Branson’s Family Friendly Shows

Branson’s shows offer spectacular entertainment and non-stop fun for the whole family.

The billboard driving into Branson shocked me.

The “cuchi cuchi” Charo of my childhood?

Time Machine to 1970s Vegas

Yes. That Charo. She performed at Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater for several weeks in 2007 shimmying in a tight pink glittery tuxedo and making crowds laugh. I may have been the only patron who didn’t have an AARP card, but watching Charo made me feel like I had traveled back in time to 1970s Vegas.

When Charo stepped off the stage and headed toward the audience, my heart skipped a beat. Then, she headed straight to me.

“Take a picture, take a picture,” she squeals to my mother as she pulls me to stand up.

There I am with Charo, a petite firecracker, who is doing the bump with me while my mother tries to snap a picture.

In 2008, Charo is replaced with song and dance maven Ann-Margaret along with a return engagement with country legend Glen Campbell. Will I be there? Of course, I have to see Ann-Margaret sing songs from Viva Las Vegas and maybe I’ll get to dance with her too.

Flying Rubber Men

Okay, so these are performing legends and kids today have no clue about Charo or Andy Williams. Would they want to see her shake her booty and play her flamenco tunes? Hmm, probably not.

When I asked my boyfriend’s two sons if they wanted to see some Chinese acrobats, the 8-year-old nodded ecstatically. The 12-year-old not so much. That’s because he doesn’t like to sit still for more than 10 minutes unless he is strumming his guitar or listening to loud music.

But 15 minutes into watching the New Shanghai Circus—Chinese girls twirl plates on their heads and boys twist into inhumane shapes—neither one of them blinked. Most shows in Branson offer a 15-minute intermission after the first hour. The second hour retained its magic with a girl balancing more than 20 glasses on her head, hands and feet, and also in her mouth, performers on the high wire and jumping through hoops, and boys climbing poles.

Ride Along With Noah

The big show to hit Branson in 2008 is Noah—The Musical, which opened in May in the gigantic Sight and Sound Theatre, Branson’s biggest building. The show is a complicated production with a huge cast of actors, along with 75 live and 200 animatronic animals.

While the play is long and little mystery shrouds the plot, the sets are some of the most amazing in theater today. Prior to intermission, the cast marches down the theater’s center aisle with an array of animals—geese, donkeys, llamas, even a zebra. It’s hard not to be wowed by the production’s enormity. After intermission, the curtains rise on a four-story tiered stage and the audience sits inside the ark with the animals. 

Meet and Greet

A nice aspect of Branson shows is the opportunity to meet the performers after the show. Most performers greet their fans and sign autographs. Granted, Charo and Andy Williams didn’t. But some major stars do.

Righteous Brother Bill Medley performs at the Dick Clark Theater with Paul Revere and the Raiders. After an awesome rock show with lights, confetti and greatest hits, Medley and Revere greeted fans for over an hour. I didn’t even know a Paul Revere song but the show was one of the best, and funniest, I had ever seen. Revere serves up ‘60s rock with witty banter and crazy antics. Medley is a top-rate singer who has fallen in love with Branson and so has his family. His 20-year-old daughter, McKenna, performs in an afternoon show at the theater and sings in the theater’s swanky Club 57 lounge after hours. His son, Darrin, is the lead singer for Paul Revere’s band.

After the Twelve Irish Tenors matinee, women of all ages, including a group of teenage girls and a horde of 60- and 70-year-old grannies, pushed and shoved to meet and hug the dozen hunky singers with the sexy accents and twinkling eyes.

One of my favorites, Tony Orlando, performs an annual salute for veterans in November. Luckily, Orlando, who lives near Branson, will perform a Christmas show during the 2008 holiday season. Orlando is a consummate performer and his Christmas spectacular with Santa is a perfect fit for families.

Beatles Nostalgia

Any time of the year is a good time to see the Liverpool Legends The Ultimate Beatles Experience. The group covers early Beatles songs as well as several solo George Harrison tunes. They crack jokes and encourage audience participation. The highlight was hearing the complicated A Day in the Life live. The four impersonators play all their instruments—along with a keyboardist. If you close your eyes and listen, you really think the Beatles are in front of you. At first, I wondered how cheesy four Beatles impersonators could be—but this show, which attracts a lot of families, is highly entertaining and well produced.

George Harrison’s sister, Lou Harrison, is the brains behind the show. The night I attended, Lou, came out on stage during intermission, talked about the Beatles and took questions. A tuned-out audience member asked Lou what George did these days. “Hopefully playing a harp,” she said. George Harrison died in 2001. Recently, Paul McCartney stayed in Branson as part of his road trip across Route 66. Rumor has it he slipped in to see the Liverpool Legends and meet with Lou Harrison about the future Beatles museum. The museum is scheduled to open in spring 2009.

Not to be Missed

It’s impossible to see every show in Branson. The city boasts more theater seats than New York City’s Broadway district. But it is possible to see three per day, especially on weekends with breakfast and matinee shows. Every show is family friendly because Branson prides itself on family and patriotic values. The holidays bring even more shows including in 2007, the dreamy Christmas surrealism of Manheim Steamroller.

Some shows not to miss:

Ticket prices depend on the show, theater and time. Many venues in Branson offer a two-for-one deal or throw in a free children’s ticket with an adult purchase. Tickets are also available online.

Some theaters offer lunch or dinner such as Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and Dinner Theater, the Showboat Belle Theater and Bob Anderson’s show at Club 57 at the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater. Anderson is one of the country’s premiere impersonators, and he does wicked imitations of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. The kids, however, won’t like this one.

Once you attend a show, you’ll want to go to another and another. It becomes an addiction. And frankly, not a bad one.

Destinations: Missouri, Branson

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment