by VICTORIA HENLEY
Branson, Mo., a dreamy, glossy town nestled in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, is known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World” for a good reason.
The city’s “76 Country Boulevard” is packed with an array of music venues offering entertainment, ranging from classic country, to celebrity tribute acts, to magicians, illusionists, and of course, the famous singing and dancing family acts for which Branson has become widely known.
Throughout the years, Branson has expanded to offering different forms of entertainment, including theme parks, ziplines, an aquarium, museums, and other exciting attractions that offer something for the whole family.
I’ve scoured some of the best acts on the Branson strip to bring you the “Best of the Best.” Let me give you the inside scoop.
As seen on “America’s Got Talent” (where they were a top 10 finalist) and where they were highly praised by one of the show’s toughest critics, Simon Cowell, The Dutton Family are a family of three generations of musical performers.
The show features two hours of original and highly entertaining content, including complex dance routines, hilarious comedy (be sure to look out for “Horn Man” and his protégée, “Horn Boy”), toe-tapping and completely unique country and bluegrass renditions of songs by unexpected artists, such as Beyoncé and AC/DC, as well as touching family videos that will make you laugh and cry as you get to know the Duttons throughout their family show.
The Duttons perform over 300 shows a year at their resident Branson theater, and from December to April, they perform at their theater in Mesa, Ariz., where they also find time to operate the associated hotel, restaurant and gift shop.
The Duttons also star in their own reality show featured on Rural Farmers District Network and run a weekly live stream, where fans can catch up on all things Dutton live from their theater’s stage, just before show time.
Relentlessly driven serial entrepreneurs, The Duttons own and operate the Dutton Inn, conveniently located right behind the theater, and Abby’s Tourist Trap, beside The Dutton theater (read our hotel, dining, and shopping guide for more details)
Be sure to check out an exclusive IHeart Radio interview with The Duttons by searching “Backstage Pass with Victoria” on the IHeart Radio App or wherever you get your podcasts.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
All Hands on Deck is a rousing celebration of swing, big bands and the music of the 1940’s, complete with neatly choreographed period dance numbers, heartwarming patriotic harmonies and classic, campy radio commercials. Accompanied by a nine-piece Hollywood Victory Caravan Big Band Orchestra, and featuring the breathtaking vocal talents of Broadway’s Jodie Madaras, Valerie Hill, Sarah Joy McCord and Lloyd Alexander-Holt, it is quite easy to see why this high octane celebration of the definitive music of the World War II era was named “Branson’s Morning Show of the Year” by the Terry Awards. You can see this show for a limited time only (now through Dec 9) at The Dutton Family Theater or check out their touring dates and locations at their website
Phone (Branson Box Office)(417) 332-2772
SIGHT AND SOUNDS THEATER: JESUS
Experience the greatest rescue story of all time with Jesus, a viscerally stunning and remarkably touching stage adventure that follows Jesus throughout key moments of his journey: from boyhood, to the execution of his most famous miracles, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Massive sets, mind blowing special effects, live animals (including horses that dash right past your seats through various portions of the production) and a talented cast of 50 actors, all come together to bring to life a powerful and jarring retelling of “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The actors convey emotion through song and word with ethos rarely seen in a live theatrical production, and the visual and audio effects, truly must be seen in order to be believed.
The Sight and Sound Theater experience features a 2,000 seat auditorium, a 300 foot stage, state of the art technology, and an intricately crafted production to create a magnificently unique show that you truly cannot find anywhere else. Be sure to return to Sight and Sound during the holidays for their world famous Miracle of Christmas show (Nov. 5-Dec. 31) to make your season brighter.
THE GRAND COUNTRY
The Grand Country Music Hall (adjacent to the Grand Country Resort, Fun Spot, Water Park, and Buffet, which also offer some of the best lodging, recreating and dining options in the Ozarks!) is a premier entertainment destination in Branson, hosting nearly 1,000 performances a year. Featuring genres ranging from country to gospel, rock to pop, and some of the most original and hilarious comedy in Branson, The Grand Country Music Hall hosts an exciting variety of resident shows (and touring celebrities, featuring some of the most decorated names in country and bluegrass music), sure to offer something for everyone in your group.
Stand out shows include:
THE GRAND JUBILEE
The Grand Jubilee features tight harmonies by the theater’s resident gospel troupe: New South, solos by powerhouse award winning vocalist, Jackie Brown, zany comedy by veteran Branson entertainer, “Jim Dandy” and much more, backed by some of the finest instruments you’ll ever hear presented by the Grand Country’s very own renowned band: The Rhinestone Mafia.
THE COMEDY JAMBOREE
This wild and unpredictable show is a roller coaster of laughs, expertly choreographed dance numbers and parodies, creating a completely one of a kind music and comedy extravaganza. Consistently named “Branson’s Best Comedy Show,” it’s easy to see why this show has gained notoriety as one of the funniest family shows in the Ozarks.
BRANSON COUNTRY USA: (Also known as “The Late Show”)
Co-Hosted by Grand Country favorites, Mike Patrick and Jamie Haage (aka, Jim Dandy) this show, featuring a live studio audience and a rotating cast of stars (including The Queen of Bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent, and country music legend, Collin Raye, both of whom I had the pleasure of watching live, is broadcast into over 90 million homes every Friday night starting at 11:30 pm. EST.
When the sun goes down, the fun is just beginning at the Ozarks Country Show. Featuring longtime Branson favorites, sisters, Tammy and Tonya Bilyeu (known as the “Studderettes” during their days touring with country music icon Mel Tillis), Ozarks Country creates an intimate and interactive experience for audiences, with comedy by “Droopy Drawers”, as seen in Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers.
Back by popular demand, Branson’s Best Quartet (and perhaps the sharpest dressers in their field) New South, sings all your gospel favorites from Bill Gaither to the Jordanaires, this show is sure to have you feeling uplifted and inspired as you clap your hands to both classic and contemporary gospel hits. (Also featured are the vocal talents of Jim Dandy and Jackie Brown)
DOWN HOME COUNTRY
Down Home Country takes audiences on a journey back through time to enjoy the classics of country greats such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Dolly Parton, and more. Featuring the talents of “Comedian of the Year” Jarrett Dougherty (who is sure to keep you in stitches with his many characters including “Southern Fried Preacher”), “Entertainer of the Year” Jamie Haage, “Fiddle Player of the Year” Melody Hart (and her talented, infectiously spirited husband, Wayne Massengale), this show is bound to make you fall in love with country music all over again.
Phone: (417) 335-2484
HUGHES BROTHERS THEATER:
Featuring 50 amazing singers, dancers, and musicians on one stage, the Hughes Brothers Theater features an exciting line up of dynamic shows all under one roof, spotlighting the largest family cast in Branson! Here are 3 shows at the theater that you must see during your visit:
HUGHES MUSIC SHOW
The Hughes Music Show is a culmination of over 40 years of experience and effort, featuring an enigmatic line up of performers (including the bothers, their wives and children) as they bring to the stage their own renditions of popular tunes in the categories of pop, rock, gospel, country, R & B, patriotic music, Broadway and much more.
Electric dance numbers, state of the art lighting, and crisp harmonies, all come together to astonish audiences with the largest production The Hughes Brothers Theater has ever seen.
NOTE: I highly recommend that you add dinner, which features a garden salad, pork tenderloin with balsamic reduction, scrumptious roasted potatoes, grilled chicken, green beans, and a dark chocolate mousse, to your show reservation.
HUGHES BROTHERS COUNTRY DINNER SHOW
An intimate experience, highlighting hilarious brotherly antics, The Hughes Brothers Country Dinner Show features country classics from Johnny Cash, Aaron Tippin, Diamond Rio and more. Each ticket includes a complimentary BBQ meal, and cameos from some of the youngest stars of the Hughes Music Show as they sing and dance to old time country favorites.
Prepare to be amazed as the Hughes cousins present killer choreography and dynamic vocals in Re-Vibe, featuring dazzling costuming and all the greatest hits: spanning from Top 40 to Jazz. Ranging in age from 14-24 years of age, sing along and enjoy all the good vibes as the youngest members of the veteran Hughes performers bring you Branson’s newest live music show
NOTE: You also have the option to add dinner to this ticket as well.
Phone: (417) 334-0076
Branson’s most popular show enters its 29th season with over 6,000,000 tickets sold, over 400 sold out shows in the last five years, and features five brothers and one sister bringing non-stop energy and showmanship to the stage in a show like you have never seen before. Featuring songs from the ’60s to modern day favorites, The Haygoods play almost every instrument imaginable (the show opens with an especially memorable upside down electric guitar solo) and features world class production and mind blowing special effects, including flamenco style upside down tap dancing (complete with very entertaining videos about how the Haygood Brothers got their unconventional start as tap dancers), stunning light up garments and Timothy Haygood in character as “Banjo Boy,” riding a cooler across the stage. Creative, eccentric and outrageously entertaining, no trip to Branson is complete without a visit to the legendary Haygoods show.
Phone: (417) 339-4663
KING’S CASTLE THEATER
Firmly established as one of the major theatrical venues in Branson, The King’s Castle Theater was built by legendary entertainer, Bobby Vinton, who called the theater his home for many years, and produced some of the best Broadway style variety shows to ever hit the Branson strip. Now, the King’s Castle Theater continues to attract thousands of visitors each year to its state of the art venue and productions. These are the theater’s four current headlining shows:
Celebrating classic disco and Motown hits from the ’70’s, this triple threat cast of performers from Europe brings world class choreography and vocals to the stage as they sing favorites including “Boogie Wonderland,” “Disco Inferno,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Love Train,” “Last Dance,” “The Hustle,” and, of course, “Dancing Queen” and other top Abba hits. Arriving directly from Vegas, Dancing Queen is sure to have you getting into the groove at the biggest ’70s party in Branson.
ANTHEMS OF ROCK
One of the most buzzed about shows in Branson, Anthems of Rock, delivers complicated choreography, powerhouse vocals, edgy rock and roll costuming, and outstanding performances by King Castle’s resident performers, who bring to the stage number one hits from some of the most famous bands of the 20th century, including Queen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Aerosmith and many more. Jaw-dropping from start to finish, acrobatic vocals and other worldly harmonies will truly take your breath away on numbers rarely seen performed live such as the beloved, chart topping single Bohemian Rhapsody are presented by this talented cast of performers.
DUBLIN’S IRISH TENORS AND CELTIC LADIES, FEATURING IRISH DANCE STARS
A cheerful and enriching celebration of all things Celtic, this exciting fusion of Irish song and dance highlights the universally recognized, “Danny Boy,” rambunctious pub music and even opera by the show’s immensely talented soprano, this show also features some of the finest Celtic and Irish step dancing you will see this side of Ireland. Songs include “Whiskey in the Jar,” “It’s a Great Day for the Irish” and “Finnegan’s Wake.”
A spectacular celebration of the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Nights takes audiences on a nostalgic step back in time to one of the biggest selling groups of all time. Performers sail through all the impossibly high notes that would surely make Valli himself proud and bring to the stage all the groups’ most famous hit singles including “Walk Like a Man,” “Sherry,” “My Eyes Adored You,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Oh What a Night.”
Phone: (417) 334-2500
BRANSON’S FAMOUS BALDKNOBBERS
The Baldknobbers, one of the oldest shows in Branson with a rich entertainment history in the city, spanning over 60 years, features the Mabe family, as well as a talented array of supporting vocalists, comedians and musicians. Brandon Mabe, and his wife Megan headline the show with beautifully executed covers of songs by artists like Blake Shelton and Adele, and campy, country comedy (the opening act is sure to please any Jerry Clower fan) as well as Jerl Adams, in character as Hargus Marcel.
Named after the infamous vigilante troupe which was active in the Ozark region of Missouri in the mid-1800s, the Baldknobbers are an iconic part of Branson’s entertainment legacy. No trip to Branson is complete without a visit to one of the oldest, longest running shows in “Music City.”
ALSO AT THE BALDKNOBBER THEATER
Doug Gabriel, lovingly referred to in Branson as “Mr. Entertainment” has been charming audiences from around the globe for decades with his exquisite vocals, diverse musical prowess, and his ability to connect with a crowd. Performing families are an integral part of what makes Branson such a unique city, and you can also expect to see a talented musical family on a visit to Doug Gabriel’s Show (highlighting his wife, Cheryl, daughter Jasmine -who also fronts her own contemporary band, son Jordan, who was named Branson’s “Comedian of the Year,” and son Josh, a world record holding drummer with over 1,000 beats per minute. Highlights of the show include a “Mufftar” (made from a 1969 Thunderbird ) and the original song “Answered Prayers.” Be sure to check out the original music video for “Spread Some Love All Around” on Facebook and YouTube.
Phone: (417) 337-8300
REZA: EDGE OF ILLUSION
Reza, one of the most acclaimed and sought after illusionists of our time, has astounded over 30 million audiences with sold out shows and tours around the world, as well as appearances on top networks such as MTV, A&E, The CW, PBS, and Reelz, just to name a few. Although known far and wide for his buzz worthy TV and media appearances, Reza designed his large production residency show in Branson to connect with live audiences. Frequently hosting sold out crowds, the buzz and energy in a Reza show audience is palpable as helicopters and other fantastical props are utilized by this masterful entertainer to create grand scale illusions, while also connecting with the audience on a personal level.
BRANSON STAR THEATER
“Country Meets Rock and Roll” at the Branson Star Theater, which serves as the residency for veteran singer/songwriter, Stevie Lee Woods and the Nashville Roadhouse Live Band. Each Friday, Woods gives a special performance which is broadcast live into 90 million homes via various TV networks, including covers from top rock and country groups, as well as his own hits such as “It’s Only Money,” which was partly inspired by Willie Nelson. Stars such as Nelson, Mel Tillis, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty have graced the stage at the Branson Star Theater and household names including Confederate Railroad, Collin Raye and Pat Benatar, Branson Star Theater is established as the premiere destination for some of the brightest stars in the music industry. Following the weekend performances, ticket holders are encouraged to stick around for the post-show reception, which includes a cash bar, meet and greet opportunities with the performers, and your very own opportunity to let your talents shine at Karaoke Night.
ALSO AT THE BRANSON STAR THEATER…
Phil Dalton incorporates traditional sleight of hand, levitation, disappearing acts, and other magic classics in a personal, intimate, interactive, and highly entertaining family magic show. Suitable for all ages and featuring mind blowing acts from his children and wife as well, Dalton grants one lucky audience member the opportunity to take home one of his galactic themed spray paint art pieces during a special portion of the show.
Phone: (513) 913-3146 or call the Branson Star Theater Box Office at (417) 320-3418
Originally built in 1973 and operated as the Plummer Family Theater, the theater has since been renovated and re-branded as the Americana Theater, hosting both new and veteran acts on the Branson Strip. These are the “Must Sees” on any visit to the Americana Theater:
CJ NEWSOM’S CLASSIC COUNTRY AND COMEDY
Featuring headliner and critically acclaimed vocalist, CJ Newsom (who wows with her powerhouse vocals and yodeling skills) as well as eight time “Comedian of the Year” winner Terry Wayne Sanders (as seen on television’s “Hee-Haw,” offering uncannily accurate and hilarious impressions of Barney Fife and Joan Rivers), CJ’s Classic Country and Comedy will tickle your funny bone and impress even the most discerning of country music fans in this content-packed variety show.
BROADWAY TO BUBLE’: STARRING GEORGE DYER
Bringing his world class vocals and showmanship to the Branson stage, decorated classical vocalist, George Dyer, presents pieces from “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “007,” and more in a musical journey through some of the most famous theatrical productions and films throughout history. In addition to paying homage to great operatic composers in numbers from Pagliacci and “Jekyll and Hyde,” Dyer and his immensely talented wife Clarissa, also belt out tunes from newer classics like “The Greatest Showman,” which are sure to thrill music lovers of all ages.
The Blackwoods, with a household name in the gospel industry, and collaborations with some of the most iconic names in the music industry, including Elvis Presley, to their credit, bring pure family harmony and a roster of beloved songs from their 80 year track record of hits to their two hour show at the Americana Theater. A younger generation of Blackwoods joins the veteran performers for a first class show you won’t soon forget, and be sure to check out the “Gaudy Grandma” jewelry counter as well as the band’s various CD recordings during intermission.
One dynamic family, 15 instruments (including the entire family simultaneously creating music on one instrument during a portion of the show), dazzling production value, lighting and costuming (featuring glow in the dark gowns), The Johnson Family String Band brings musical favorites from a wide array of artists including Ed Sheeran, The Judds and Brad Paisley during one incredible two hour show.
This brand new show features a talented roster of young entertainers and takes you on trip back to one of the best decades in music with tributes to Journey, Michael Jackson, Footloose, Ghostbusters, George Michael, and many more pulse pounding song and dance numbers, topped off with unmistakably ’80s fashions.
Featuring a tribute artist with an uncanny resemblance to Mick Jagger, Elton John hits, and nods to the band who started a new brand of rock music that took over the American airwaves in the ’60s: The Beatles, British Invasion is sure to have you singing along to all the classics that truly changed the face of rock music.
ROCK N ROLL ROYALTY
The award winning cast of this new tribute show will make you feel like you are seeing the real deal as they belt hits including “Ring of Fire,” “Suspicious Minds,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” and “Crocodile Rock.” Be sure to come back at Christmas for “Rock and Roll Christmas,” a show that pays tribute to holiday hits from some of rock and roll’s biggest stars.
DICK CLARK’S AMERICAN BANDSTAND THEATER
An impressive, beautiful space, featuring exclusive touring acts, a post show wine tasting, and some of the finest, most decorated resident shows in Branson, a visit to Dick Clark’s is a “Must” on any trip to Branson.
Below are the shows you won’t want to miss:
LEGENDS IN CONCERT
Featuring rotating acts that create a completely different experience at each visit, The Legends in Concert live tribute shows are known for their elaborate theatrical sets, state of the art lighting, dazzling costumes, and some of the most realistic (both in appearance and sound) tribute artists you can see live.
Since the show’s debut at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas in the ’80’s, the show has consistently garnered awards for “Show of the Year,” “Entertainers of the Year,” and the prestigious “Show of Shows,” just to name a few.
The rotating Legends lineup includes Elvis, The Blues Brothers, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson and George Michael as well as incredible dancers and backup singers.
Be sure to also check out the newest Legends’ show at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, COUNTRY LEGENDS.
This afternoon show features toe-tapping country numbers and mind blowing, realistic tributes to country icons including Kenny Rogers, Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings, as well as the “Janitor,” Melvis, who serves at the show’s comic relief.
Phone: (417) 339-3003
While at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, be sure to also check out SIX:
SIX is a powerhouse “Vocal Band” of real brothers who take the art of a cappella to a whole new level utilizing beatbox style, palpable rhythmic bass, and impeccably tight harmonies, which they have been perfecting since childhood. No instruments are utilized in performances, but you’ll think you are hearing them as this “Orchestra of Human Voices” covers artists from decades gone by to modern day pop icons.
Lively choreography and comedic brotherly antics are just a few of the many reasons SIX has repeatedly garnered awards including, “Best Show,” “Entertainers of the Year” and “Vocal Group of the Year”, just to name a few.
Phone: (417) 339-3003
ESCAPE REALITY MAGIC AND ILLUSIONS (DINNER SHOW)
Garry and Janine Carson, a dynamic husband and wife magician duo, who have performed over 8,000 shows at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and have been repeatedly featured on the television series, “Masters of Illusion”, bring their impressive and unique set of skills to their brand new theater in Branson. Featuring a mouth-watering three course meal, the show features elements of mentalism, escape artistry, mind boggling vanishing acts and illusions that you truly must see to believe. Recipients of the Merlin Award (magic’s equivalent of the Academy Award) for Best International Magic and Illusion Duo, Best Dinner Show, and Best New Show, Garry and Janine Carson are thrilling consistently sold out audiences with their new magic dinner show.
Phone: (417) 231-4112
RICK MCEWEN’S BIG SHOW
The producer of Branson’s Terry Awards, star of Country Legends at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, and principal member of the Nashville Roadhouse Live Band, Rick McEwen is certainly no stranger to the Branson spotlight. Now, you can catch him headlining his very own one man show…The Big Show in The Little Opry Theater at the IMAX. Bearing striking physical and vocal resemblance to Kenny Rogers, McEwen pays tribute to some of Rogers’ most famous and recognizable songs including “Lady” and “The Gambler” as well as many other popular artists spanning a variety of genres, sure to delight all music fans. Although you can catch him performing at noteworthy venues all over town, The Big Show is a great way to get an up close and intimate experience with this 35 year veteran of the Branson Music community.
Phone: (417) 335-3533
Also headlining their own show at The Little Opry Theater at the Branson IMAX, The Petersons are an American roots band in the Ozark Mountains. Boasting millions of YouTube views and viral videos (including their famous cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”), The Peterson’s are honored to be currently ranked as the no. 1 Branson Show on Trip Advisor. Featuring authentic bluegrass, original music, and a heartwarming family experience, The Petersons are quickly becoming a priority show for visitors to Branson, often selling out their intimate resident venue space; therefore, if you plan on catching the Petersons during your next visit, be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance.
Phone: (417) 335-3533
Victoria Henley, a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” hosts Backstage Pass on FCB/IHeart Radio.