The face of Branson is changing, no doubt about it. The entertainment face that is.
A person who knows the landscape well told me a while back that there is no star power left in the city. Yes Branson, who at one time or another, had Wayne Newton, Johnny Cash, Ray Stevens, Mel Tillis, Roy Clark, Mickey Gilley, Andy Williams, Fabian, The Kendalls, Bobby Vee, Moe Bandy, Merle Haggard, The Osmonds, Tony Orlando, Charley Pride, Yakov Smirnoff, and several others I’m sure I’m forgetting booked for season-long runs, in some cases,they were there for several seasons. Now though, the only announced star (at this writing earlier this month) officially announced for the 2013 season was two-time Country Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year Buck Trent. There could be others not yet announced. Oak Ridge Boys will play a number of dates throughout the year at their own theatre. Though it hadn’t been announced at this writing, we also expect the legendary Mickey Gilley back at his establishment if his health permits. In 2012, several big-name stars like Bill Cosby, David Frizzell and Shelly West, John Conlee, George Jones, Johnny Mathis, Crystal Gayle, and others did come to town for one-two nights at time, and Orlando had a Christmas gig at the Welk Theatre for about five weeks. Chubby Checker recently completed a five-week or so gig at the ICON Theatre. Several major shows have been announced recently for 2013, including Charley Pride, but these are one-nighters only, so once again, gone are the days, for the most part, are season-long bookings of name entertainers. That’s a shame in our opinion, but understandable with the economy being what it is. As 2013 approaches, it seems tribute shows are number one on the entertainment lineup for Branson. Take for example, if you like ABBA, Branson will be your go-to place as not one, but two theatres are offering ABBA tributes. You can decide whether the God and Country Theatre or the King’s Castle has the best ABBA cover show. But die-hard country fans have a choice of their own to make with the late Patsy Cline being the offering at both God and Country or the Hot Hits Theatre. Playing Patsy at the latter theatre sounds like a person of interest. Starring as Patsy will be Tracy Lynn DeMille, who is billed as a descendant of legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille. “California Dreaming” is slated to be at the God and Country Theatre, and will, of course, feature music of the group who made the above title famous, The Mamas and The Papas.. Also at the God and Country will be a tribute to Conway Twitty featuring the great Mike Walker, who is absolutely dead-on as Conway. Walker will be busy in 2013 as he also headlines his own show and will be one of the legendary Statler Brothers in yet another tribute show. You’re also likely to catch him also doing a bit with his buddy, Mickey Gilley. Yet other tributes will include Joseph Hall as Elvis at the Americana Theatre, but if you go to Branson very much, you know that virtually every show in town has their own Elvis. The artists and music of Motown will be the topic of the Hot Hits Theatre in downtown Branson, while what we’ve heard is an outstanding salute to Red Skeleton will be at Hamner-Barber Theatre next year. Lastly (again as of this writing) will be a joint tribute to the Four Seasons and Beach Boys. I’m anxious to catch that one. Additionally, shows like The Legends, The Rankin Brothers and undoubtedly others devote their entire show to performing the music and dressing in the attire of some of the biggest entertainers around. So as Branson evolves from star power to a bevy of tribute shows, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Time will tell. Tommy Jackson is a former newspaper editor who now writes a weekly entertainment column. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.