Branson Is The Entertainment Hub Of The Ozarks. This Critic Had A Blast.

Branson Is The Entertainment Hub Of The Ozarks. This Critic Had A Blast.

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Saturday Night at Presley Country Jubilee, where Presley has been playing for 55 years, is consumed by the audience, mostly elderly people: Scott Presley on guitar, Greg Presley on harmonica, Ambrose Presley on vocals and patriarch Gary Presley and his son Eric. Typical comic numbers when Herkimer and Cecil pass.

More than a dozen artists, Presley and others, wear shimmering sequined jackets and shimmering sequined dresses that represent country standards such as "I Told You So" by Randy Travis and "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Tony Joe White. Among his fans that evening were retirees Bill and Joe Hill, who took the eight-hour trip from Houston to the entertainment paradise of the Ozarks, home to a 30-seat theater featuring country singers, magicians, religious performances, and equestrian performances.

Shining Hell, Branson brings clients and members of the Texas Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, smiles plausibly as Gary Presley in his silly hat, yellow sunflower shirt and blue jumpsuit, starring Eric in song as a clone jerk. Like Shakespeare. . alt When the band recorded a version of the '60s comedy The Beverly Hillbillies, I started singing together, and some of the lines Herkimer and Cecil pitted were so ordinary that they made me laugh and freak out at the same time. time.

"There is food that will ruin your love life," Gary explains. "Wedding cake!"

Since the 1960s, live entertainment has prevailed in these areas, serving a friendly audience, a clientele with whom the city's major theater critic rarely interacts. So I went to Branson, a city of 12,000 that has a population of 70,000 on high season weekends, to experience what most of America chooses when it comes to watching shows. Few places in the country host a professional scene as colorful and vast as this mountain town in Missouri, just a few dozen miles north of the Arkansas border. Singer Andy Williams opened a theater here. Like comedian Yakov Smirnov.

My curiosity sparked the feeling that most Americans can't wait for a night on the town, but we're divided about what that night should be and what it should be. It is certainly a reflection of a great nation with different tastes, but it also reflects the eccentricity of our national cultural life. According to the Branson/Lakes District Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, Branson welcomed nearly 10 million tourists in 2021 and is likely to exceed that number by 2022. Most cars and buses come from a 650-mile geographic area. From Texas to Illinois, from Oklahoma to Kentucky. (In 2021, only 8,227 visitors came to Branson from outside the United States.)

They come for the music, obviously inspired by Nashville, Vegas and the mountain's legacy of great guitars and banjos. Branson attributes his popularity in part to the forage of the Presley family who used to entertain tourists in the Caves of the Ozarks. Roy Clark, Wayne Newton and Willie Nelson are some of the stars who have played here.

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But many visitors come to confirm its essential value. It's no secret that Branson primarily serves Christian and religious clients with a distinctive vision of the country: downtown gift shops on West Main Street bear T-shirts that say "I represent the flag. I kneel on the cross." "Everyone who voted for Biden owes me money for gas."

Sometimes I feel like a spectator whose worldview might be uncommon in this beautiful corner of the red state of Missouri.

“Sir, do you have a secret weapon?” Ask the concierge at Dolly Parton's Stampede, a chicken dinner show in which 1,000 guests sit around a rodeo-style loop of dressage competitions, real buffalo rides, and canine agility competitions.

The thought of packing up to eat biscuits and watching the pigs run along the dirt road makes me shiver.

“Secret weapon? Is it something ?” Ask the security guard. He looks at me like I'm crazy.

At the eight shows I attended in late September, declarations of faith were the order of the day (ticket prices ranged from $42 to $85) and veterans asked to stand up to applause. For example, The Stars and Stripes were officially introduced at the end of a Dolly Parton scramble with a parade of horse flags and a recording of Parton singing a patriotic tune.

Top concert-style shows like Anthems of Rock, a nostalgic Boomer anthology with high-energy singers and dancers from Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Elton John, Tina Turner and Bon Jovi. She also loved the Presleys and other families that Johnny Cash or Barbara Mandrell popularized.

Elsewhere, like a performance by funky country band The Haygoods or Branson Belle's sailing cruise on Table Rock Lake, American flags flash across the screen. The honor seems as necessary as the days before prayer in public schools. Magician Rick Thomas, who was once a mainstay in Las Vegas and now shows Palace of Dreams president Rick Thomas at Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson's entertainment district, concluded with: "Thanks again to veterans, please."

But surprisingly, MAGA's cover is nowhere to be seen in the aged white crowd. (Sometimes I counted a black couple, a Hispanic family, and a veiled woman.) The atmosphere in the city is friendly with the locals: “You have to be very friendly with customers,” adds Rachel Wood, Marketing Director. about the room. Adding that local culture is not part of Branson's strategy. The shows are mostly neutral, although Gary-Herkimer makes a slightly sly joke about climate change. One of the most exciting events I have ever attended was the epic depiction of the story of Jesus called "Jesus" at Sight & Sound Theaters, a subsidiary of a theater company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

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"Jesus" is a theatrical stage with music kneeled by His Majesty Cecil B. DeMille. 50 actors perform in a gigantic location in the middle of the 2,000-seat theater, which from the outside looks like a cross between a fictitious classic megachurch and a shopping mall. The Son of God is walking on water. Jesus heals lepers and drives usurers out of the temple. Lazarus rose from the dead. Camels, goats, sheep and horses move up and down the carpeted lanes. It seems no expense has been spared in this two-hour bustling crowd with scenes of everything from the nativity scene to the crucifixion.

The hall is full and the audience is eagerly waiting for the hall. However, "God" is not. In several scenes, Israeli rabbis are described as overly outspoken in support of Jesus' execution, sometimes singing wholeheartedly in Hebrew, but sometimes menacing and deceptive, traits that play on ugly stereotypes. The explanation is disappointing and confusing, and the sentiment is confirmed when Roman governor Pontius Pilate receives one blow and is besieged by the rabbis and immediately accepts their blood requests.

Some of the tourists I meet say they go to Branson primarily for "Jesus" (the Miracle Christmas Show opens later in November), in keeping with the area's enduring spiritual appeal. The best-selling novel in 1907 by author and publisher Harold Bell Wright was Shepherd of the Hills, which popularized the region with its inspiring tone and images of villagers he met: “For miles,” Wright wrote, “the person we call a civilization in the city” (played by John Wayne in the Hollywood version for the year 1941).

In a mountainous area a few miles from downtown, Shepherd of the Hills Theme Park hosts an outdoor show based on Wright's book, starring dozens of actors at the Thurman Outdoor Theatre.

“His story is about the beauty of the Ozarks and the strength of the people who live in the area,” says Jeff Johnson, the former banker who showed me the 177-acre adventure park he bought with a partner when he was financially indebted. Years. "We aim to tell the story the way Harold Bell Wright envisioned it."

Branson frames this literary tradition in complex narrative frameworks. What amazes me most is the local passion for crowds gathering, singing and talking about the history and traditions of this part of the world. The Strip, a mile-long street formally known as West 76 Country Boulevard, houses a chain of restaurants and other attractive leisure attractions. But what makes Branson's experience so memorable are the performances that fit the scenario perfectly.

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So does the Petersens family, who play the music of their American roots in the most intimate setting I've ever seen, the 200-seat Little Opry Theater on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. It is another domestic family, such as the Presleys and Haygoods, who appear to have a genetic predisposition to G-keys and arpeggios. Karen's mother plays bass, her grown-up children Kathy on violin, Elaine on banjo and Matt on guitar, and "Honorary Petersen" Emmett Franz plays Dobro guitar, which he holds sideways and holds picks. (Julian, the singer's other sister, studied English literature at Oxford.)

His fresh, simple demeanor and relaxed tone blend seamlessly with his bluegrass orchestration, which jumps delightfully from John Denver's "Annie Song" to Eagles' Gospel "Down to the River to Pray" and "Desperado." Religious messages also arrive on his show: “We have some friends here from Collinsville Christ Church,” Matt declared at one point. But the ghost that makes me happiest appears in the happy, rowdy version of Abbas' Mamma Mia.

Eileen, who is married to Michael Highgood, who sings with Haygoods, says the band's roots lie in her mother's passion. "I just loved the music," says Eileen. "So he's got a master's degree in music education. His jams are like music theory. Between songs, the Petersen brothers like to talk about their degrees in chemistry and economics: Their father, who is a doctor, went to Johns Hopkins University to learn more about them. And they found their interests go. Plus. Their tools, tools can pretend

My favorite way to distract myself from listening to music in the mountains is to remember the fruitful union of family and creative endeavors. The Presleys exemplify this even after many years with their refined craftsmanship and impeccable craftsmanship. The glazed pecan on the counter is a happy memory for me too, in a theater full of Gary Presley memories.

The Presleys often tell the story that when they built their theater, which was originally called the Mountain Music Theatre, they weren't sure the audience would turn out. He says Gary's contingency plan is that if something goes wrong, they can turn the place into a winter camp for boats moored on the lake. For more than five decades, a sea of ​​mouths that greets drummers and singers every night has kept Presley's dreams coming.

"Repetition is great," says Gary. শ্রোতারা থিয়েটারে আসে তারা তারা করে করে, এটি, ঘরোয়া। আসতে আসতে 55 বছর কাজ ।।।।।।।। ।।।।।।।। ।।।।।।।। ।।।।।।।। ক ক

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