‘Big Show’ a sampler of Branson entertainment

1 Mar

I’m excited about Branson’s “Big Show.” So is Cindy Merry.
“People love it,” the longtime entertainment marketer and 35-year Branson resident recently told me. “It’s a great way for people to see some of the new stuff we’re doing in our shows.”
For 16 years, the “Big Show” has highlighted the shows open during Branson’s winter season — dubbed “Hot Winter Fun” — and previews the spring lineup to come. Originally scheduled for earlier this month, producers postponed the 17th annual “Big Show” because of icy conditions.
I was supposed to be in Branson the day the snowpocalypse blew into the area. I’m crazy lucky the show was rescheduled and I didn’t head south. I’d still be buried in a snowdrift along Highway 65, somewhere between Ozark and Walnut Shade.
Set for Wednesday at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, the showcase offers a sneak peek at more than a dozen Branson shows and personalities welcoming visitors during February and March.
“The ‘Big Show’ became a launching point to say, ‘Here I am, and I’ve got a show,’” Cindy said. “At the same time, it’s a place for local favorites to show off a little and have a little fun.”

A dozen acts, one stage
I’ve never been to Branson’s “Big Show,” but it sounds like a great opportunity to catch a dozen or so acts, all for the price of a single ticket. That’s value. It’s a chance to check out some shows and decide which shows I want to catch this year.
The League of Branson Theater Owners and Show Producers use funds raised from the “Big Show” to promote Branson entertainment and tourism around the country. Even though raising funds to promote Branson is serious business for Cindy, she said the “Big Show” is nothing but fun.
“People will hear some absolutely amazing music,” she said. “I believe the Hughes Brothers are bringing the entire family, which is about 45 people. We have Pierce Arrow, which is always a crowd favorite and Legends in Concert is going to be showing off some of their new acts, like Aretha Franklin. The Grand Country shows will be there with Grand Jubilee and Comedy Jamboree.”
The fast-paced show is full of surprises, Cindy said.
“It’s a little looser show because we’re not on our own stages,” she said, laughing. “That always leads to interesting things, but the stars still feel really comfortable, like a lot of the people in the audience are their friends and neighbors.”
Cindy assured me that folks who come down for the “Big Show” will get their money’s worth.
“It really moves fast,” she said. “That way you get a lot of stuff packed into about two and a half hours. People look forward to it.”
Baldknobbers’ veteran Bob Leftridge emcees the evening and keeps the show moving.
“Bob is one of the funniest and best guys in town,” she said. “He’s hilarious and he’s a definite Branson favorite.”

Joplin connection
As long as Cindy said she could remember, the “Big Show” has attracted Joplin residents with cabin fever looking to shake the winter blues.
“Since the very beginning, we have always had a big group come from Joplin. They were here from the beginning and come back every single year. They are good neighbors and, as I said, we’ve always had support out of Joplin.”
Talking to Cindy, I realized that Joplin and Branson have something in common: Ozarks hospitality.
“Branson has this amazing small town friendliness that welcomes people,” she said. “One of the lines Jim Stafford uses is ‘It’s Americas ’ favorite hometown,’ which I really like.”
It’s that hometown feel Cindy said keeps visitors coming back to Branson.
“I like the visitors,” she said. “Think about it. They are all here enjoying themselves. It’s not like they are obligated to be here or that it’s a hassle. They are happy to be here and they like us. They like our community, so it makes for a great experience.”

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