by VICTORIA HENLEY
Owned and operated by Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Clay Cooper, Clay Cooper Theater has established its reputation as a landmark destination for some of the finest quality entertainment in Branson, Mo.
Featuring a rotating line up of award winning shows: ranging from traditional variety shows to cutting edge contemporary song and dance extravaganzas, classic country, the world’s top Elvis Tribute artist, side splitting comedy acts, celebrity concerts , and more, everyone in your party is sure to find something to excite and delight them at the Clay Copper Theater.
I was afforded the exclusive opportunity to spotlight three of this landmark theater’s most popular shows to bring you the inside scoop on what to expect during your next visit.
MATT GUMM AND COMPANY
Starring local legend, Matt Gumm, known for his staggering array of talents including drumming, dancing, singing, slapstick comedy and impressions, the Matt Gumm and Company show allows its headliners’ mind-boggling skills to shine front and center right alongside his family’s (that’s mom, dad, a few of his children and family friends).
The show kicks off with a laugh out loud hilarious “Professor” character (portrayed by Gumm) who provides a tediously detailed lecture on the essence of humor, instructing the audience exactly how they should act and react throughout the duration of the two-hour show.
This fast energy, high-octane show kicks off with the playing of “Tire Pump Music” by Gumm and his father (whose stage and comedy career in Branson has spanned many decades), where a variety of tunes are cranked out in (surprisingly on pitch) harmony played on, you guessed it, tire pumps.
Featuring a full band, state of the art lighting and a top notch production aesthetic, the Matt Gumm and Company show wastes no time getting started with a world class roster of music including hits such as “Sweet Home Chicago,” Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown,” classics by the great Tom Jones, “The Lady is a Tramp” by Frank Sinatra and “She Loves You: by the Beatles, just to name a few.
The production includes a perfectly blended combination of music and comedy as the opening songs lead into some wildly original bits including “90 Parental Sayings”, performed with rapid fire precision by Gumm, presenting a hilariously relatable line up of 90 sayings you probably heard growing up from your parents. One of the most laugh out loud hysterical shows in town, Matt Gumm and Company puts a hilarious spin on some chart-topping singles throughout the ages, including a sped up and slowed down version of “Johnny B. Goode,” Matt’s father as the outrageous and hapless “Aug the Caveman” in a rendition of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (like you’ve never seen it before), and a cover of “With a Little Help from my Friends,” featuring a hysterically funny, overly exaggerated impression of Joe Cocker.
Other stand out numbers including a soul stirring performance of Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” a rousing rendition of “24K Magic” by pop sensation Bruno Mars, and phenomenally blended harmonies on “Bohemian Rhapsody” that you must see to believe.
The most memorable portion of this award-winning show is the “Saturday Night Live” segment, with characters, costumes, delivery and scripts bearing an uncanny resemblance to the SNL golden era. The segment kicks off with two teachers singing all the “hip and jazzy” Top 40 hits including the Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” Guns ‘N’ Roses “Sweet Child of Mine,” Aretha Franklin’s “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” and more in a laughably formal and operatic manner.
Matt and his father elicit uproarious laughter with their portrayal of the clueless and far too frisky “2 Wild and Crazy Guys,” and Gumm uncannily portrays Donald Trump.
The show ends on a patriotic note with a beautiful recitation of “Ragged Old Flag,” and the feel-good spiritual number “I am a Child of Love.”
Starring Elvis tribute artist Dean Z, this show takes a rolling journey through many of The King’s hits from rockabilly and doo-wop to gospel to rock and roll.
The show gets to a rip-roaring start with a pulse pounding performance of “Blue Suede Shoes: then to the soulful “That’s All Right.”
Dean Z, bearing a striking resemblance to the King of Rock and Roll as he twists, gyrates, rolls his hips, curls his lips, and beautifully embodies Elvis in body, sound and spirit.
The fans of Elvis’s high-octane fare for which he is eternally loved and known will surely get on their feet, clapping and singing along to hits like “Bossa Nova Baby,” “C.C. Rider,” “Poke Salad Annie,” “Proud Mary” and “Jailhouse Rock.”
Fans are afforded the opportunity to get a kiss on the cheek and a brightly colored scarf during an up close and personal moment with Dean Z, while he takes time to serenade and connect with each of the adoring ladies (and even a gentleman or two) personally.
Tupelo Sound and the Delta Tones, Dean Z’s tremendously talented backup singers, provide striking harmonies and beautifully blended vocals throughout the duration of the show.
Dean’s wife, Stephanie, steals the show during her own rendition of “Hound Dog,” which packs a serious punch due to her powerfully raspy vocals and jaw dropping dance moves.
HOT RODS AND HIGH HEELS:
A Broadway-quality variety show, brimming with dazzling costumes, zany dance moves, and world class vocals, “Hot Rods and High Heels” is a non-stop, high-energy celebration of all the greatest and most beloved hits of the 1950s and ’60s.
The show opens with a tribute to the Perry Como Show featuring Dean Martin, pitch perfect in style and aesthetic with the cast sporting the era’s signature sky high beehive hairdos, cherry red lips, polka dot bow ties and thick rimmed black glasses.
A ticket to this award-winning show will guarantee that you’ll be dancing in your seat to smash hits by all your favorite artists including Connie Francis, Wynona Carr and of course, Elvis.
The show takes a high voltage turn with Jerry Lee Lewis’s relentlessly upbeat “Great Balls of Fire,” a bouncing cover of “Johnny B. Goode” and “The Twist” performed with great aplomb featuring all the classic dance moves which are sure to have you teeming with nostalgia.
This feel-good, non-stop song and dance celebration continues rocking and rolling along with the festive “Tequila,” “Splish Splash” and the undeniably feel-good “Pink Shoelaces.”
A 1950s and ‘60s music tribute show would not be complete without the inclusion of some heart wrenching lovelorn ballads, and Hot Rods and High Heels carefully curated and selected some of the best, including “My Heart Cries for You,” “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry, “Diana” and “Earth Angel.”
The triple threat cast delivers some of the finest quality musical and dance entertainment you’ll find in a variety show and they will leave you filled with the spirit of yesteryear, long after the curtain has been drawn.
Special thanks to the incredible Matt Gumm and the entire Clay Cooper Team for having us back.
PHONE NUMBER: (417) 332-2529