Greetings my Loyal Reader(s), and welcome to the latest edition of the Branson Beat, your home for all the news on the Branson entertainment scene.

As always, feel free to drop me a line at jclark@bransontrilakesnews.com, or send me a message via our Branson Tri-Lakes News Facebook page. Now, let’s get to it. 

Yakov announces 

Summer dates in Branson 

Yakov Smirnoff, the Russian-born comedian who took the United States by storm in the 1980s and became one of the biggest stars in Ozark Mountain Country in the 1990s, announced he’d be returning to the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre for two special shows July 6 and 7, in addition to his limited run of shows set for the fall.

“This is my 32nd year as an American citizen,” Yakov said in a release. “Being in Branson for this anniversary celebration is a great way to experience the patriotic feeling that makes me say ‘What A Country.’

“It’s time to ‘Make America Laugh Again.’”

I spoke to Smirnoff last year shortly after announcing his fall shows, and he said due to the current political climate, he’s found plenty of new material to thrill Branson audiences.

“It’s all new, and it’s all very funny,” Smirnoff said with a smile.

The comedian skyrocketed to fame in the 1980s in films like “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Brewster’s Millions,” and “The Money Pit,” as well as on TV shows like “Night Court.” He has also given command performances at the White House for several presidents and honored guests. President Ronald Reagan even called Smirnoff a “national treasure.”

In 1993, he became one of the most popular acts during the Branson boom years. Not only was Smirnoff one of the biggest “crossover” stars to hit Branson, he also became an integral part of the community as he was heavily involved in not-for-profit organizations, as well as a driving force behind several fundraisers.

In 2015, after 23 years performing in Branson, the comedian decided to step away from performing in Ozark Mountain Country. According to Smirnoff, he took that time away to pursue other ventures, including a PBS special based on his relationship classes he’s been teaching at Missouri State University called “Happily Ever Laughter,” as well as working on new material for his show all over the country.

Smirnoff is keeping busy outside of the area, continuing his worldwide tour performing his unique comedy, and teaching courses on “Happiness and Laughter,” as well as earning his doctorate degree in Psychology and Global Leadership at Pepperdine University.

Showtimes will be 8 p.m. July 6 and 7. Showtimes for the fall show are 2 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. Tuesday through Thursdays, as well as Saturdays, and 8 p.m. Fridays. Smirnoff will also host a special 8 p.m. show Thanksgiving night.

For more information, visit yakov.com, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or call 417-336-3838.

Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular Wednesday

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater is most assuredly the place to be Wednesday afternoon as several of the area’s most popular entertainers are joining forces for “The Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular: She Lost Her Hair, But Not Her Flair,” a fundraising event to benefit local personality Janet Ellis.

As many of my Loyal Reader(s) know, I have served as her co-host on “Janet & Friends Live From Ellis Island” every Friday morning on KRZK 106.3 for the past two years. In October of last year, Ellis, best known as the voice of morning radio in Branson for nearly 25 years and being an all-around fabulous lady, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since her diagnosis, I have watched her fight this disease every step pf the way, through good days and bad.

Even when she lost her hair, that beautiful lady stayed in high spirits, even when I knew she was hurting. 

After undergoing treatment for many months, Janet continues to fight this disease, as well as the rising cost of treatment every day. A few weeks back, Yours Truly and several of her friends, family and local entertainers decided to get together and produce “The Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular: She Lost Her Hair, But Not Her Flair,” which will help pay those mounting medical bills.

The show, set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, will be hosted by Ellis’ former partner of 22 years Steve Willoughby, and is set to feature Tony Orlando, The Lennon Sisters, the “Righteous” Bucky Heard, The Stars of the Grand Country Music Hall, Billy Yates, the Branson High School Theatre Department, special guest star Clay Cooper, as well as several special surprises.

Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and there will also be a 50/50 drawing, several “big items” to be raffled off, as well as a few more surprises. 

Tickets are currently on sale at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater. Preferred Seating (First 5 Rows): $25 Adult, $15 Child, $20 Group. Regular Seating: $20 Adult, $10 Child, $15 for  groups. VIP Seats are $50, and include heavy hors d’oeuvres and access to a cash bar.

Not only has this lady been waking us up early in the morning for more than 20 years, she’s an integral part of this community. She’s done more for more people than she’ll ever know, and I only hope this show is at least one-tenth as awesome as she it. 

For tickets, call 417-339-3003. 

For more information, visit the “Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular” page on Facebook, or email jclark@bransontrilakesnews.com.

‘Aladdin Jr.’ this weekend

More than 40 talented young actors from across the Branson Tri-Lakes will be a part of “a whole new world” when their musical production of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” opens Thursday at the Historic Owen Theatre in downtown Branson.

Produced as part of the Branson Regional Arts Council’s Youth Troupe Summer Institute, “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” will be presented in six public performances, 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with special 2 p.m. shows Saturday and Sunday.

The show is based on the 1992 Academy-Award-winning film, as well as the 2014 hit Broadway show about the “diamond in the rough” street rat who learns that his true worth lies deep within. Aladdin and his three friends, Babkak, Omar, and Kassim, are down on their luck until Aladdin discovers a magic lamp and the Genie who has the power to grant three wishes. Wanting to earn the respect of the princess, Jasmine, Aladdin embarks on an adventure that will test his will and his moral character. 

Songs from the Disney film include “Arabian Nights,” “One Jump Ahead, “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World,” as well as an additional song “Why Me” which was cut from the original Disney film.

The cast of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” are all participants of the Branson Regional Arts Council’s Youth Troupe Summer Theatre Institute for students ages 6 to 18. Featured cast members include Alex Knudsen as Aladdin, Abby Sundahl as Genii, Renee’ Elkady as Princess Jasmine, Cole Hill as Jafar, Sophie Douglas as Iago, and Pace Gillman as Abu.

The show is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). The Walt Disney Company is a licensor of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” stage play only and is not a producer of this production. Music is by Alan Menken, with Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The musical is based on the Screenplay by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio.

Reserved seating tickets are available online at BransonArts.org/tix, and advance purchases are recommended. For information on upcoming Youth Troupe Summer Theatre Institute programs, visit BransonArts.org/institute.

Summer Concert Series 

wraps at SDC

Silver Dollar City’s Summer Concert Series is wrapping this weekend with performances by Blood, Sweat and Tears, as well as the Buckinghams.

 Saturday night, 70’s favorite Blood, Sweat and Tears take the stage at Echo Hollow. These jazz-rock stars won Album of the Year at the 1970 Grammy Awards. Their biggest hits include “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “And When I Die” and “Spinning Wheel.”

60’s hitmakers The Buckinghams wrap things up Sunday night. The Buckinghams surged onto the pop scene in the late 1960s, reaching the top of the charts with their iconic single “Kind Of A Drag.” Other hits include “Don’t You Care,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song.”

Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Echo Hollow Amphitheatre. Each of these concerts is free with  park admission.

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