A Place Like No Other

Published 8:36 am Thursday, December 1, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

An old-timer visiting Branson, MO, for the “umpteenth” time claims visitors flock to this one-of-a-kind, out-of-the-way place for one of two reasons, and sometimes both. They’re either intent on getting away from it all or spending time where it’s all at!

You’ll please pardon the grammar, but the observations are both correct. This entertainment mecca is a grand place to leave cares of the day behind. And, with more than 100 shows and attractions, there are multiple venues to be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

For most visitors, Branson is where “down home” most applies. Many of the shows feature players who are “kinfolks.” Heading the list of my favorites in this family friendly place are the Hughes Brothers and Shoji Tabuchi.

There are more than 50 singers, dancers and actors–all related–in the Hughes’ show (called “It” most of the year and a Christmas extravaganza in November and December). It was begun in 1994 by Gary and Lena Hughes.

The five brothers have 36 children (“and counting,” they say), all of whom are in the show. It is claimed to be the largest family show in the world. Gary died in 2014, but Lena still works every show.

Before you ask: The children are home schooled.

Like most shows, it is as “folksy” as it gets. Veterans and first responders are introduced, and applause for the group lingers.

They also ask where visitors are from, how long married and so forth.

One guest–asked how her marriage had lasted 60 years–answered, “For starters, neither of us has died.”

Shoji Tabuchi continues to thrill audiences with his unbelievable violin skills. I can’t imagine visiting Branson without catching his show.

Americans uncertain about the value of their citizenship need a “dose” of Tabuchi, who became an American citizen in 1997. He expresses his gratitude and patriotism during every performance.

With gentle, self-effacing humor, he admits having trouble pronouncing the letters “R” and “L.” He cites this as the reason he won’t ever try singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”…

Several other Tabuchi family members also perform, with three generations on stage. They’re also gifted with high energy, none more so than the patriarch, who, at age 72, shows no signs of slowing down. (At the invitation of President George W. Bush, he once performed in the White House East Room when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited.)

He remains “fit,” and needs to remain so if he’s to don the dozens of sparkling tuxedo jackets.

Likewise sparkling are regal restrooms visitors leave the theatre talking about. They’ve been cited as the most beautiful in the country–number one in Cintas’ restroom contest in 2009–and continue to warrant such distinction.

   Likewise a “must see” is the Sight & Sound Theatre, where Moses is playing through 2017. The largest faith-based theater venue in the world, its 2,000 seats are typically sold out. Since its 2008 opening in Branson, more than 4,000,000 tickets have been sold.

It is a spectacle defying description, with lighting, sound and sets not soon forgotten.

Guests desiring to know more about Christianity are invited to visit counselors stationed near the stage at the end of each performance.

Johnny Mathis was in town for two nights to sing old favorites.

As the second show neared the end, the 81-year-old singing sensation tripped on a monitor, sprawling to the floor.

He righted himself, apologized and joked about the accident. At last, we’ve seen an entertainer “break a leg”–ALMOST–and find humor in it.

   The beautiful Ozarks continue to take breath away, and reflection on how Branson became an entertainment mecca is a story of hard work, faith and the efforts of many families.

It continues to thrive, known for Broadway-quality productions at a fraction of the cost.

Most visitors arrive there by automobile and buses, since scheduled air transportation is about an hour away. Folks don’t drive through Branson headed somewhere else. It is a destination point, and always worth the trip. Someone said God worked overtime when he created the Ozarks. And, He may have.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.