In an episode of “The Simpsons,” Bart Simpson said Branson, Missouri would be “Las Vegas if it had been built by Ned Flanders.” Most people who have been to or work in Branson probably wouldn’t take that as a dig. They are proud of the city’s reputation for being a family-friendly musical showplace.  The town has a flashy musical cavalcade featuring country and western, pop, and even classical performers. There is also the breathtaking Ozark Mountains, Table Rock Lake and scenic Caverns to explore. The city draws over seven million visitors each year from all over the world. 

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Branson has over 70 music theaters with more being built each year. Most are located on Highway 76 also known as “The Strip.”

Given the scenic location, the area has always been a draw for campers, hikers and all nature lovers. One of those nature lovers was a man named Paul Henning. Mr. Henning had camped in the area as a boy and had fond memories of the area. Years later when he was a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, he wrote a pilot about a family from Branson who struck oil and moved to Beverly Hills. His series “The Beverly Hillbillies” became a massively successful television show. The show regularly featured bluegrass music. Hoping to capitalize on the new found interest in the genre the Presley Mountain Theater opened in Branson in 1967. This was the first theater in the area to feature live music and comedy and became an instant sensation. The Baldknobbers Theater opened the next year also to sell out crowds.

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The “Jalopy” vehicle from the Beverly Hillbillies, now located at the College of the Ozarks near Branson.

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The Presley (no relation to ‘The King”) family Country Jubilee is where it all started for the Branson theater scene. They’re still going strong 51 years later.

Branson also benefits from its proximity to the Silver Dollar City Theme Park and Marvel cave which are a huge tourist draw in its own right.

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You won’t find Spiderman or The Hulk in Marvel Cave, but you will see one of the most beautiful river Caverns in the Midwest.

The Presley and the Baldknobbers Theaters pretty much had the run of the place until 1983 when Country Music Star Roy Clark opened his theater. His theater was so profitable many other country performers took notice. By the next decade, there were almost 50 theaters open in the area. Today there are about 70 theaters, and many of them to stand out began to feature different musical genres, comedy, or magic. One theater the highly successful “Sight and Sound” Theater features musicals based on the Bible.

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Some of  Sight and Sounds past productions have included “Jonah and the Whale”  and “Samson ” ( I guess Delilah only gets second billing)

Not only country but such diverse acts as the Chinese Acrobats an “Elvis” and “The Beatles.”bn11bn12bn1

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The “Liverpool Legends” show is one of my favorites in Branson. The theater is co-owned by Louise Harrison who is Beatle George’s sister. She was there one time we were there and came out during intermission to take questions.

 

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Ms. Harrison has lived in the United States for many years. (Even before the Beatles became famous.) George was the first Beatle ever to visit the US. He came to see her before Beatlemania took off.

Aside from music Branson also has amusment park rides, and several museums including the “Titanic Museum.”

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The Titanic Museum was very moving. When you enter they give you a card with a passenger’s name on it. When you get to the end of the museum, you get to find out if your passenger survived. (Mine did not)

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The Grand Staircase from the movie “Titanic.”

Branson offers music and fun for all ages. It may not have the sophistication of Las Vegas or NewYork City’s Broadway but that suits most everyone just fine. 

 

 

 

 

 

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