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. 

Lady Gaga is one of a ‘Million Reasons’ to visit ‘Legends’

The “Legends in Concert” show at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, which features look- and sound-alike artists paying tribute to the most iconic artists in music history, changes acts four time a year to help producers tailor-make each lineup especially for the demographic of folks visiting for each season. 

The summer “Legends in Concert” lineup features Ryan “Big Business” Pelton as Elvis Presley, Clint Nievar and Danny Z as “Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues, the Blues Brothers, Doug Brewin as Alan Jackson, Paul Eve as Johnny Cash, and for the first time in Branson, a tribute to Lady Gaga performed by Kate Steel, who will be featured in the cast through the end of July. 

Pelton, Brewin, Eve, Nievar and Z have all performed on the “Legends” stage in Branson many times over the past few years, and a more solid, entertaining and enthralling lineup of entertainers would be hard to beat, and that’s before adding Steel’s Lady Gaga. 

Steel, a Minnesota native, began training in both voice and dance when she was 4, and by the time she was 7,  was taking classical piano lessons. At the age of 8, Steel began performing in musical theater productions and realized the stage was where she always wanted to be.

She eventually made her way to “Legends in Concert,” where she spent nine years as a singer/dancer at many venues across the country, including Las Vegas. In addition to being a performer, she has also assisted with many ensemble dance and vocal rehearsals, and has traveled the country performing, teaching, recording, and even judging contests. 

When she isn’t performing in Branson or Vegas, Steel teaches theater to more than 800 students at Doral Academy’s Pebble campus. 

According to her bio, taking on the tribute to Lady Gaga allows her to combine all her talents, as well as to become an “actor” and check another thing off from her professional bucket-list. 

Well Loyal Reader(s), even though I’m not the world’s foremost Lady Gaga expert, I know what I like. Steel has a great look, fantastic costumes, loads of choreography and she can flat-out wail. She has one of the best voices in town, a bold statement to be sure, but a true one nonetheless. Her duet with Brewin on the song “Shallow” from “A Star is Born,” which won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) earlier this year, is one of the coolest things you’ll see on a stage all year long.

Like “Legends in Concert” Production Manager Robb Horton told me, “She’s absolutely fierce, son.”

While I recognized nearly every tune and there was no doubt Steel sings her face off, being a middle-aged dude, I’m probably not the best person to judge the authenticity of Steel’s act  in comparison to the actual Lady Gaga, so I asked a group of young people who were at the show. They proceeded to excitedly heap superlatives onto Steels performance, and the more they talked, the more pumped up they got. Seeing their reaction to the act  let me know everything I needed about Steel’s authenticity.

In closing, the folks at “Legends” have again created a perfect summer lineup, and I can’t recommend catching the tribute to Lady Gaga while you can. Steel will only be here through July 31.

Stacey Whitton Summers, will perform a tribute to Pat Benatar in the “Legends” lineup from Aug. 1 through the end of the summer run, Sept. 3.

In addition to the awesome tribute artists, I also want to give a special shout out to the “Legends” singers and dancers,  Kenya Wilhite, Cindy Dardas Melissa Rivera, Dasha Ruden, Melody Boyens and Sarah Garon, as well as band members Kevin Allen, Brian Zerbe, Lyman Clark and Eddie Howard. Those folks are the engine that keeps the show running, and they’re all doing an utterly fantastic job. 

Showtimes for “Legends in Concert” is  3 and 8 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and 3 p.m. Friday. 

Visit legendsinconcert.com for more.

Janice Martin to appear on ‘The Big Stage’  

Local entertainer Janice Martin, who headlines “A Janice Martin Cirque Show” at the Americana Theatre, is set to be featured on a TV show called “The Big Stage” June 21 on the CW.

According to a release, “The Big Stage” is “the ultimate non-competitive platform for talented acts from around the world to display their mastery of performance.” The show is set to feature  an array of 44 seasoned performers, ranging from singers, jugglers, ventriloquists and quick-change artists, to stand-up comedians, acrobats, aerial dancers, animal acts and more.

Martin, a Juilliard Music School and Indiana University graduate, as well as a U.S. Army veteran, plays several instruments, sings, and is also the world’s only aerial and acrobatic violinist. She’s performed the world over to rave reviews, and was a huge part of the Showboat Branson Belle’s shows for several years.

The aerial violinist started her “Cirque” show in 2017, and in that short span, she’s taken home the Branson Terry Music Award for Matinee Show of the Year, as well as the Branson Show Award for Best New Show of the Year.

Martin has one of the most fun and unique acts in the world, and I’m quite stoked the nation can now see a taste of what she does at the Americana Theatre every week.

In addition to Martin, other acts featured include 34th and Phunk, Junru Wang, Blake Lewis, Ron Pearson and  Lina Liu. The show is hosted by Elizabeth Stanton and James Maslow.

Haggard Brothers, Emi Sunshine set for August dates at Americana’  

The sons of legendary country music singer Merle Haggard, Ben and Noel Haggard, are carrying on their famous father’s legacy with a tour slated to stop at Branson’s Americana Theatre Aug. 23 and 24, along with special guest Emi Sunshine. 

Their current tour is dedicated to their fathers impact on the world of country music, as well as their lives. The guys are set to share stories about Merle, as well as join with his famous band, the Strangers. They’ll also be adding their own takes on iconic tunes including “Silver Wings,” “Mama Tried,” “Fighting Side of Me” and more.

Opening for the Haggard boys will be 15-year-old prodigy Emi Sunshine. This Tennessee native began appearing on TV at the age of 8 on “The Today Show,” NBC’s “Little Big Shots,” “Pickler & Ben,” and elsewhere, including 14 performances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Rolling Stone named her among “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.”

Though her roots are in bluegrass and country, her musical styles are said to also include blues and gospel. In 2018, she made her motion picture debut in the Grammy-nominated Elvis Presley documentary film “The King” alongside Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Ashton Kutcher, Alec Baldwin and other stars. She wrote three songs for the movie, which she performed while riding in the backseat of Elvis’ Rolls Royce. She also performed at the movie’s premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Upcoming events in Branson

There isn’t any other place like Ozark Mountain Country in the summer, and there’s always plenty to see and do, especially next week.

Things get rolling Thursday night at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre when local group Prince Ivan, consisting of Brydon Brett and Aaron Ellsworth, headline a show set to benefit Gift of Hope.

The Gift of Hope is an organization that serves families that find themselves in less than ideal circumstances, and provides them essentials and pathways to independence. Currently, Gift of Hope fulfills its mission as a change agent in Southern Missouri through programs including Backpack Club, Cents of Pride, Scholarships, and Christmas Share. 

Prince Ivan recently released several new singles from their new album, “The Preface.” They guys are set to perform several new tunes during next week’s show.

“We’ll be singing all of the new music from ‘The Preface,’ before it’s released,” Brett said. “We’ll also be revealing the release date of ‘The Preface’ ... and there’s gonna be a raffle, giveaways and more.”

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under. Call 417-336-0888 for tickets.

Friday night, June 21, will see the Branson Ferris Wheel hosting the second annual Summer Boomapalooza. This free-admission family event will include food trucks, vendors, fireworks and live music featuring country music recording artist Coffey Anderson.

With Texas roots, Coffey Anderson has not stopped since initially introducing the world to his music through YouTube. He has over 750,000 followers on social media, over 500 million video views and has sold more than 500,000 iTunes downloads. 

Boomapalooza will be hosted by The Track Family Fun Parks, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Branson, Titanic Museum Attraction, Branson Tribute Theatre and Gettin’ Basted. 

Food trucks will open at 5 p.m., live music will start at 7 p.m. and the fireworks display will begin after 10:30 p.m.

For more, visit bransontracks.com, call 417-334-1612, and grab a copy of next week’s Branson Live for a full story.

Finally, next Saturday, June 22, will find the Dirty Saints, voted best cover band by 417 Magazine in 2018, performing a free concert in front of the fountains at Branson Landing as part of the free Summer Concert Series.

The Dirty Saints play a vast selection of 80’s rock from Journey, Van Halen, Styx, Foreigner, Whitesnake and many other artists. There is also a pre-concert Glitz & Glam Fashion Show 6:45 to 7 p.m.

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