Category Archives: Entertainment

Rankin Brothers illustrate annual revitalization of Branson shows


Matt, Left and Mark Rankin discussing number with Band Director Cody Titus.

Three questions that come up a lot, particularly at this time of the year are “How do Branson shows keep their material fresh and exciting from year to year?” “How much of their material changes from year to year?” “Will I see the same show this year that I saw last year?” Based on my personal experience over the last 28 years, in the majority of cases, the short answers to those questions, in order are, “Hard work and effort,” “lots” and “No.”

Over the years it has been my privilege to talk about this subject with a number of different long time Branson shows including Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Clay Cooper’ Country Express, Shoji Tabuchi, Duttons, Haygoods and many more. Without exception, each spends a large part of the “off season” developing routines, numbers, costuming, special effects, lighting and other things that they believe will make their shows relevant, fresh, exciting and new while retaining those elements that their audiences like the most and look forward to them performing.

I caught up with the Rankin Brothers, Mark and Matt, the stars of one of Branson’s most entertaining shows and their dad, Larry, who is also their manager, as they were rehearsing for their 2014 show opening March 5 in the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre. These early season rehearsals are a far cry from the full scale production Branson visitors see in the actual show. No sets, special effects or costuming just the grinding work of slowly working out and putting together each element of the show.

The Rankin rehearsal was no exception. Mark and Matt were on a bare stage with their band informally working through some of the numbers that will be in the show. It’s a very informal, but purposeful process with a lot of repetitiveness to get it just the way they want it. As I watched Matt going through the dance steps and singing for just one part of one piece, time after time while interfacing with Mark and the band to make adjustments, I could not help, but have a renewed appreciation for the dedication that the Rankins, as well as the majority of other Branson performers, have for their craft and giving their audiences the very best experience they can.

As Mark took a quick break I asked him how much of the show would be changed this year. He replied, “About 70-80 percent. Among lots of others, we are adding 30 new songs including ‘I Get Around’ by the Beach Boys; a new Frankie Valli segment including ‘Let’s Hang On’ and ‘Ragdoll;’ a Shania Twain segment; as well as bringing back the ‘American Trilogy’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’ In the Elvis segment.”

After Mark went back on stage to continue the rehearsal, Larry Rankin pointed out that the nature of their show and the hits associated music of the 50’s through the 90’s gives them a lot of flexibility to continually add new material to the show. He said, “Although we have a lot of new material in the show this year we have been very careful to keep those numbers and segments that our audiences have come to love and look forward to such as ‘The Anchor Holds.’ Our feeling is that if it is memorable enough to be a favorite of those who have seen the show before it’s a great number to share with new guests coming to the show.

Having seen the Rankin Brothers show a number of times I can truly say it is a wonderful feel good show presented by one of the most talented casts in Branson who take their audiences on “a wonderful musical journey through the classic music hits and super stars of the 50s through the 90s bringing back memories of this this timeless music performed as only they can do it.” The Rankin Brothers start their 2014 Branson shows on March 5.

For additional information on the Rankin Brothers show, or for information 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.

Tessa Kate a “hidden” Branson gem

Singer songwriter Tessa Kate performing at Main Street Marina's Paddlewheel.

BRANSON, Mo., October 15, 2013 – Even after having lived in Branson for over 27 years the amount of musical talent in this little town still amazes me. Most will recognize the primary stars in Branson’s shows, but there is hidden talent all over Branson performing other jobs and doing other things waiting for opportunity to knock. It might be your server, a nurse, a high school class mate or, as is the subject of this article, the person selling you a ticket to a Branson attraction such as a sightseeing or dinner cruise aboard one of Main Street Lakes Cruises‘ boats, the river boat replica Lake Queen or the 100 foot luxury yacht Landing Princess.

Some of this talent performs in Branson shows, some want to be in Branson shows and others like singer songwriter Tessa Kate, an “Office Lead” at Main Street Lake Cruises “by day” and a singer songwriter “by night” just want to perfect their craft in a non-show environment, perform somewhere, be themselves and be in a position to take advantage of any career boosting opportunity that presents itself.

During a recent interview, just prior to starting her one person gig at Main Street Marina’s Paddlewheel, a unique floating restaurant and pub just off the Branson Landing Boardwalk, Tessa pointed out that her mother said, “I started singing to the beat of a washing machine before I could talk.” When asked what the primary inspiration was that caused her to develop her talent she said, “Can’t say that I ever developed it. I’ve always loved to sing and don’t remember ever not singing.” She learned to play the guitar when she was about 14 because her dad, although not professionally, played the guitar and sang her whole life and she wanted to learn to play the guitar so she could play with him.

Born in a log cabin in Western Grove, Arkansas in 1988 Tessa has been singing in church and talent shows since she was seven years old, has never worked as a full time professional singer and has always had a “full time” time “day” job, singing and writing songs on a part time basis. She started performing professionally about seven years ago at a coffee shop in Harrison, Arkansas singing songs that she had written and has performed various gigs since then, some with bands and some solo using a mixture of “cover songs” and her own songs.

As an “Office Lead” for Main Street Cruise Lines Tessa sells tickets, helps with customer service and substitutes as a crew member on the boats when needed. When asked how she got the gig at The Paddlewheel she said, “After opening The Paddlewheel here at Main Street Marina they said they wanted to have music entertainment at night so I threw myself out there and told them that I play and sing. Even though the owners and management of Main Street Marina and The Paddlewheel are the same and she knew them she said, “My audition for them was the scariest ‘show’ I ever did. I’d rather play for a hundred people than one on one for someone that I know.”

Obviously, the audition went well because, shortly after our interview she began her performance at The Paddlewheel where she is scheduled to perform for three hours each Thursday evening and for special events. As I sat there and listened to this very special young lady sing the John Denver classic, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” and reflected on our interview I thought, “What a beautiful voice and sweet spirit. She’s the real deal and when ‘opportunity’ comes knocking at her door she’s going to open the door and embrace it.”