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Show me what’s new in Missouri!

Courtesy Showboat Branson Belle

Across Missouri, new attractions add renewed life and energy to favorite destinations. Historic buildings are repurposed for 21st-century uses. Stunning new projects keep cities vibrant. The addition of great entertainment and fresh experiences in places such as Branson and Kansas City make visitors eager to return again and again.

Branson
This year marks the biggest change in the Showboat Branson Belle’s 15-year history. Two all-new shows opened, and the revamped menu features beef tenderloin, Mediterranean chicken kabobs and chicken focaccia, followed by the chef’s golden brittle lemon-berry torte for dessert.

“Encore!” stars the world’s only violin-playing aerialist, Janice Martin, in a unique act that showcases her talents as a Juilliard-trained pianist and violinist, vocalist and acrobat.

The new male vocal group, the Show Men, sings six-part harmonies in musical selections spanning the decades from Gershwin to the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas. Comedian and magician Christopher James serves as master of ceremonies.

“Our second original show, ‘Funny Fiddle,’ debuted this spring on Showboat Comedy Cruises,” said Martha Hoy Bohner, senior publicist at Silver Dollar City Attractions. “It is headlined by comedian and musician Chris Pendleton, whose talent has been nationally showcased on Lifetime, Fox network, Showtime, VH-1 and A&E’s ‘Evening at the Improv.’”

At Silver Dollar City, seven signature Silver Dollar City events offer fun in every season. New performances include the Mayorov Russian State Circus for World-Fest, the Flying Wallendas for KidsFest, and Lumberjack shows and flying Birds of Prey for the National Harvest Festival.

White Water’s recently completed Aloha River at Hula Hula Bay transports water buffs to a lush setting of Polynesian jungles, reminiscent of the South Pacific. The 800-foot tropical river adventure allows tube riders to cast off and float and maneuver the calm waters interspersed with unexpected twists and turns. Water features, fountains, misters and geysers add fun along the way. Shaded seating areas and cabanas offer riverside relaxing.

The Branson area boasts more show business than Broadway, with 50 theaters, 64,057 seats and more than 100 shows. This fall, Louise Mandrell and Lee Greenwood perform in a patriotic-themed show. The 5th Dimension, with original lead singers Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., take the stage for one night. In November, Tim Conway and Johnny Mathis perform.

“Once again, we have a select group of stars coming to Branson,” said Lynn Berry, director of public relations for the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

New offerings include “Hooray for Hollywood” at the Branson Variety Theatre, which features the most famous song and dance moments of the last 50 years of movie history. Film clips and live action unfolds onstage with a cast of singers and dancers performing a wide range of classics that include such favorites as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Lion King.”

Marty Haggard performs “Marty Haggard: A Tribute to Merle Haggard, My Dad” at the all-new Clay Cooper Theatre. This two-hour performance centers on God, family and country.

The Icon Theater, Branson’s newest theater and home to the Platters and “The Rat Pack — Live and Swingin’: A Tribute to Frank, Dean and Sammy,” opened last December. Dinner features beef and chicken entrees prepared by the Uptown Cafe.

“A terrific eight-piece band accompanies an ever-changing lineup of shows,” said Berry. “Stars such as Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Patty Page and Dody Stevens will all perform here.”

Elsewhere in Branson, Mountain Mama’s General Store opens for its first full season. Happy customers can sample more than 25 products daily, including blueberry pretzels, blackberry and peach ciders, soups, coffees, nuts, fruits and candies.

Opened this summer, Branson’s 15,000-square-foot Dewey Short Visitor Center educates about ecology, and flora and fauna of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake. The lake itself will become part of the exhibit experience, with a glass floor where visitors can watch the water’s ebb and flow.

www.explorebranson.com

Kansas City

Rising dramatically in Kansas City’s skyline, the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Moshe Safdie, will officially open Sept. 18. Music legends Placido Domingo and Itzhak Perlman will perform at the grand-opening event Sept. 16-17.

Inspired by the great opera houses of Europe, the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall features vineyard-style seating on the stage’s four sides. It will be home to the Kansas City Symphony.

The stage extends into the hall, placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra for an intimate musical experience. The hall’s visual centerpiece will be a Casavant Frères pipe organ, one of the finest concert hall organs nationwide with 79 stops and 5,548 pipes.

“The Kauffman Center was designed to connect the artist with the audience and maximize that experience,” said Henry Moran, executive vice president of the center. “The thrust of the building is all vertical, the sight lines are perfect, and the acoustics unparalleled.”

A proscenium arch soars above Muriel Kauffman Theatre’s 5,000-square-foot stage. The orchestra pit will accommodate 95 musicians. A 74-foot-tall fly tower will allow scenery up to 30 feet to be flown above the stage, which will allow productions to use more sophisticated set elements.

Home to the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the theater will present a diverse lineup of entertainers and performances to include pop to country concerts, Broadway productions and comedy shows. For productions requiring translation, a personal monitor with the Figaro supertitle system is mounted on each seat back.

A Grand Lobby joins the two venues with expansive southern views. The lobby will be used by patrons on performance nights and to host special events.

www.kauffmancenter.org

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.

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