Category Archives: Branson Shows

Meet Tyler Hunter- one of the stars of Branson’s amazing new hit show “Million Dollar Quartet”

Tyler Hunter as Elvis Presley in "Million Dollar Quartet."

Tyler Hunter as Elvis Presley in “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The Million Dollar Quartet is not only one of Branson’s newest shows, but one of its most popular, and for good reason. It’s a spectacular production based on one of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history. The impromptu  jam session took place on December 4, 1956, in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. What makes it so special is that it   included four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The show recreates that moment not only with its fabulous music, but with a dramatic story line that entertains the audience as much as the music. It takes an exceptional performers to not only perform the music of these legends, but present the drama and excitement of the moment in a manner that keeps the audience excited, involved, and having fun throughout. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins are those performers!

Recently, I interviewed Tyler K. Hunter who plays Elvis Presley in the production. Tyler was born in 1990 in Lincoln, Nebraska and became interested in becoming an Elvis Presley tribute artist at the early age of 11 as a result of seeing Elvis tribute artist Bill Chrastil perform and being mentored by him. His first performances as an Elvis tribute artist was in high school talent shows.

Hunter turned professional in 2010 after he came to Branson and competed in the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre. After performing a number of gigs, including a fill-in roll for Elvis in the Legends in Concert Show in Las Vegas, he answered a casting call for the Million Dollar Quartet in 2012, and the rest is history. He opened with the show at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas in January 2013, left to travel with the national tour of the show in September of 2013, and when he heard there was going to be production of the show in Branson, immediately decided to come. He said, “It was a no brainer, it’s close to my family, and I knew I was coming to God’s Country.”

When asked what he likes most about performing in the show Hunter said that it’s the opportunity to recreate that special moment in rock n’ roll history when four guys, who were friends and shared a special bond, “sat down for a while, just jammed and had a good time.” He also likes being able to go beyond the music of Elvis and present him as “a real person, with emotions just like you and me.”

As one who has seen the Million Dollar Quartet, I can testify to the fact that the outstanding performance of the cast, music everyone knows and loves and a great storyline all combine to create an incredible unique entertainment experience, for the whole family, that shouldn’t be missed.

Branson Up-Close and Personal with the illusionist who pays tribute to Michael Jackson

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Michael Knight in his Michael Jackson tribute role.

Legends in Concert, “the world’s greatest live tribute show,” and one of Branson’s most popular shows, is constantly changing its acts to provide the audience with a fresh new entertainment experience. Michael Knight, who is currently performing his tribute to the legendary Michael Jackson during the summer season, describes himself as an illusionist as much as a tribute artist. He recently took time to share a little bit about himself and his career in a “Branson Up Close and Personal” interview.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. The interview with Michael Knight (MK) was conducted earlier this week for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 29 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist, and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: When were you born?
MK: 1985

BTC: Where?
MK: Woonsocket, RI

BTC: How do you prefer your act to be categorized?
MK: Tribute Artist, but I am also an “Illusionist” because my objective, from costuming, to make up, vocals and dance, is to create the illusion of Michael Jackson.

BTC: Were you singing and dancing before you first became interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: Although I had dabbled with singing and dancing I didn’t really get serious about it until I became interested in Michael Jackson.

BTC: When did you become interested in Michael Jackson?
MK: When I was about 14 years old.

BTC: What was it about him that caught your interest?
MK: When I first saw Michael Jackson perform he just blew me away. I loved what he and his music stood for, peace, love, and unity at a time when a lot of music was gangster rap. It had a positive impact on my life from the way I dressed to the way I lived my life.

BTC: When did you first perform Michael Jackson publically?
MK: I remember it clear as day. It was an impromptu performance of “Billie Jean” at a 7th grade middle-school dance and I was wearing a vintage grey Fedora.

BTC: How did you get to see Michael Jackson perform?
BK: On TV and on videos that I had taped from VH1 and watched over and over. My first performance was based on watching part of the miniseries, “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” and a performance that I memorized.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson professionally?
MK: I started doing private parties and stuff like that in 2006, but the demand for Michael was very low at that time and didn’t pick up until after his death in 2009.

BTC: Have you participated in any Michael Jackson Contests?
MK: Yes. In 2009 I won the “Best Michael Jackson Contest” in Providence, RI. As a result, I got hooked up with a manager and my career really got rolling.

BTC: There is an Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Is there a similar contest for Michael Jackson Tribute Artists?
BK: Not yet, but I am waiting and hoping.

BTC: How long have you been performing Michael Jackson for Legends in Concert?
BK: This is my first gig with Legends in Concert; I just started with them on May 21st. What’s really cool about this was that, in 2002, I was watching the “Michael Jackson Fan Club” and it had clips about E’Casanova, a Michael Jackson Tribute Artist who was performing with Legends in Concert. I said to myself, “Oh my God, I have to join Legends in Concert, wow that is just amazing.” Fast forward about 13 years and here I am!

BTC: Many have commented on your dancing skills and ability to make the Michael Jackson moves. How did you learn them?
MK: When I was 14, I learned how to “Pop and Lock” and “Moon Walk,” from my uncle Bob, who was a great Break Dancer in the 80s. It was after perfecting those basic steps that I started watching Michael and applying them to his moves.

BTC: Outside of videos and the initial help from Uncle Bob, what additional help or training have you had that has prepared you for this role?
MK: I have actually had the opportunity and privilege to meet with and work with people who actually worked with Michael Jackson. Among others, I have worked on his mannerisms with Majestic the Magnificent, a close friend of Michael’s, and had a one month “boot camp” on his choreography and style with Travis Payne and Stacie Walker, who were the two main choreographers for Michael’s “This Is It” video.

BTC: How long does it take to get your makeup on?
MK: It takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

BTC: Is this your first time performing in Branson?
MK: Yes.

BTC: When you found out you were coming to Branson for the first time, what did you expect?
MK: I had no idea of what to expect.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
MK: The diversity of people.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
MK: The audiences and working with this cast. I feel very blessed.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?

MK: Just being a tourist and taking in what Branson has to offer.
BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased), outside of Michael Jackson who would it be and why?

MK: James Brown because his soulfulness was such a huge influence on Michael’s life.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
MK: I like to draw and sketch and go to movies.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
MK: I have love for magic and circuses.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
MK: The time my wig came off while I did a spin. I knew something had happened, but the audience thought it was part of the performance.

BTC: What is your favorite Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Billie Jean.” It’s magic in the sense of that’s where you see the “Moonwalk” and the “Glove.”

BTC: What is your favorite non Michael Jackson song and why?
MK: “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars because of its story and up-tempo.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MK: I really appreciate the support of those coming to the show. It means so much.

BTC: What’s the date of your last current Branson performances?
MK: On my 30th Birthday, September 8.

Jeannie Horton, General Manager of the Legends in Concert in Branson, said that they plan to have Michael Knight back next year and are working out the details, not only of his return, but exciting new additions to his set. Michael said that he is really excited about the changes, and that although he can’t be more specific at this point, he could say, “Think Jackson 5 and the old songs the old fashioned way.”

 

 

Presleys’ Country Jubilee Is A Branson Treasure Not To Be Missed!

Steve, Scott, Gregg, and John Presley performing  "Midnight Special".

Steve, Scott, Gregg, and John Presley performing “Midnight Special”.

From the time you walk into the theatre until the curtain goes down, a night with the Presley family at Presleys’ Country Jubilee is an unequalled Branson entertainment experience! As you enter one of the most home-like theatre lobbies in Branson, you’ll hear the sounds of gospel music drifting down from the pre-show gospel sing-along in the loft; smell Glazed Almonds and Pecans made from a secret recipe developed by Cecil, a.k.a. Eric Presley, and begin to realize that you and your family are in for a special evening.

Every time I enter the Presleys’ Theatre, I am overcome by a feeling of warmth and friendliness that, to me, just radiates the special spirit that is Branson. For example, there’s no line waiting to get into the theatre so they can take a picture of you and try to sell it to you later; however, there is a Presley cutout and Presley costume jackets provided so you can take a picture with your own camera. What a joy it was for me to see people having so much fun; not only taking pictures of their own family, but helping others to do the same, allowing whoever’s been holding the camera to get in on the family photo!

Then, as the curtain rises, you become part of a Branson phenomenon as Branson’s first show on the now famous Branson Strip, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, does what it has been continually doing since 1967…wowing audiences with its unique combination of music and comedy, presented by some extraordinarily talented vocalists, musicians, and comedians.

Vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, and Devonna Wickizer

Vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, and Devonna Wickizer

From their all-cast opening medley featuring “Gonna Have A Party,” to their stirring finale, “America,” the music in this show, while definitely having a country flavor, has something for everyone, including gospel, rock and roll, and more, all performed by some of the best musicians and vocalists on any stage in Branson. The show’s vocalists are Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, Devonna Wickizer, Jay Wickizer, Tim Gregg, Chuck Crain, Scott Presley, and Bruce Haynes. A few of my personal favorite vocal highlights, from among many, would be Kimberly Barber’s performance of Tammy Wynette’s, “Stand By Your Man;” the performance of the Gospel Quartet composed of Jay Wickizer, Tim Greg, Chuck Crain, and Bruce Haynes; and Ambrus Presley’s performance of “Over The Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz. The laser lighting used to accent her performance makes an inspirational and beautiful performance even more so.

The show’s band is comprised of Steve Presley, drums; Scott Presley, guitar; Greg Presley, harmonica; John Presley, piano and keyboard; Bruce Haynes, bass guitar; Dean Holman, steel guitar and banjo; and Cortland Ingram, fiddle. They do a great job in not only supporting the vocalists, but as musicians in their own right. Some of the instrumental highlights, for me, would be Cortland Ingram’s performance of the “Devil Went Down To Georgia;” John Presley’s version of “Chopsticks,” which is not only unlike any version I’ve ever heard, but displays his tremendous talents as not only a musician, but as an arranger and composer; and Greg Presley’s performance on the harmonica is simply amazing! It’s as exciting to watch him play as it is to hear him play.

"Cecil" and "Herkimer" during one of the comedy skits.

“Cecil” thinking if over before responding to “Herkimer.”

I just have to believe that one of the secrets to the long term success of Presleys’ Country Jubilee is not only the type and quality of its comedy, but the way it’s continuously and strategically woven into the show to give the audience an entertainment experience unlike any other. Since the Presleys’ opened on the Branson strip, Gary Presley, known on the stage as “Herkimer,” has been making the show’s audiences laugh ‘til they hurt! In combination with his son, Eric, “Cecil” in the show, their comedy is a unique blend of Ozark humor, one-liners, action, and skits that always seem to be relevant to current events. Their performance keeps the audience, kids and adults alike, laughing and wondering what to expect next!

Jay Wickizer, one of the show’s vocalists and its emcee, acts as the straight man or go-between in much of the comedy. I must confess that all I have to see is Herkimer and Cecil together and I start laughing; not only at what they’re saying or doing at the moment, but in anticipation of what they’ll do next…they’re just two really funny guys! One thing is for sure in this year’s show, you’ve never seen a punch line like Cecil delivers when he and Herkimer add their own comedic meaning to Muhammad Ali’s iconic statement, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Every time I see Presleys’ Country Jubilee, I feel like I’m witnessing a Branson treasure. Alone, its origin, and the faithfulness of four generations maintaining the traditions and heritage of that origin, make Presleys’ Country Jubilee special. The spirit and the talents of the Presley family and the other cast members, combined with the musical variety and the uniqueness of the humor, blends together to create a show that flows seamlessly from one entertaining segment to another. With this formula, there can only be one result…a special, unforgettable Branson entertainment memory that should not be missed!

For additional information or tickets for Presleys’ Country Jubilee 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 by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

What are Branson’s most popular shows?

 

The Presley family and Presleys' Country Jubilee have continuously been Branson favorites ever since they opened the first show on the Branson Strip in 1967.

Presleys’ Country Jubilee has continuously been one of Branson’s most popular shows ever since the Presley family  opened the first show on the now famous Branson Strip in 1967.

“One of the questions our Branson-based Travel Planners are frequently asked is, ‘What are the most popular shows in Branson?'” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services and sellers of over four million Branson show and attraction tickets. “The answer to that question is subjective, illusive, and depends on many factors, but based on our marketing relationships we feel certain that the following are some of the most popular shows in Branson,” she added.

The following lists divide Branson’s most popular shows into two main areas, Resident Shows, those who perform throughout the majority of the Branson season, and Limited Engagement Shows, those who perform in Branson for a limited period of time during the season. In both lists, each entry contains a link to the show’s schedule, description, pricing, pictures, video, and other information, as available. The Resident Shows, list is sorted alphabetically while the Limited Engagement Shows list is sorted by the date of their first performance; it also contains the dates they will be performing:

BRANSON’S MOST POPULAR RESIDENT SHOWS

Acrobats of China
Amazing Pets
Andy Williams Christmas Show
Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett
Branson Country USA
Buckets N Boards
Christmas Wonderland
Clay Cooper’s Country Express
Comedy Jamboree
Daniel O’Donnell
Down Home Country
Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies
Grand Jubilee
Hughes Brothers Christmas Show
Illusionist Rick Thomas
it starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families
Jonah
Legends in Concert
The Lettermen
Million Dollar Quartet
Moon River and Me
New Jersey Nights
New South Gospel
Ozark Mountain Jubilee
Paul Harris & The Cleverlys
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
Puttin’ on the Ritz
Shoji Tabuchi
SIX
Spirit of the Dance
Sunday Gospel Jubilee
The Haygoods
The Texas Tenors

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood points out that it is interesting to note that the list of Branson’s most popular Resident Shows covers a wide spectrum of entertainment, paralleling that covered by Branson shows in general. “It has everything from magic to acrobatics, music of every genre, comedy, concerts, and full production shows demonstrating the full breadth and quality of the live entertainment offered by Branson shows in general,” she said.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT SHOWS

The Hits starring Collin Raye (Jul. 8-Sep. 19)
Ray Stevens (Sep. 12)
The Hits starring Mary Wilson (Sep. 21-30)
Bill Engvall (Sep. 26)
Boot Daddy Presents Rhonda Vincent (Oct. 2-4)
Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers (Oct. 16-17 & Nov. 5-8)
The Hits starring the Osmonds (Oct. 19-31)
Boot Daddy Presents Gene Watson (Oct. 20-22 & Dec. 3-6)
Boot Daddy Presents Jimmy Fortune (Oct. 26-27 & Nov. 16-17)
Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent (Oct. 28-29 & Nov. 19-21)

For additional information on any of these shows, or on how to save money by packaging, or bundling, shows with lodging, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Million Dollar Quartet brings a legendary night to the Branson stage in an absolutely amazing entertainment experience!

David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, Brad Waters as Carl David Brooks as "Jerry Lee Lewis," on the piano; Brad Waters as "Carl Perkins;" Austin Wilson as "Jay Perkins," the bass player; Tyler K. Hunter as "Elvis Presley;" and Cliff Wright as "Johnny Cash"

David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, on the piano; Brad Waters as “Carl Perkins;” Austin Wilson as “Jay Perkins,” the bass player; Daniel Dossey as “Fluke” Holland, drummer; Tyler K. Hunter as “Elvis Presley;” and Cliff Wright as “Johnny Cash.”

One of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history was an impromptu gathering of four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, that took place on December 4, 1956 in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. What’s really remarkable is that, except for one newspaper article, which dubbed the four “The Million Dollar Quartet,” and its accompanying photo, the jam session went largely unnoticed until recordings of the event were discovered and released decades later. That jam session, those recordings, and the four rock n’ roll legends involved became the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet that shares the music, spontaneity, and drama of what happened that day, as these four legends performed together for their first and last time.

Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great storyline combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.

Obviously, with the recording icons being portrayed and the music being sung it takes some special entertainers to pull it off, and the cast of Million Dollar Quartet does just that…and then some. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins do an exceptional job with hits such as “Matchbox,” “That’s All right,” “I Walk the Line,” “Riders in the Sky,” “Hound Dog,” “Peace in the Valley,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Who Do You Love,” and many more. From among many, two of my personal favorite musical highlights were “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” sung by Johnny Cash, and “Peace in the Valley,” not only because of the way it was sung, but how the storyline beautifully brought each of those in the jam session personally into its performance.

Derek Garza as Sam Phillips  having a heart to heart with Elvis Presley.

Derek Garza as Sam Phillips having a heart to heart with Elvis Presley.

As timeless and wonderful as the music is, it is the storyline, the historical moment it describes and the way it is artfully woven into the musical tapestry surrounding it that makes this such an entertaining show. Derek Garza as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, the man some call the “Father of rock n’ roll,” and the person who actually set the circumstances in motion that resulted in the jam session, does a superb job of dramatically narrating the story and tying its diverse elements together in a manner that kept me keenly invested throughout the entire performance.

It’s a story filled with interesting antidotes and historical facts about not only what happened that day, but the artists involved, how the record industry worked at that time, and the early history of rock n’ roll. Among them was why and how Sam Phillips arranged for the four musical icons to be together that day for the impromptu jam session; the angst Carl Perkins, the old man of the group at 24, felt towards Elvis Presley over Blue Suede Shoes; why Johnny Cash was leaving Sun Records for Columbia Records; the answer to the question in everyone’s mind of why Phillips sold Elvis Presley’s contract to RCA for $40,000 in 1955; the jealousy some felt about the emphasis Phillips placed on Elvis Presley, and more. Watching the relationship between Jerry Lee Lewis, the brash outspoken rookie of the group, and the others evolve is a hoot.

Dana Parker as Dyanna, does a great in her role of not only being the girl Elvis brought to the jam session, but in interacting with the four musical icons and Sam Phillips throughout. She also sings and I enjoyed her performance of “Fever”. Daniel Dossey plays W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the drummer during the jam session, and Austin Wilson rounds out the cast as Jay Perkins, the bass player and brother of Carl Perkins.

Replication of  "The Picture" taken near the end of the 1956 Jam session with David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, ,Brad Waters as Carl Perkins, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, and Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley.

Replication of “The Picture” taken near the end of the 1956 Jam session with the cast of the Million Dollar Quartet portraying Jerry Lee Lewis, left, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

How a simple recording session of Carl Perkins in the studio, with his brother and a drummer, evolved into the rock n’ roll jam session of all time as presented in the Million Dollar Quartet is a wonderfully entertaining experience in terms of both story and music. It’s nonstop fun, drama, and entertainment from beginning to end with no intermission. Oh, and a word to the wise, remember the admonition of Yogi Berra who said, “It ain’t over till it’s over” because, as Dathan Atchison, the show’s producer said, “The “party’s just starting at ‘The Picture.'” Don’t want to spoil the surprise, but “Wait for it” because it’s a grand ending to an absolutely delightful and completely entertaining show that ends all too quickly.

For additional information or tickets for Million Dollar Quartet please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Material Connection

What’s “Buzzin in Branson” during July 2015

The "Million Dollar Quartet" is Branson's newest show and "hottest" ticket

The “Million Dollar Quartet” is Branson’s newest show and “hottest” ticket

“Buzzin in Branson” is a concise and easy to read list of major events and activities taking place in Branson, Missouri during the month being “Buzzed.” Each issue contains the “Branson Buzz of the Month,” and a list of the major special events, shows, and activities for the month. Branson “Buzz of the Month for July 2015 Skies around the Branson area will be ablaze with fireworks for the 4th of July; families are loving Disney’s “The Little Mermaid;” and one of Branson’s hottest tickets is its newest show, the Million Dollar Quartet, a Tony® Award-winning musical that tells the heartwarming story of how fate brought Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins together for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that became one of the most memorable nights in music history, December 4, 1956. The following list of major special events, shows, and activities taking place in Branson during July is sorted by event date and contains pertinent and timely comments and contact information, through either a link or phone number, that can be used to obtain additional information where appropriate:

“Buzzin in Branson” is published monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson; it gives them a “heads up” about what’s happening over the next 30 days. If you have any further questions about these events or want information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows, attractions, or lodging, please contact 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.

Acrobats of China is incredible amazing entertainment your whole family will absolutely love

How many is that on one bicycle?

How many is that on one bicycle?

“Wow!” is my impression of the 2015 edition of the Acrobats of China featuring “The New Shanghai Circus” and starring the “Fenton Acrobatic Troupe.” That’s a big “Wow” for me because, as the show starts its 17th year in Branson, I have seen them perform about 14 out of those 17 years and, although it seems I have said this a lot over the years, this is absolutely the best yet. The world renowned skill, expertise and variety of exciting acts along with the great choreography, color and pageantry of years past is there, but it is presented in a brand new format that adds an entirely new dynamic to what was already one of Branson’s most popular shows.

The theme of the show, carried out throughout, is exploring “the ancient art of Chinese Acrobatics, Chinese Culture and stories taken from the 200 year old ‘Beijing Opera,’ which is an exciting and beautiful form of theatre encompassing storytelling, singing, acting, dance, costume, stagecraft, gymnastics, martial arts and makeup.” Most of the shows many acts are preceded by an introduction beautifully tying the act into Chinese history or the opera. This takes the acrobatic or gymnastic skills of the performer(s) and embeds it into the act’s “mini story” adding another entertainment element for the audience to enjoy.

The shows high flying Silk Act was amazing and flawlessly performed. Its introduction and presentation was framed around tragic opera, “The Goddess of Luo River,” in which Zhen Mi, the beautiful daughter of a high ranking official is forced by her father to marry the wrong man. Her true love, Cao Zhi, saddened by her marriage, composed a poem describing how they met and fell in love. It’s interesting to see how each different skill set and act is seamlessly melded into its historical or operatic partner.

Continuing on the same theme, and an entirely new act this year, is the exciting and amazing “Fork in the Road,” combines a mixture of the Beijing Opera and Chinese Kung Fu to tell the story of a weary warrior who stops at an inn for the night and defends himself when the inn keeper and his evil friends sneak in to attack him and steal his goods. This is a “black light” performance is one of the most unique and exciting acts I have ever seen performed in the show. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I can say that you will be unable to “mask” your amazement as they “levitate” the action and excitement of the show to a new level.

Hoop Jumping is just one of  the many exciting and dangerous acts that are performed.

Hoop Jumping is just one of the many exciting and dangerous acts that you will see.

From juggling to strength acts, hoop jumping, an unbelievable bike act, pole climbing and so much more this show truly entertains the entire family throughout the entire two hours of the show, entertaining kids and adults simultaneously. Each act seamlessly transitions from one to another, almost like magic, with no dead time. The skill and energy of these performers is amazing even to the way they leave the stage and rush out to the lobby to meet and greet the audience after the show.

Just sitting in the back, watching the reaction of the kids and, for that matter, the adults during the show, was a joy. After the show the Fine family from Higginsville, Missouri was kind enough to share their opinion of the show with me. That’s the good news, the bad news is that because of “operator error” my recorder “misfired,” but as best as I can recollect, Mrs. Fine said she loved the show and the interactive way it was presented. Her two young daughters, ages 7 and 9 I believe, enthusiastically said that they really liked the show and felt that other kids there age would too.

If you want to share something unique, exciting, colorful, that the whole family will enjoy and is in a class by itself in terms of the skill and daring displayed throughout, then you don’t want to miss these championship acrobats as they perform in this incredible production.

For additional information or tickets for the Acrobats of China 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.

Five reasons you and your family shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the amazing Jonah

30,000 pound boat "sails" the stage and breaks up during storm.

30,000 pound boat “sails” the stage and breaks up during storm.

When I went to see Jonah at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson as it premiered last year I did so in the context of having seen all of the spectacular Sight and Sound Branson shows, “Noah, the Musical,” “Miracle of Christmas,” and “Joseph.” I expected to see a show with great music, vocals, spectacular sets and costuming presented as only Sight and Sound can do it. Well, I got what I expected and, in terms of what most people think about what swallowed “Jonah” a “whale” of lot more.”

Recently, Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, reminded me that although Jonah’s Branson premier was just a year ago that time is running out for Branson visitors to see it because it will be replaced by another production, “Moses” next year. If you have not seen this fantastic show here are a few reasons why we believe that you should consider seeing it and sharing it with your family before it leaves Branson:

1. The whole family can enjoy it together: All Branson shows are family friendly in terms of content, but some are more kid friendly, in terms of their content being able to hold their interest throughout the majority of the show. Still fewer can entertain children of different ages and adults simultaneously and at entertainment level they all enjoy. Jonah does.

2. Spectacular Props and Sets: Sight and Sound is known for their spectacular props and sets and as great as they have been in their other Sight and Sound Branson productions, in Jonah they are just about unbelievable. One example is the ship from which Jonah is thrown into the sea; took two years to build and weighs 30,000 pounds.

3. Action and Special Effects: Sight and Sound are experts at filling their 300 foot surround sound stage with music, action, dancing, drama and special effects melded into magnificent productions. The action scenes of the ship breaking up; Jonah flying through the air, particularly as he departs the belly of the great “fish;” the set of Jonah in the belly of the fish and the underwater scene with the great “fish” are simply magnificent and something no one has ever come close to seeing on a Branson stage.

4. The Magnificent Underwater Segment: As Jonah is thrown into the sea by the crew of the ship and sinks into the ocean depths, the audience is literally “immersed,” in a spectacular underwater environment as beautiful fish swim by, Jelly Fish float about and the great “fish” comes out of the darkness and swims slowly and gracefully out over the audience through a beautiful underwater world and then, returns to swallow Jonah. Parents need not worry, the actual swallowing of Jonah by the “fish” is not seen. One minute the fish is swimming toward him and the next, there is a set with Jonah in the belly of the fish. Jonah’s exit from the belly of the fish was a “high flying” experience that delighted the audience.

5. An Epic Biblical Story Spectacularly Brought to Life: Jonah has it all, drama; original music produced specifically for the show and performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra; great vocals sung live on stage by the shows cast; dancing; 30 live animals ; colorful costuming and great sound, special effects and lighting and simply spectacular sets. That said however, it is the energy and talent of the shows cast of 41 performers that brings the epic bible story of Jonah, and how he tried to run from what he knew God wanted him to do, to life in a very special, inspirational and entertaining way.

In a nutshell, Jonah is unlike anything that most people will every see live on stage, a pure joy to experience and something is that every member of the family can enjoy together and remember for a lifetime. Jonah will be performed through December 29, 2015.

For additional information or tickets for Jonah 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.

 

Material Connection

Answers to your questions about the famed Branson Strip

The iconic Presley's Theatre, home of the "first show" on the "Branson Strip," "Presleys' Country Music Jubilee."

The iconic Presley’s Theatre, home of the “first show” on the “Branson Strip,” “Presleys’ Country Music Jubilee.”

“Just about everyone who comes to Branson, wants to see the famed Branson Strip and will, whether they want to or not because of its location,” says Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. Here’s some answers to some of the most asked questions about The Strip that we hope you will find interesting:

Where does the Branson Strip Actually Start and end? That depends. An argument could be made that, on its east side, it starts at the junction of Roark Valley Road and Highway 76, at the Veteran’s Memorial Park and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end. Most however, say it starts .8 miles west on Highway 76 at the intersection of Fall Creek Road and Highway 76, and runs west on Highway 76 until its intersection with the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway at its western end, because that’s where the theatres and most of the attractions start. For purposes of this piece we are going with the majority view as to the eastern start of “The Strip.” There is minimal, if any, debate on its western end.

How long is the Branson Strip? As measured on my odometer today it is 3.3 miles long from its eastern end at the Intersection of the Fall Creek Road and Highway 76.

What is the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre, the home of two of Branson’s most popular shows the fabulous Legends in Concert Show and the Bretts morning show, is the first theatre on the Branson Strip. It’s right across the street from another of Branson’s most popular theatre attractions, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.

Wasn’t the Presleys’ theatre the first theatre on the Branson Strip? Yes, it was, it’s a matter of “tense.” In 1967, when they first opened and started performing Presleys’ Country Jubilee, there was no “Branson Strip” and not much of anything else near them, just Highway 76 heading west toward Silver Dollar City. As other theatres were built east and west of them what is now known as the “Branson Strip” developed, but first there was the Presleys and the Presleys’ Country Jubilee which has been performing there continuously ever since and is, perennially, one of Branson’s most popular and beloved shows. It has been said, “You haven’t seen Branson until you’ve seen Presleys’ Country Jubilee.”

Is there any formal signage showing that you are on the Branson Strip? No, but if you are on Highway 76, and you see a theatre marquee you are on “The Strip.”

Is Silver Dollar City or Branson Landing on the Branson Strip? No. Although Silver Dollar City, the 1880’s styled award winning theme park that is Branson’s most popular paid attraction is located on Highway 76, it is miles west of “The Strip” and is not actually inside the city limits of Branson. Branson Landing is located east of “The Strip” at the end of Main Street.

Didn’t the tornado of 2012 tear up “The Strip?” Actually very little damage was done to most of the attractions and theatres on “The Strip” by the tornado. The three major theatres that were extensively damaged have all been remodeled and are in operation. Interestingly, and illustrating just how spotty the damage was, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre was extensively damaged resulting in just about a new theatre while the Dixie Stampede, located immediately across the street, wasn’t damaged at all.

Where is the biggest concentration of shows and attractions on The Strip? Although there are dozens of major attractions up and down the strip it is hard to imagine that there is a more concentrated area than the .6 miles from Andy’s Custard west to the World’s Largest Toy Museum that includes White Water; popular Branson shows such as SIX, It starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families, the Duttons, George Dyer, Ayo staring the Voices of Glory and others along with everything from mini golf to multi story high go-kart tracks.

It’s no illusion the Illusionist Rick Thomas show is an amazing magical entertainment “10” your whole family will enjoy

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

The short and quick of it is, if you want to see one of the best magic shows to ever appear on a Branson stage you don’t want you and your family to miss the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show at the Moon River Theatre. In over 28 years of seeing magic shows in Branson I have never been as amazed or entertained by a magic show as I was by this show when I saw it on the night of May 23 with many of my peers from the Branson Tourism Center and the Branson tourism industry.

Rick and Lightening.

Rick and Lightning.

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.” The magic is illusionary, but the fun, excitement and enjoyment I experienced, and witnessed others enjoying was real.

There’s no aloofness or mystery here, just a man who obviously relates well to both adults and kids, getting them invested in the show early on and keeping them enthralled throughout. He is a master at his craft and just seems to be able to communicate to his audience that he is having so much fun doing what he is doing as he draws them into that fun. It is simply magical in its own right and adds so much to the excitement and enjoyment of the show.

With his beautiful and talented assistant, Tara Edgerton and dancers Shelley Tess-Webster, Jenna Perez, Sarah Tochtrop Thomas Gray, Lewis Darlington and Gareth Evans, he combines beautiful music and dancing with some of the “most intriguing and innovative Grand Illusions in the world” into a spectacular entertainment experience. Whether it was Rick performing one of his illusions, the dancers dancing or him working the audience, this fast paced show had me sitting on the edge of my seat marveling at what I had just seen and anxious to see what was coming next.

This is one of those shows that both adults and children can simultaneously enjoy together throughout. Kids and adults alike love the magic and the dancing and even on the couple of occasions when kids were brought up on stage to interact with him it was seamlessly done in a way that not only gave the children in the audience a chance to relate to their peers on stage, but enhanced the quality of the entertainment experience of the adults in the audience at the same time.

Because it is a magic show and surprise and awe is such a big part of its excitement I will not go into the specifics of the illusions except to say, “From birds and motorcycles to Lightning, seeing time stand still and from dogs to beautiful women you will be amazed and dazzled by the illusions of Rick Thomas as they come at you one after the other as part of this wonderful magical experience.

The start of the amazing,  unique "Air Adage."

The start of the amazing, unique “Air Adage.”

OK, I have to mention one. The “Air Adage” illusion with Tara dancing so gracefully high above the stage is as beautiful as it is amazing, not only from an illusion perspective, but from the grace and skill of the dancing itself. It is a unique one of a kind illusion that I will never forget and bet you won’t either.

I asked two of my compatriots from the Branson tourism industry who attended the same show, what they thought of it. “I’d rate it a ’10!’ said Megan Miller who has seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years. When asked what she liked best Megan said that she liked the illusions involving the dog, the way he relates to the audience and the “blast” at the end of the show.

Noell Chapman, another Branson tourism professional, has also seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years and when asked how she would rank it on a 10 point scale she said, “10 plus!” When asked what her one favorite part of the show was she said, “I loved the way they levitated into ‘the sky’ and gracefully floated above the stage like they were swimming in water, but there’s no water!” She said that she has never seen anything like it, highly recommends the show and would definitely recommend if for families with kids.”

For additional information or tickets for the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show 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.