene Mulvaney on the steel guitar with Jackie Brown in “There Goes My Heart Again,” Wayne Massengale’s fiddle feature with New South as they performed “Play Me Mountain Music” or the band playing a number like “Pick It Apart,” their musicianship and showmanship add yet another delightful element to the show.
“Jim Dandy,” played by Jamie Haage, one of Branson’s best comedians, along with “straight man” Mike Patrick, kept me laughing throughout the show with a blend of comedy skits and one liners. It can be safely said, “No dark comedy here, just “orange comedy” and who wouldn’t want to know how funny and magical a banana can be? The comedy just flows in with the music at exactly the right time as the show seamlessly moves from one entertaining segment to the next.
Watching the metamorphosis of Haage from comedian to instrumentalist and vocalist is a special treat to see and hear. His playing of the banjo, steel guitar, drums, piano and fiddle, especially his “train duet” of the “Wabash Cannonball” and ” Orange Blossom Special” with Wayne Massengale, was a joy to experience, not only testifying as to the versatility and talents of this “grand” entertainer, but as yet another thing that makes the Grand Jubilee unique among Branson shows.
It would be impossible to write about the Grand Jubilee without mentioning its Director and Producer Mike Patrick. Not only is he responsible for producing this “grand” entertainment experience, that just might be two of the best and fastest moving hours of entertainment in Branson, but he is also Emcee, Jim Dandy’s straight man and even plays a mean honky-tonk piano version of “Balls of Fire” with “fire” coming out of the piano.
In a previous 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.” Isn’t it wonderful that some things never change except to get better!
For additional information or tickets on the Grand Jubilee show 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.