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When Only a Show Will Do

Some people believe that if you aren’t changing, you’re going backward. The same is true in cities well known for their theaters and entertainment. Here are three that appear to be trending in the right direction.

Branson, Missouri

Diversification is the keyword in Branson these days. Once known for its dozens of mostly country music venues, Branson is spreading its wings. One new development is the first-ever staging of a Broadway show.

“Million Dollar Quartet” at the Welk Resort Theater is an offshoot of a famous impromptu jam session in 1956 at Sun Records in Memphis featuring Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

“The show traveled the country 10 years,” said Lynn Berry, communications director at the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau. “But Welk Theater worked directly with musical developers, so it’s exclusively for us.”

Another example of Broadway-type musicals coming to Branson is one inspired by Hallmark’s quirky greeting card character Maxine, the Queen of Crabbiness. “She’ll do her version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in late 2016,” said Berry. “It’ll be at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater.”

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Known for its wide variety of entertainment, including a dozen theaters, Pigeon Forge is popular with tour groups. Since visitors love to come back for more, retooling is often necessary.

“They’re good at changing what they deliver to audiences,” said Tom Adkinson, a spokesman for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “You’ll find new productions or new portions of shows, a notable trend.”

Adkinson said the average Pigeon Forge visitor is a repeat customer, and show producers know they must keep delivering fresh, compelling content.

An example is the huge equestrian show “Dixie Stampede,” which installed a new production and overhauled its lighting and sound systems.

Another Pigeon Forge trend is an overall effort to cater more to group travelers, said Adkinson. “We see theaters reaching out directly to group leaders in sales efforts and at conventions,” he said.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

“The many theaters in the Myrtle Beach area always tweak their shows to make them as appealing as possible to audiences,” said Susan Phillips of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We went to some shows recently to see what’s different, and you see a whole new level of sophistication,” she said. “They bring in top talent. Everything from the dancing to the lighting, from A to Z, is stepped up. It’s almost like you’re seeing a show in Las Vegas.”

Another trend is the emergence of comedy shows, such as one called “Wild 4 Hypnosis,” which combines hypnosis and comedy and has both kid- and teenager-friendly shows and more risque ones for adults.

Dan Dickson

Dan has been a communicator all his professional life, first as an award-winning radio and TV news reporter for two decades and then as a communications director for several non-profits for another decade. He has contributed to The Group Travel Leader Inc. publications since 2007.