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Live entertainment: Enjoy the show


Courtesy Hughes Brothers Theatre

Pirates, lumberjacks, hillbillies, Beatles and Bradys are bringing a new wave of showmanship to some of America’s favorite entertainment destinations.

In places such Branson, Mo.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis., live shows make great memories for tour groups. Although many entertainers in these areas rely on classic comedy and music formats, a new crop of shows has brought larger-than-life characters and over-the-top antics to stages around the country.

Here’s a look at the new shows making waves in some of your favorite tourism destinations.

Myrtle Beach, S.C.
After years of success with the classic Dixie Stampede format, Dolly Parton’s Myrtle Beach show house debuted a brand new concept called “Pirate’s Voyage” last summer.

Designers spent $11 million to overhaul the main theater area, turning it from a rodeo-style arena to an aquatic stage with water and a pirate ship. Visitors cheer for the Crimson and Sapphire teams of pirates during acrobatic contests. The show also includes live animals and brand-new music written by Parton and Mark Brymer.

Gilmore Auditorium, home of the long-running “Carolina Opry,” welcomed a new show, “Beatlemania Now,” in June. Musicians perform note-for-note renditions of many hit Beatles songs during a musical retrospective that examines the Fab Five’s entire career.

The show also highlights historic moments of the era, such as the moon landing and the Vietnam War, and pivotal personalities such as Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys and Richard Nixon.

The Pat Boone Family Theater is slated to open early this year in the building formerly occupied by the NASCAR Cafe. Pat Boone, a 1950s and 1960s recording legend, will appear at the theater several times each year and will help book other entertainers, among them pop artists, comedians and gospel singers.

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Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Heavy steel and flying sawdust captivate audiences at the “Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud,” the newest show in Pigeon Forge. Opened last August, the show’s $10 million, 1,000-seat theater brings some of the world’s best timber athletes to the stage every night.

Many of the performers have competed in televised lumberjack tournaments; during the show, they take turns chopping, sawing and racing up 60-foot-tall timber poles while guests dine on barbecued ribs, fried chicken and other picnic favorites.

Last spring, the building formerly occupied by “Black Bear Jamboree” re-emerged as the home of “The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show.” The new show is loosely based on the true story of the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud. Audience members cheer on the two “families” as they perform stunts, comedy, music and dance.

The Grand Majestic Theater opened “Soul of Motown” last fall. This show features a five-member tribute group that performs songs made famous by the Four Tops, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, the Drifters, the Platters and many more.

This year brings the opening of “The Smoky Mountain Opry” in the space formerly known as the Miracle Theater. The show features classic country music and entertainment.


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.