Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Evolving entertainment

Courtesy Cirque du Soleil

Wild imagination has taken over theater stages across the United States, and the results are great for travel groups.

Shows and entertainment have long been part of group travel itineraries. Tourists will find hundreds of different shows to explore in theaters around the country. And while some continue to produce time-tested favorite entertainment, others are pushing the boundaries of standard showbiz to create compelling new experiences for guests.

Here’s a look at some shows that go beyond the traditional musical revue to put a thrilling spin on entertainment.

Lumberjack Feud
Dinner and Show

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Opened last year, the Lumberjack Feud Dinner and Show presents an inventive mix of spectacle and competition that celebrates the heritage of the Smoky Mountains.

“The Lumberjack Feud is definitely a show, but it’s also living history that celebrates the people that settled in the Smoky Mountains frontier in the 1800s,” said Rob Scheer, president of Lumberjack Sports International. “Our story is an epic story of the creation of the [Great Smoky Mountain National Park] and the people that built the Smokies.”

The setting for the show is 1934, during a time when logging communities in the Smokies were shut down to make way for the newly commissioned national park. The storyline is inspired by two actual families that competed with each other to claim the rights to one of the remaining tracts of logging land.

Professional lumberjacks from around the country play the parts of the two families and compete in the same events that you see in lumberjack competitions on television. Visitors see 14 contests, including high-tree climbs, log rolls, ax throws and numerous chopping and sawing competitions.

“We have crowd participation,” Scheer said. “We put two people from the audience on belays, and they get to climb the 70-foot trees. We also have cross-cutting competitions that the audience members compete in.”

The show also features some music, comedy and a logging-camp meal served in 1930s-style mess kits.

‘The Magic and Comedy of Taylor Reed’

Branson, Missouri
The Ozarks will get a new headliner magic show this year when illusionist Taylor Reed moves into Branson’s Masters of Magic theater with his feature program “The Magic and Comedy of Taylor Reed.”

Reed has performed in smaller venues around Branson for eight years. In 2012, he garnered national attention on the television show “America’s Got Talent,” where he performed illusions in several rounds of competition. With the newfound fame came an opportunity to create his own marquee show at the theater (formerly occupied by Kirby VanBurch, who moved to a new location in Branson).

“The venues that I have performed in while in Branson have been smaller, where I have worked around other entertainers’ schedules and sets,” Reed said. “Now I have the opportunity to bring out the ‘big gun’ illusions with professional lighting, sound and special effects.”

Highlights of the new show will feature a fire-eating performance and an illusion involving a full-size NASCAR auto, as well as a menagerie of animal assistants. A number of guest magicians from around the country will also perform with Reed throughout the year.

The new show begins March 5 and runs twice daily through the end of the year.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.