Even those involved in Branson tourism find it hard to keep up with
the ever-increasing number of attractions and shows. Shows are
added or changed every year and performers move between theaters or
change their schedules continuously, since Branson has shows all
day long--starting at breakfast time.
Following are some of the significant developments in 1997 and
plans for 1998.
The Remington Theater, formerly the Five Star Theater, has new
matinee and evening shows under the banner "Branson City Lights,"
featuring 100 songs and medleys performed by 40 singers, dancers
and ice skaters.
Two powerhouse entertainers, Tony Orlando and Wayne Newton, will
reunite this year at the 2,700-seat Talk of the Town Theatre in
alternating performances. The showmen have leased the former
Branson Showcase America Theatre (also formerly known as the Glen
Campbell Theatre) for the next three years. Memorabilia from both
performers will be on display.
The Ozarks Discovery Imax Theater has expanded its options to
include screenings of major motion pictures as well as Imax films.
With the addition of a 35mm projector with a special lens, the
theater can now show such special-effects blockbusters as "Twister"
and the latest James Bond movie, "Tomorrow Never Dies."
Also in the Imax Entertainment Complex is the new Remember When
Theater, set for a late March opening. The theater will feature a
90-minute nostalgia show by Mike Radford, who brings his routine
from the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead. The intimate theater,
with 250 tiered seats, will feature a design inspired by a
grandparent's attic, crammed with antiques and memorabilia, much of
it donated by previous visitors.
Buck Trent, a two-time Country Music Association Instrumentalist
of the Year, will bring back his breakfast show to the Dinner Belle
Restaurant, a 450-seat facility. The country music and variety show
will go on Mondays through Saturdays at 9 a.m.; breakfast will be
served sit-down, family style at 8 a.m.
The Jim Stafford Theatre, one of the longest-running Branson
venues, has added a "tornado" to a show that already has a 22-piece
marching band, dancing chickens, blimps and flying saucers.
Stafford, a special effects aficionado, supervised the development
of the tornado, which has industrial-sized fans positioned to
create a whirlwind effect. Sirens scream and thunder roars over a
highly amplified sound system as outhouses and cows appear to fly
through the air and Jim's own chihuahua seems to spin across the
Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff continues his multimedia variety
show in the new Yakov's American Pavilion, which features a gift
shop in addition to the main theater.
Branson's largest theme park, Silver Dollar City, opened the
World's Largest Treehouse in its Geyser Gulch area last year. This
gigantic, interactive children's playground in the sky is a treetop
village stretching over Lake Silver, with three main towers
reaching over three stories high.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million, the treehouse has main towers,
smaller towers and even a courthouse. This playground in the sky is
woven together by connecting rope crawls, swinging bridges and
tunnels. Hundreds of interactive gadgets, moving targets,
windmills, whirligigs, sirens, slides and telescopes provide action
Throughout the treehouse, gauges warn as pressure builds until
the giant geyser in the center of the village erupts into Lake
Silver. The Treehouse was Silver Dollar City's centerpiece for its
National Children's Festival last summer, featuring Nickelodeon.
The National Children's Festival will be repeated this year (June
13 to Aug. 23) with Nickelodeon participating again. The festival
will include 100 activities for kids, with participants featuring a
number of stellar names in children's entertainment.
The highlight will be Earth 2U, Exploring Geography, an
interactive exhibition created by the Smithsonian Institution
Traveling Exhibition Service and the National Geographic
Building on the popularity of the World's Largest Treehouse,
Silver Dollar City is this year adding Splash Harbor, a three-story
ship and four-level dockside tower. The attraction will be loaded
with water cannons, aqua exploders and water blasters, i.e., squirt
guns galore for kids who love a good soaking.
Mutton Hollow Entertainment Park and Craft Village, which had
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, was sold at foreclosure to
Springfield, Mo., businessman C.H. Wehr. No plans have been
announced for the attraction, which had been in operation since the
early 1970s and featured craft shops and crafters, restaurants and
a county fair area.
The former residence of country performer Mel Tillis has been
transformed into the Home of the Stars, showcasing the personal
memorabilia of several local entertainers.
The kitchen of the two-story house features the high chair used
by the Lennon Sisters, who now perform at the Lawrence Welk
Champagne Theater. A bathroom is decorated with Boxcar Willie
memorabilia, including a spittoon, and a bedroom displays items
from singer Barbara Fairchild's childhood, including a teddy bear
collection. Tony Orlando's dining table graces another room.
Visitors are permitted to touch and handle items on display, and
even to sit on the furniture. The Home of the Stars is owned and
operated by Branson-Springfield Gray Line.
The Showboat Branson Belle is launching two new shows. "Steppin'
Out," featured on dinner cruises, is a high-energy show wherein
singers and dancers, accompanied by an eight-piece band, segue from
the traditional routines of the riverboat era to current music and
On lunch cruises, "Riversong" features a musical family
performing everything from country to songs of the past to
interactive comedy. During the shows, passengers are served from a
new menu in the paddlewheeler's 700-seat dining room. The Branson
Belle is owned and operated by Silver Dollar City.