Last week, one of Branson’s most popular musical families, The Duttons, appeared on Nickelodeon’s “America’s Most Musical Family,” a reality music competition television program, which premiered in November.
Over the past year, “the show must go on” has taken on new meaning for this performing family as they experienced a tour bus accident, performing as finalists on Nickelodeon’s new show, as well as hosting sold-out shows in their Branson theater.
Several months ago, a casting company in Los Angeles contacted the Duttons, asking them to appear on a new Nickelodeon show. In addition to maintaining their regular performance schedule at the Dutton Family Theatre here in Ozark Mountain Country, they also went through rounds of interviews, studio recording sessions, performing live with the show’s writers and producers, and much more.
“We went through a grueling audition process,” said Timothy Dutton, the oldest son of Dean and Sheila Dutton. “There were weeks of auditions and videos, and interviews, and we were blessed to be one of the 30 families that made it to the final episodes.”
The Duttons were two days away from a long-scheduled Dutton Fan Club Cruise when they got the news they would need to travel to Los Angeles to appear on the show. On their way to the cruise, the Duttons were involved in a bus accident while attempting to navigate a “notoriously-perilous” curve near Columbus, Ohio.
The bus flipped, skidded several yards, and finally came to rest in a nearby field. All 23 performers in the family were on board the tour bus, as were all their instruments, equipment, and costumes. The bus ended up being totaled.
Members of the family consider it a miracle that every family member survived without serious injuries. The night of the accident, Sgt. Joe Curmode, of the Columbus Police Department, personally drove matriarch Sheila Dutton from hospital to hospital checking on family members.
“I have seen way too many of these cases, and they don’t have happy endings,” he said. “But this was a happy ending.”
“We will never quit thanking God for his protection,“ said the Dean Dutton, the family patriarch. “It is our joyous privilege to continue doing the work which we started almost 30 years ago.”
A mere two days after the accident, the family, who had decided from hospital emergency rooms to continue with their cruise plans, actually performed an onboard show for their fans.
“We looked terrible,“ Abby Dutton said. “The right side of my face and my eye were black and blue. The left side of Amy’s face was also black and blue. She was on crutches, she had a broken nose, and a broken toe.
“We were pieced together with staples, stitches and bandages. We were a mess.”
“Our fans lovingly wrapped their arms around us and supported us, as our injuries began to heal during the next week,” Sheila said. “But it wasn’t easy.”
Once the cruise was in the books, a healed Dutton family made their way to L.A. for show tapings. According to the family, playing their music for Nickelodeon was a wonderful way to share the family’s musical story.
“It was an incredible experience,“ said Selena Dutton, 16. “We learned so many new songs from the list the producers gave us. We really worked on expanding our musical influences, and mixing them with the music that we grew up with.”
According to Amy Dutton Arambulo, even though the show asked for all three generations of our family, the focus was on the younger generation.
“They really stepped up,” she said. “I think making the finals helped everyone deal with emotional trauma from the accident.”
In spite of a near-tragedy that could have claimed their lives, the younger Duttons went out and “set an example of fortitude and positivity.”
“It was an incredible summer,” Selena said. “We spent the whole summer practicing instruments and learning new songs and dances. We loved going to Los Angeles and being on national television! And, it was fun to discover that the studio where we filmed the new show was the same studio where our parents filmed ‘America’s Got Talent,’ and where they were named a ‘Top 10 Finalist.’”
Although the performing family didn’t advance in the show, they’ve already got their sights set on next year. The Duttons wrapped their 2019 season in Branson earlier this week, and with a new bus lined up, they’re hitting the road to bring the show out west.
“Every night in Branson, audience members are amazed at how much the grandchildren have grown in their talents and how our performances are truly like whole new shows,” said Amy. “We also love this time of year and getting the opportunity to base the show in Arizona for the winter where we get more time to practice and work up new numbers and try out new ideas.”
Visit theduttons.com for more information on all things Dutton.