It sure ain't Vegas. Branson is a whole 'nother world and we like it, that's why we've been back for the fourth time and we're already talking about number five.
This is a real family friendly, G rated show town. There are over 100 shows playing throughout most of the year. In addition to the shows, there are amusement parks, mini golf courses (and real ones) and all types of other attractions besides the shows to enjoy, but the shows are what make Branson such a great destination.
After four visits, you'd think we've seen them all, but not true. Some shows are long running, other new ones keep popping up, giving you new choices to enjoy. The best part is the cost, these shows are very reasonable, for what one show in Vegas would cost, you can see three or four, and discounts and specials abound. And in big contrast to Vegas, these shows are clean, nothing here would shock your dear sainted grandmother, or be too crude for your little kids to see.
We saw eleven shows this year, would have been twelve but our first show was cancelled due to two of the performers being out sick. Our total cost was just about $300 per person, or about $27 per show. The shows ranged from little ones, family ones, country, rock and roll, gospel, comedy, dinner shows and even a major theatrical production. There are lots more, these are just the ones we chose.
So our impressions, starting with our top pick, we've seen them all four times we've been here and look forward to seeing them again, The Hughes Brothers. Five brothers, their wives and kids, all fifty of them just dripping with talent. Singing, dancing, instrumentals, a real variety show that tickles your funny bone and warms your heart. Marti here - The Hughes Brothers is all Paul said, and more. This show, although it was at the beginning of the week, still stands out as the best. The energy and talent is unmatched in my opinion. My only regret is we won't be here to see their Christmas Show, which as been rated #1 the last four years...
Tied with our first place choice is Todd Oliver and Friends. This is a unique comedy show. Todd Oliver is a ventriloquist with a twist, he uses real live dogs and audience members instead of dummies. He was the runner up in America's Got Talent. His routines are really fresh and funny, and he plays a mean guitar, too. We'll see him again. Marti here - this show sure is funny, and different from any other show on 'the strip'. Think clean Jeff Dunham and you get the picture. :-)
For major theatrical productions, Joseph, is a drama based on a good, old fashioned Bible story. An amazing production, the sets, the action, the music make it quite a memorable experience. We're already trying to figure out how to take our grandkids to see this, they'd love it. Even though this was one of the more expensive shows, it is worth every penny. Marti - I personally would put this above Todd Oliver. Sight and Sound (the producers) also have a theater in Pennsylvania, so our wish to get the grandkids to a production may not be far off. (Although 'Jonah' is playing there, and my FIL saw that and said it was equally awesome) 'Joseph' has you laughing, crying and sitting in amazement at the set that surrounds the audience, the live animals and the vocal/acting talent through the show. A definite must see!
A real sleeper show that we enjoyed is the Three Redneck Tenors. I thought it was going to be a cheesy, low level comedy show. It even seemed to start that way, but when it got going, it turned into a high class, well done show. The performers are all classically trained singers and not only can they belt out tunes that rival what you would find in New York's Lincoln Center, their comedy is truly hilarious. Well worth the money. Marti - I loved this show, as did my sister. We laughed long and hard through the first half - Paul's description of a cheesy start. The second half was amazing with the obvious professionally trained vocals. All 3 of them have sung in very impressive locations, including New York. They even had an MC who was the Ringleader for Barnum and Bailey's Circus for 20 years - he sang one song with the tenors, and wow! He can sing! Plus, they were very personable and friendly after the show!
Another super music show is performed by the winners of America's Got Talent, the Texas Tenors. It's no wonder they won the contest. Again, classically trained performers that put on a musical show second to none. The ticket agent that we bought our tickets through promised us we'd thank her for recommending this show, it was so good, we need to go back and thank her with hugs, chocolates and flowers. The Texas Tenors do an extensive schedule of touring around the U.S. If you find they are near you, see them! Marti - This show was amazing start to finish, and was my FIL's favorite. (he even bought their CD!). Amazing harmonies, and they, too were fun to meet and talk with (and take pictures with!) after the show. Another must see!
This music show by a family, The Haygoods is lots of fun, good music, comedy, lighting and even pyrotechnics. Five brothers and a sister dripping with musical talent on a variety of instruments. Marti - this show had more rock n roll than most, but the antics and the story of how they started made the show a blast. Audience participation (pass the BIG ball around); a jet-pack landing by a singer and the amount of instruments played (including a harp that had neon lights on it!) make this show a stand out. Plus, we saw Trigger, Roy Roger's horse on display in the lobby... there is so much to see just in their lobby!
Families that perform together abound in Branson. The Duttons are another one, again great music, tons of different musical instruments, including the guy with all the musical horns hanging on his body that he plays with arms, legs, elbows and even his hands. It is something to see, as well as all the family members lining up next to each other, each with a violin, but their bows are playing not on their violin, but the one held by the person next to them. Definitely quite unique. The Duttons will be performing over the winter in Mesa, Arizona, well worth seeing. Marti - this feels like an old show to me. The family has been singing forever, Mom and Dad still join in, and somehow fell a little flat. I guess after the Hughes family, not much else compares in that venue....
Something completely different is Yakov's Dinner Adventure. The famous comedian, Yakov Smirnoff has landed former members of the Moscow Circus who perform a great show with clowns, acrobats and trapeze artists, just to name a few, all while you enjoy a really good dinner. Well done, an enjoyable time and the strawberry shortcake dessert is to die for. Marti - This was another unique show, that had you laughing and sitting in amazement at some of the stunts. The food was good, and not the usual fare at dinner/show events. It even had a battery operated candle on each tray. Plus, the audience got to play balloon volleyball from our seats! Fun times, indeed.
A competing dinner show is The Branson Belle. It is a show boat that has a stage where they put on shows and serve a meal. It may be worthwhile if you've never done anything quite like this, but the show doesn't measure up to the high standards of other shows in Branson. The food was not great, but not bad either. Sort of higher class high school cafeteria fare. Marti - I agree with Paul, altho the food was better than HS cafeteria food, really. The show fell flat however, and didn't come close to last year's talent. A great piano player, yes; A good fiddler - but really, how many ways how can contort your body to play the violin is only good for so long.... Another been-there-done-that show.
Twice Adopted is a family of ten adopted children from Peru and Guatemala singing a variety of gospel and contemporary music. Cute if you have nothing else to do, but there is no fancy instrumentals or good comedy. The children are a little hard to understand due to poor acoustics, microphones and enunciation. A been-there-done-that, glad I didn't buy the T-shirt show. Marti - this show is cute, feels more like something that you would see sitting at church. They have a great story, but the kids are growing up, and it feels like the songs were too young for most of them. It is clear that this isn't their life or livelihood, it only shows 3 mornings a week, in an old historical theatre, but somehow it is a feel-good show. I would go see it again, probably......
A long running show, claiming the title of the first show in Branson is The Baldknobbers. It is a little long in the tooth. The singers are hard to understand, they didn't have much spirit in their performances, poor enunciation, they seemed pretty bored to be on stage. One really forgettable part was done by a performer from Tokyo, Japan. He was dressed as a cowboy and was singing one of Roy Rodger's yodeling cowboy songs. It missed by more than a country mile. The only slightly close to redeeming value was the comedians, but their routine was old, worn jokes that were just this side of pathetic. I kept looking at my watch, hoping the show was going to end soon. We won't darken their door again and recommend that you don't either. Marti - this show was a huge disappointment. The amount of advertisement for them all over the place has you really built up. It was corny, the singing was marginal, and it was only the humor that saved the show. Unless they revamp the show, I doubt this one will last... although perhaps because they are one of the original shows on the strip perhaps they have enough clout to keep themselves going. No energy in the performances, and marginal talent means we won't be going back to that one.
So that's our take. Branson is a great place to visit, put it on your bucket list. You can enjoy a lot of great entertainment for a reasonable amount of money. Marti - this is definitely a fun-for-all-ages place to visit. With the Escapees park within minutes, and several other parks to choose from, you could spend an extended amount of time here, and not only enjoy the shows, but see the beautiful sights of the Ozarks. There are lots of free things to do, too, as well as enjoying the lake and the mountain fresh air! We already are looking forward to our next visit. Can you tell we love it here?? If it was closer to family, we just might consider looking at the RV development they have near the lake....but alas, this will be a great place to visit, but not to live, for us....
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