Austin Delp, left, and Jesse Brown headline “Of Mice and Men” this weekend at the Historic Owen Theatre in downtown Branson.

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. 

‘Of Mice and Men’ at the Owen Theatre this weekend  

This weekend will see the folks at Forte Theatre Productions LLC and the Branson Regional Arts Council debut the first of five performances of their collaboration of the classic “Of Mice and Men,” set for the Historic Owen Theatre for shows Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

Written by John Steinbeck, “Of Mice and Men” follows the journey of Lennie and George, two migrant field workers as they chase down their dream of a farm of their own. 

Their relationship is unconventional as Lennie is a child-like man who doesn’t know his own strength, and George, his reluctant caretaker, feels the pressures of society to hide Lennie’s uniqueness.

“Even though the story was written in 1937 during the Great Depression, there are many relatable themes that a modern audience can relate to,” Producer Tina Cool-Anderson said. “We still struggle with loneliness, financial struggles, class systems, and bigotry today and Steinbeck does a wonderful job of illuminating those issues.”

This production features an immersive experience for the audience, as the cast will greet guests and sit with the audience during the performance where they will actively be a part of the production. 

“Forte Theatre Productions’ Of Mice and Men will be a refreshingly energetic and active retelling of the classic American story,“ said Forte Director Kyle Blanchard. “Patrons should expect to find more humor throughout the story than is usually displayed.”

The cast features Austin Delp as “George,” Jesse Brown as “Lennie,”  Connor Sullivan as “Slim,” Andy Brown as “Candy,” Caleb Schantz as “Curley,” Jessica Brown as “Curley’s Wife,”  Traven Harrington as “Crooks,” Conor Finnerty-Esmonde as “Carlson,” Nick Haney as “Whit,” and Mark Peper as “The Boss.”

The production team includes Cool-Anderson and Blanchard, as well as Assistant Director Justin Ables, Costume Designer Jonathan Crum, Lighting Director Pamela Meadows, Fight Choreographer Connor Sullivan, Marketer Nick Haney, Stage Manager Mariah Garrett, and Prop Mistress Adrianna Cota.

Showtimes for “Of Mice and Men” are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday. 

A special talk-back performance of the show will be held on Monday at 2 p.m. where the actors will hit the stage after the play and answer questions from the audience.  This special Monday matinee event is being offered at a “student price for all” ticket.

To select and reserve seats online, visit bransonarts.org/tix or call the Historic Owen Theatre box office at 417-336-4255.

‘New Music Showcase & Songwriting Contest’ Wednesday at Bandstand

The “2019 Southwest Missouri New Music Showcase & Songwriting Contest,” which also doubles as a fundraiser to benefit the Branson-Hollister Senior Center, is set for Wednesday night at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater.

Representatives from the Branson-Hollister Senior Center were forced to rethink their fundraising efforts several years back, so they reached out to local musicians Prince Ivan, and the “New Music Showcase” was born.

This event will again see a handful of local singers, songwriters and entertainers, including Prince Ivan, perform original music to help raise funds. The contestants participate in a “Songland-style songwriting contest” on the Bandstand stage.

First prize is $200 cash and one single recording, mixing and mastering package from “a professional studio,” $200 for second place, and $100 for third. As always, folks from the senior center will hold a 50/50 drawing.

Visit princeivan.com/songwritingcontest to read the rules and register for the event.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for those ages 6-12, and free for 5 and under. Tickets are available at the Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater box office, or by calling 417-339-3003.

Sawyer Brown at SDC  

Silver Dollar City will wrap up its first Country Music Days, the latest aspect of “The Year of Shows & Festivals.” 

During this new festival, the park featured country music entertainers at several venues, including big-name concert events at Echo Hollow Amphitheatre. Saturday night’s show will feature hitmakers Sawyer Brown.

Founded in Florida in 1981, five members of country pop singer Don King’s road band decided to form a band. They played up to five sets a night, six days a week, until they auditioned for “Star Search” in 1983. They ended up winning the $100,000 grand prize and record contract.

The band signed with Capitol Records and scored a Top 20 hit with their first single, “Leona,” in 1984. They followed that up with the No. 1 hit “Step That Step,” but saw only sporadic Top 10 success on the charts over the next few years. They released a “Greatest Hits” in 1990

Following the release of their album Buick in 1991, the band switched to Curb Records. After being known for mostly “fun” or “novelty” tunes, the band began recording singer-songwriter Mac McAnally’s tunes that were mostly ballads. The change in tone resulted in a new audience, and more success.

Once “The Walk,” the last tune on the Buick album, was a hit, the band scored a slew of Top 5 and Top 10 hits, as well as two more No. 1 hits with “Some Girls Do” and “Thank God for You,” which frontman Mark Miller co-wrote with McAnally. By the time 1995 rolled around, the band had enough material for a second “Greatest Hits” album, which included two new singles, “This Time” and “I Don’t Believe in Goodbye,” which were both Top 5 hits.

Overall, Sawyer Brown has released 20 studio albums, three of which have been certified Gold. In addition to charting more than 50 tunes on the Hot Country Songs charts, they have also received the Horizon Award from the Country Music Association in 1985, as well as a Vocal Group of the Year award in 1997 from the Academy of Country Music.

The Silver Dollar City stages, located throughout the park, will host a bevy of local and national favorites. The Gazebo in the Square finds Grammy-nominated artist Billy Yates, who has written songs made famous by George Strait, Kenny Chesney and George Jones, will host a version of his “Hit Songwriters in the Round” show.

During the “Songwriters” show, folks get to hear the stories behind these songs, as well as acoustic performances. On most days, Yates will be joined by a rotating cast of fellow singer/songwriters who will not only perform the hit songs they wrote, but share their stories as well.

Elsewhere in the park, the Dockside Theater is slated to host Eastern Heights through Sunday, Makenna and BrockThursday and Friday, and Matt Gumm Saturday and Sunday. The Boatworks Theater will see Justin Terry through Sunday. The Red Gold Heritage Hall will also host the Barn Dance during Country Music Days. Classic country and western swing music is provided by Silver Dollar City’s own Horsecreek Band, an audience favorite for over 40 years.

Country Music Days runs through Sunday. Visit silverdollarcity.com.

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