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Showtime in Branson

All photos courtesy Branson Lakes Area CVB

Although it has grown to include a considerable number of activities and attractions, make no mistake — Branson is still a live-show destination first and foremost. This small Ozarks town has 60 professional theaters and offers a staggering 120 shows throughout the course of the year.

Many groups that visit Branson make a habit of seeing at least one show each day, if not two or three. Even on a five-day trip, that means visitors will catch only a small percentage of the area’s shows. Among the wide variety of choices are traditional country music, comedy, acrobatics, Broadway-style musicals and more, so travel planners have a dizzying array of options when it comes time to pick a show.

To help you begin your planning, we’ve boiled Branson’s show menu down to five basic categories — classics, musical masters, comedy and magic, acrobatics and “larger than life” — and suggested three shows in each that are crowd favorites. Consider this list a starting point for your Branson entertainment strategy.

Branson Classics
Branson’s entertainment scene has its roots in country and Western music. And though the musical offerings in town now represent many different genres, traditional music shows still appeal to many groups that come to Branson.

The granddaddy of them all is the Baldknobbers Jamboree. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009, the Baldknobbers are Branson’s longest-running performing family. Today, the second and third generations of the family perform in this traditional show, which features well-loved country music songs that range from the golden era to contemporary radio hits. The show also includes gospel music and funny-face comedy that has multigenerational appeal.

Presley’s Country Jubilee is also considered one of the cornerstones of Branson’s entertainment scene. The Presley family built Branson’s first music theater in 1969, paving the way for millions of tourists and dozens more theaters. Today, the Country Jubilee continues in its decades-long tradition, presenting country, gospel and bluegrass music with a glamorous showbiz touch. The show includes performances by some of the youngest Presley children, as well as a dose of character comedy.

Crooner Andy Williams made a name for himself decades ago, and today the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre is a Branson powerhouse. Groups will see the legend himself performing in an annual Christmas show, along with friends including the Lennon Sisters, who regularly performed on Williams’ television show in the 1970s. Williams hosts other regular performers at the theater throughout the year as well, such as Roy Clark and Chosen Few.

Musical Masters
In addition to classical country performers, a number of genuine musical virtuosos have found their way to Branson, treating guests to shows that combine popular music with their extraordinary talents.

The best-established master musician show in Branson is the Shoji Tabuchi Show. Violinist Shoji Tabuchi set up shop in Branson in 1989 and hired a backup band of acclaimed musicians who are each accomplished in their own right. Tabuchi displays his impressive skills on songs that range from country classics to favorite rock songs of the ’50s and ’60s. Tabuchi’s wife and daughter also perform, bringing high-caliber singing and choreography into the mix.

One of the most acclaimed new shows to open in Branson in recent years is Six, a group of brothers who put on a complete concert using only their voices. These six performers create all of the instrumental sounds — including drums and bass — with their mouths, and create layers or harmony that soars beyond the normal limits of a capella music. Much of the show focuses on classic rock ’n’ roll tunes.

Fresh off an appearance on NBC’s “The Sing Off,” the Cat’s Pajamas is one of the hot new groups of young performers in Branson. This quintet started in Madison, Wisconsin, but has toured the globe with a slick act that features timeless pop tunes sung a capella. The five performers also rely on good looks and a charming sense of humor to keep audiences entertained.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.