What do you get when you combine an entertainer with the vocal talent and audience charisma of Clay Cooper, with the best dancers and choreography on any Branson stage, the vocal talents of featured female vocalist Kari Garrison, the talent and comedy of Matt Gumm, the rope and gun handling performance of Johnny Lonestar, one of the most talented live bands in Branson, and so much more? Two hours of great music, dancing, fun, laughter, and variety called the Clay Cooper’s Country Express Show that whisks adults and children alike, “down the tracks” on a delightful entertainment journey.
The musical talent and personality of the show’s star, Clay Cooper, are the “tracks” upon which this express speeds along. From his dramatic and exciting entry onto the stage and the show’s full cast opening number, “Fever” until his performance of the original song, ” America Stand Strong” during the show’s patriotic finale, Clay’s performance effortlessly demonstrates, why he has won so many Branson entertainment awards.
It should be noted that although the show emphasizes country music, it covers everything from country to gospel, pop, “funk,” and more. From among many sung by Clay, three of my personal favorites were the duet of “Squeeze Me,” sung by him and his wife Tina, the Hank Williams’ hit “Kaw-Liga,” and his performance of the Roy Orbison hit “Crying” which was another demonstration of Clay’s vocal range and talent.
As remarkable as his singing is, it is certainly equaled by his ability to not only relate to the crowd, but interact with them in a way that entertains the whole audience and draws them into their own entertainment experience. He goes out into the audience and triggers responses from them, with a warm comfortable humor, that has everyone laughing, having fun and wondering what is coming next.
In addition to Clay, the show features a number of other vocal performances. From among many, I have chosen to highlight two, Kari Garrison’s great job on the Fleetwood Mac hit, “Landslide,” and RP Harrell’s inspiring performance of “America,” as part of the Patriotic Finale.
This is an excellent time to mention my belief in this show’s ability to simultaneously entertain both kids and adults throughout the show. From a vocal perspective, the show features quality “peer to peer” performances and appearances by Colton Cooper, Ezrah Noelle, Caden Cooper, and Rosie Dale. Just loved the total production number of the 1957 Thurston Harris hit, “Itty Bitty Pretty One” featuring Colton and the shows dancers. It was a WOW! Ezrah’s performance of “Cowboy Sweetheart” with her great yodeling did Patsy Montana proud!
In addition to the peer to peer vocals however, the show has two other acts that will equally appeal to both adults and kids. Johnny Lonestar’s trick “gun slinging,” whip, and rope act, as seen on the NBC primetime show, “America’s Got Talent” is amazing and, the multi-talented Matt Gumm does everything from comedy, to playing the Hammered Dulcimer, and Donald Trump. His “air horn” routine is as amazing as it is funny.
A unique aspect of this show is its dancers. Tina Cooper, the show’s choreographer, and one of the dancers herself, is to dance choreography on the Branson stage, what her alma mater, the “University of Oklahoma,” from which she received a “Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Music Theatre with a Minor in Dance” is to football. The masterful way she has woven the talents of her extremely talented dancers into the show, is a thing of exquisite beauty that is unique and easily sets it apart from any other country music show that I have ever seen.
No matter what style, the Country Express Dancers do it with an energy, grace, and precision that demonstrates why they are one of, if not “the,” top dancing troupe(s) in Branson. Their performance during the show’s opening number, “Fever” sets the stage for what is to come. The beautiful dance feature performed by Jenn Turner and Nathan Applegate as Clay sang Garth Brooks “Thunder Road” was breath taking, not only in terms of the dancing, but the story it told as Clay sang. To me it was another WOW moment. In addition to Tina Cooper, the Country Express Dancers include Nathan Applegate, Nate Bittner, Sarah Blackerby, Kristen Chandler, Hailey Denton, Jeremiah Eugenio, Kelly Smith, Elizabeth Sparks, Jenn Turner, and Colton Williams.
The Country Express Band consists of RP Harrell, piano and Musical Producer; Barry Bales guitar and vocals; Dave Clark, bass guitar; Jimmy Hyde, Drums; Greg Moody, guitar; and Robby Springfield, string guitar. Although their talent is obvious throughout the whole show, it is highlighted, both in total and individually, in their performance of the Eagles hit, “Already Gone,” which also featured Matt Gumm on the Hammered Dulcimer
In a previous “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 2016 edition of this outstanding show all I can say is, “Ditto,” and add, “Don’t miss it!”
For additional information on the Clay Cooper’s Country 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 www.BransonTourismCenter.com.