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. 

‘Girls on Fire’ bring heat, 

passion to the Americana Theatre

There aren’t too many folks in this, or any other town, who have the vocal prowess of Nedgra Culp, and that sing-her-face-off-awesomeness is on full display during her new show, “Nedgra Culp & Girls on Fire” at the Americana Theatre, which takes the stage Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2 p.m.

Culp is no stranger to Branson, as she got her break with a spot in the “Wayne Newton Show.” She has since shared the stage with Tony Orlando, Andy Williams, Dorothy Moore, and was a featured performer in Branson shows such as “50’s At The Hop” and “Breakfast with the Classics.” She also tore down the house at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater as recently as last year in the “Legends in Concert” show.

Late last year, Culp decided it was high time she put her own production together, and “Nedgra Culp & Girls on Fire” was born. During this two-hour music revue, Culp, along with well-known Branson vocalists Dana Currier and Amy Harper, belt out hit after hit from just about every genre under the sun.

While each performer gets her chance to shine with solo songs of their own, from Culp’s awesome version of “Dream On” to Currier’s “Here You Come Again” and Harper’s “You’re No Good,” the tunes they sing together are the ones that really shine. 

The trio shines during the opening section of the show, which features contemporary tunes from artists like Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and Adele, and serve as a way to kick things off right. Soon after the contemporary tunes, the trio goes into their own version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

While there are more than a few Cash tunes I enjoy more than “Ring of Fire,” the “Girls on Fire” arrangement and performance was hands down one of the best I’ve ever heard. In fact, it actually made me excited to hear a song that I’ve heard thousands of times before. It’s unique, fresh and extremely well done.

Another section of the show I need to comment on is the “unplugged” portion, which finds Culp, Currier and Harper at the front of the stage with the boys in the band. Their harmonies are absolutely perfect, and the song selection, from the Andrews Sisters to the Pointer Sisters, is superb. Seriously, I got goosebumps more than once.

In addition to the stellar vocals of the ladies, the boys in the band, Josh Carroll, Lance Conque, the incomparable Seth Darby and musical director Dino Phillips, really bring their “A game.” They play and sing anything under the sun, and it looks like they’re having a great time while they’re doing it.

While the show is fast-paced, fun and chock-full-of great music, the thing that stood out most to me was the fact you can tell how important this show, the people in it, and even the people in the audience are to Culp. 

She got emotional several times, especially talking about her dad, shared details about her family and personal life, and made us love her more than we already did.

This show is her dream, something she’s always wanted, and she’s living it to the fullest. 

Well done Nedgra. Well done indeed.

Big names next week in Branson

The summer season is officially here, and that means there will be plenty of “big name” acts in town, especially next weekend.

Next Friday, June 8, the Marshall Tucker Band will perform at the Mansion Theatre. The “Southern Rock” standouts have been touring for more than 50 years, performing hit tunes including “Heard It In A Love Song,” “Fire on the Mountain,” and of course, “Can’t You See.” Founding member and lead vocalist Doug Gray continues to tour with the band.

Being a man of Southern heritage, I love me some Marshall Tucker Band, and I can’t wait to see them tear it up next week.

Also slated for Friday night at Silver Dollar City, the Summer Concert Series at Echo Hollow continues with even more Southern Rock, this time in the form of the Atlanta Rhythm Section. This laid-back group had two gold and one platinum album in the 1970s thanks to hit tunes such as “So in to You” and “Imaginary Lover.” Other tracks like “Doraville,” “Spooky” and “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight” remain crowd favorites.

Saturday, June 9, Echo Hollow will host 70’s favorite Blood, Sweat and Tears. 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.”

Silver Dollar City’s Summer Concert Series wraps up June 10 with 60’s hitmakers The Buckinghams. 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.

Also set for next Friday night in Branson is the return of Prince Ivan, a national touring act with local ties. Featuring performers Brydon Brett and Aaron Ellsworth, Prince Ivan will return for a special show at 8 p.m. at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre.

Throughout the past few years, the group has also released several tunes, including “Lean and Sway,” “Red Hearts,” “Stay with Me,” and most recently, “Back to the Boogie.” Prince Ivan is one of personal favorites, and they always have a great time.

In addition to this weekend, there are several other “big” shows on the horizon. 

Wednesday, June 13, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater will host a fundraiser for longtime radio and TV personality Janet Ellis, who is battling breast cancer. “The Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular: She Lost Her Hair, But Not Her Flair,” set for 5:30 p.m. 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.

There will be raffles, a 50/50 drawing and much more.

For tickets, call 417-339-3003. For more information, visit the “Janet Ellis Benefit Spectacular” page on Facebook, or email jclark@bransontrilakesnews.com.

Friday, June 15, the Mansion Theatre will host Home Free,  who perform a cappella and country music. The group won $100,000 on the fourth season of “The Sing-Off” with an arrangement of the Hunter Hayes tune “I Want Crazy,” as well as a recording contract with Sony. The group ha released two successful albums,  Home Free and Crazy Life, in 2014, and continue to tour the world.

Sunday, June 17, Up Close Concerts is again hosting performer Vicki Lawrence and her alter ego, “Mama Harper,” for their “Two Woman Show” at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater.

From 1967 through 1978, Lawrence was a featured performer on “The Carol Burnett Show,”as well as on top of the music charts with “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” a No. 1 hit in 1973. Shortly after “The Carol Burnett Show” went off the air in 1978, Lawrence began working on her own sitcom, “Mama’s Family,” which ran for 130 episodes from 1983-1990.

She started “Vicki Lawrence and Mama — A Two-Woman Show” in 2002, and 16 years later, Lawrence is sill out on the road, bringing the gifts of song and laughter along with her, as well as her most well-known character, “Mama Harper.”

Visit upcloseconcerts.com for more information.

For more on all things Branson, keep reading the Branson Tri-Lakes News, or visit bransontrilakesnews.com.

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