Friday morning, Branson Tribute Theatre owners Jon and Sarah Sousan took to social media to announce the venue would not reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yup, it’s quittin’ time for Sarah and myself,” the Facebook post stated. “At least here in Branson. We are headed for a new chapter in our lives. Time will tell what we choose to do with our lives from this point. Not to be a negative Nancy but, after much consideration... for us, we just don’t see the full return of the ‘sit down and watch a show’ happening for a good while. And, we are not willing to, at this point in our lives, re-invent the profit wheel of our business. I’m sure some ... theatre guys are already planning and strategizing, and more power to (them), but those tests and trials are going to have to happen without us. We want to turn the corner of our life’s quest and see what other kind of mischief we can cause.
“This being said, we wish well for those who are going to stay the theatre business course. I’m sure it will all return someday.”
Sousan said the thought of some sort of retirement has been in his head for some time, but the current state of affairs made that decision easier.
“The fact of the matter is, Sarah and I have been considering, for a while at least, a ‘semi-retired’, mindset anyway,” the post continued. “Add in a pandemic, fear and hysteria backed with huge promises of financial relief from the Government,, yeah right, and what you end up with is ‘a push becoming a shove.’
“Honestly, this present situation is more of an early ‘nudge’ for Sarah and I, than anything. We view it as more of a ‘going out on top’ anyway.”
Sousan first hit Branson more than two decades ago, writing, producing and performing in a 70s music show.
“I think that show was way ahead of its time for Branson,” Sousan told the Branson Tri-Lakes News. “I was trying to do the Doobie Brothers, Styx and all that, and (the crowds) just weren’t ready for that then. For me, I feel like I just hung in there and stuck to it. There were several of us guys over the years who slowly tried to try and grow Branson up, to get them thinking differently.
“That goes all the way back to when I started (a local band) Retro. We started doing Kansas, Styx, and all that stuff when this town wasn’t used to it.”
Shortly after closing his 70s music show, Sousan and a few fellow musicians started “Take It To The Limit.” After starting slow and going through several venue changes, the tribute to the Eagles became the anchor of the Tribute Theatre, a success that allowed him to produce several other rock ‘n’ roll-oriented shows, including “Bad Moon Risin,’ a Tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival,” and “Lynyrd Skynyrd and Suthyrn Fryd Frynds” and “Don’t Stop Believing Tribute to Journey.”
Speaking of those shows, Sousan also addressed what might happen with said productions, as well as the venue.
“I’m not sure, at this point anyway, if the Tribute Shows that I produced will end up staying operational at another local venue or not,” he said. “I will say that after I talked with a few close friends, it wasn’t long before I was getting calls of interest. But, really, I have a kind of tongue and cheek attitude about setting it up at a different place.
“There are some interested parties who want me to consider selling to them and ‘handing the baton’ over. But, in any case, if I choose to pass it on to someone else, I may have a hand in setting it up but, it will not include ol’ Jon Paul on that stage. I’ll stand back and let the new blood guide that ship.”
Sousan said his time in Branson has been filled with love and inspiration.
“We’ve had a blast doing what we love. We feel like we’ve enriched many lives out there,” he said. “One thing is for certain, we’ve been inspired by all of you. In summation, Sarah and I just want everyone to know that we love you. We love your hearts toward us. We are so thankful for your faithful support over the years. We will continue to pray for you, and we covet your prayers as we explore this new chapter of our lives too. We will never forget our time together.
“I loved making music for all of you and watching from the best seat in the house, facing you from center stage and seeing your smiles and the joy filled times. I loved watching you sing and danced with me. The memories will never fade, nor will the music of my life.”