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By Glenn Loney, April 22, 2004

Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.

Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
The 28th Annual HUMANA FESTIVAL:
Actors Theatre of Louisville Premieres Some Great New American Plays! *
Lynn Nottage Wins the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award: *
A Survey of Humana's New American Plays: *
AFTER ASHLEY [*****] *
KID-SIMPLE [***] *
KUWAIT [***] *
THE SPOT [****] *
Nashville's Country & Western Rival— *
Dolly Parton's Horse-Opera *
Other Shows Along the Branson Strip: *

  The 28th Annual HUMANA FESTIVAL:

Actors Theatre of Louisville Premieres Some Great New American Plays!

For those who seldom go to the theatre, seeing eleven new plays in only three days might seem a martyrdom. But for veteran theatre-critics, regional & Broadway theatre-producers, directors, agents, and casting-directors, the annual Humana Festival provides an admirable showcase for new work, professionally produced.

Under the festival's founding-director, Jon Jory, it had its ups-and-downs. But Jory was a tough act to follow, and at the past two fests—under the artistic direction of Marc Masterson, the current Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville—most of the new plays on view were disappointing. What I regarded as the best of last year's Humana productions, Omnium Gatherum, did in fact make it to New York, playing at the Variety Arts Theatre. Even so, I was not very enthusiastic about its concept or execution.

This season, however, was an impressive renewal. Most of the new plays were at the very least interesting—and of course well-produced—but some of the scripts look Broadway or Off-Broadway-bound. They will surely make the rounds of America's regional theatres. Good Shows, Louisville!


Lynn Nottage Wins the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award:

In early April, at the Humana New American Play Festival, Lynn Nottage won the ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award for her powerful drama: Intimate Apparel. The honor is also money-in-the-bank, for it includes a check for $15,000. The award is jointly funded by the American Theatre Critics Association Foundation—of which I'm a board-member—and the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Charitable Trust. This is the same foundation which has taken over the American Place Theatre and made the Laura Pels Theatre available to Roundabout Theatre, producers of Intimate Apparel.

This spring, Nottage is twice an ATCA winner: she also won the Francesca Primus Prize of $10,000 which recognizes "emerging female playwrights." This will be formally awarded in San Francisco at ATCA's annual conference. At Actors Theatre of Louisville, Nottage also won in a different sense. One of her Yale School of Drama playwriting students, Carson Kreitzer, won an ATCA/Steinberg $5,000 Citation for his new play, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The other citation was awarded August Wilson for Gem of the Ocean. Last year's ATCA/Steinberg Award winner was Nilo Cruz, for Anna in the Tropics, which later opened on Broadway.


A Survey of Humana's New American Plays:


Scene from Humana Festival's AFTER ASHLEY


Would you like to see a "tastefully re-enacted rape & murder" of the late Ashley Hammond on prime-time TV? If you thought The Jerry Springer Show and all those TV Reality Shows were on the outer fringes of what could or should be shown to Family Audiences, think again! Playwright Gina Gionfriddo's After Ashley suggests the ultimate in Home Entertainment.

Ashley is a pot-smoking mid-life-crisis wife & mother. Her indifferent hypocrite-Liberal husband, Alden, is a minor hack journalist, specializing in Education features. Her 14-year-old son, Justin, has insight and wisdom far beyond his years. Far more than either of his pathetic parents. He's at home, sick with Mono, watching Dr. Bob on TV with his bird-brained mother. Justin wittily harpoons Dr. Phil—no, no! Dr. Bob—as Ashley longs for Life in the Fast Lane. Justin asks of people who appear on Springer: "Have they no shame? Have they no dignity?" He also tells his mother—who has no friends—he cannot be her best chum. After all, he's only 14.

Their skittering conversation is hilarious and has the audience laughing so loudly some lines get lost in the guffaws. What's more, the hilarity continues, even as Alden Hammond [Stephen Barker Turner] writes a best-selling book, After Ashley, about his wife's brutal death. Soon after, he gets his own TV show with the "tasteful rape & murder" re-enactments, including that of his own wife. There's even a very upscale home for abused women, named after Ashley, richly endowed by a Jewish philanthropist, eager to proclaim the Family Name.

Unwisely, Justin's dad and his TV producer [Frank X] enlist Justin to appear on TV and at the opening of the home. He spares no one his angry sarcasm at their exploitive hypocrisy. It's right on target—and also still hilarious, as the commercial promotional developments after Ashley's death have already been marginally surreal.

Justin holds his father directly responsible for his mother's death. Because Alden was too lazy to mow his own lawn—and too cheap to pay someone able to do a good job of it—he hires a homeless sociopath, passing it off as another of his Good Deeds for the less fortunate. This man unfortunately does more than mow the lawn.

Before her hideous murder, the lonely, desperate, lovelorn Ashley had in fact found a Fast Lane—which proved to be a Dead End. She joined a cult that made videos of their Group Sex adventures. Justin has a copy of this tape, which just might defuse the attempts of his father and the TV producer to make a Saint of Ashley.

Gina Gionfriddo's sharp satire hits bulls-eyes on a number of targets: Prime-Time TV, Family Values, Political Correctness, American Ideals, Social Conscience, Philanthropy, Exploitation, Marketing Promotions, and bullshit in general.

After Ashley is ready for Prime Time itself. It should be seen on Broadway, as well as anywhere in America where they are watching TV. Perhaps it could become a series on TV—but with Gionfriddo's hilarious & satiric fangs bared!

Gionfriddo's cast was very good, but Jesse Hooker's Justin was almost too good to be true as a 14-year-old with a punch-line for every idiocy uttered by Carla Harting, as his mother. The admirable Paul Owen designed the minimal sets for the Square-Arena of the Bingham Theatre. But director Marc Masterson didn't make best use of them in some scenes, for spectators in my section of the tiered-seating had to look at Ashley's back for some 15 minutes as she and Justin sparred. Playing In the Round requires that all the audience should be able to see the actors also in the round.

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Michael Cardonick

Creative Artists Agency

162 Fifth Ave/5th floor

New York, NY 10010




Scene from Rinne Groff's THE RUBY SUNRISE

Rinne Groff's Ruby Sunrise was inspired by the largely unknown achievements of farm-boy Philo Farnsworth. A self-taught scientist, he developed the first electronic TV system, but General David Sarnoff took the credit. Groff imagines Farnsworth as Ruby [Julie Jesneck], an abused young woman with no home. She comes to the lonely farmhouse of her mother's old-maid sister [Anne Scurria] and begins her experiments in the barn.

When she has her first break-through, Ruby literally glows with hope: She naively believes that Television Will Bring World Peace! If people all over the world can see each other at work, at school, at play, among their families and loved-ones, how could they ever think of making war? That is a very good question, now more than ever, as TV becomes increasingly a facilitator for epic misunderstandings, bare-faced lies, and devasting conflicts.

Designer Eugene Lee flanks the center-stage revolve with models of the farmhouse and the barn. The revolve discloses a kitchen and the barn interior. Abruptly, all this is scooted away by stage-hands, for we are actually in a Manhattan TV-studio, filming Ruby's story live-on-camera. It is the Golden Days of Television—although no one knew it at the time.

Ruby's sexy, aggressive daughter, Lulu [Jessica Wortham], has made herself indispensable to foul-mouthed, ruthless TV producer Martin Marcus [Fred Sullivan, Jr]. She is determined to get her mother's true story told on TV. She even vamps the show's writer, Tad Rose [Mauro Hantman], but the realities of TV production—and audience-expectations—in those hectic days of six or seven live dramas per week seriously & hilariously compromise her vision. Stephen Thorne plays Ruby's love-interest, both as Henry & Paul Benjamin. Oskar Eustis staged with skill.

Groff's drama has both real human-interest and a lively exposé of the on-going hypocrisies of commercial television. These have changed in form and aspect, but they have only intensified with the passage of time and the desperation for Viewer-Share. It's worth noting that four of this season's New American Plays were obsessed with TV & radio-broadcasting!

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Val Day, William Morris Agency

1325 Ave of Americas

New York, NY l0019



Scene from Humana Festival's FAST AND LOOSE


This four-author interweaving of four separate stories has worked out quite amazingly. Each of the playwrights began one of the plays and passed it on to the others to provide their developments and conclusions. This results in some variations on the basic themes, most of which are intriguing, if astonishingly unexpected. The ingenious playwrights are José Cruz González, Kirsten Greenridge, Julie Marie Myatt, and John Walch.

Each of the developmental dramas was inspired by a Question. The question for Wake God's Man was: "If you discover an awful secret, should you tell?" This uncomfortable drama—intercut in its telling by the other three plays—opens with three sisters at a funeral for a dead priest. The secret which haunts them is that he interfered with them as girls, even though he was thought a saint by many in the community.

Union answers the question: "Should we base our ethical decisions on principles, or solely on the consequences of the decisions?" This is a very topical play, as feisty young workers have called a strike with no real preparation—Where is the coffee?—and no Union Reps on hand. They try to shame or intimidate fellow-workers. But the son of the factory-owner can move the entire operation to Mexico. This could be even more powerful played separately, but it makes a good leaven to the play-mix.

The question for In This House—a dollhouse model of which is variously used and abused—is as verbose as the previous one: "Are there intrinsically right and wrong acts, or is it all just social convention?" A barren couple—desperate to adopt an American baby, rather than one from China or Ecuador—agree to give their new child as a middle-name the ancient Indian name of its mother's female ancestors. But the adoptive mother doesn't want to keep the bargain—which provokes the apparition of a befeathered ancestress with a colorful curse to call down on their house.

Adrian, in The Mating Habits of the Sage Grouse, is a loner and passionate bird-lover. His best-buddies, worried that he doesn't have a girl, decide to fix him up. The question is: "Is there any reason at all for people to take the interests of others into consideration?" The answer, in this play, appears to be: Not when it's a question of sexual attraction.

Brenda Ellis provided a fractured astro-turf stage, on which director Wendy McClellan marvelously marshaled her large cast of Actors Theatre's Acting Apprentice Company members. They were all very good, so the training—or the initial auditioning—is showing good results. In previous years, the apprentices have shown their acting-wares in short skits, monodramas, and Shakespeare soliloquies. These have generally been very uneven, even embarrassing. Not so this year!

Either played separately or interwoven, these four plays should have special appeal to college, community, and high-school theatre groups. They require at least 20 actors, so almost everyone can get a role!

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Alexander Speer, Actors Theatre of Louisville

316 West Main Street

Louisville, KY 40202




Jordan Harrison subtitles his Fantastic Voyage fantasy: A Radio-Play in the Flesh. An EAR-PLAY on stage! Some colleagues thought it self-indulgent nonsense, but I found it unusual and imaginative. Especially in Actors Theatre's surreal production, artfully designed by Paul Owen. As staged by Darron L. West in the Bingham Arena, however, it had the same sight-line problems as After Ashley. A radio-studio sound-effects table rose out of the floor, largely blocking the view of other actions for spectators seated behind it in the lower tiers.

Maria Dizzia played a ditzy girl "who invents things." She creates the Third Ear machine—which can hear almost unhearable sounds and magnify them. To make it work, however, she has to put her finger into her own ear and pull out the bone which enables the tympanum to transmit sound. A seductive, form-changing Beast—The Mercenary [Michael Ray Escamilla]—must have this invention, so he enlists two Dark-Dwellers to steal it. To recover it, she needs a Virgin Boy [Max Ferguson] to accompany her on her quest.

Before she departs, Harrison offers a view of her home-life, in which she and her apparently pre-war Mom & Dad listen every evening to a radio-serial devoted to the domination and humiliation of a female Music Teacher. Sound-effects are provided for all aspects of the production, including the frustrations of The Narrator [Glynis Bell], a lady with excellent Diction and Presence. She monitors the plot-developments and character-emotions for the audience, aided by projections which reprise dialogue and spell-out various unusual sounds.

Jordan Harrison says he's trying to create a new genre. Not really. What he has cleverly achieved is a surreal conflation of extant performance modes. Future productions, especially in proscenium-frames, will require both ingenious directors and designers to make this script work. Attractive actors, of course, are always welcome!

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Val Day, William Morris Agency

1325 Ave of Americas

New York, NY l0019




After enduring a snackless onsite production of some memories of local folks and their buildings in a Looville suburb, a colleague remarked that Edgar Lee Masters had done this sort of thing better in Spoon River Anthology. But that was poetry, not pretentious reportage.

According to the Humana Festival play-summary, Naomi Iizuka's oral-history monodrama is a "stunning portrait of a community." Strike the Stunning. Iizuka has combined interviews, records-research, and some uninteresting invention to survey buildings and sites in Louisville's semi-historic Butchertown. As the event droned on, one wondered if she had omitted any house, shop, or business in Butchertown, where Actors Theatre staged the show among scaffoldings in an old warehouse space.

Iizuka is not an amateur playwright. Her 36 Views—at least as produced at the Public Theatre in New York—was unusual and impressively innovative. Working with Anne Bogart & her SITI ensemble, Iizuka crafted the script for Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, staged at Actors Theatre, later touring widely, including the Edinburgh


The principal problem with the Vanishing Point script is not primarily its length or its endless cast of characters. But it certainly could be cut to good advantage. The difficulty lies mainly in the people she interviewed: their memories are often banal and generally lacking any insight or self-knowledge. Iizuka may have used some poetic-license in adapting these testimonies, but the language is still not powerful or special enough to hold interest. If you aren't from Looville—or do not live in Butchertown, as Thomas Alva Edison once very briefly did—why should you care?

Perhaps the main value of this script is to show fledgling Oral Historians and would-be playwrights in other towns how they might improve on Iizuka's techniques and language. In fact, such projects are well worth doing, before we have lost all memory of past times, places, and the people who lived there.

Arthur Giron's Becoming Memory does this in a different but very affecting way. Maybe the two methods combined might yield fascinating results for, say, Cincinnati, Bisbee, Montpellier, Reno, Medford, or Normal, Illinois. Les Waters staged the extended Vanishing Point monologues.

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Morgan Jenness, Helen Merrill, Ltd.

295 Lafayette Street/S-915

New York, NY 10012




Award-winning playwright Melanie Marnich must have been reading Madame Bovary or Thérèse Raquin before she sat down to write her sex-tragedy, set in what the program-supplement calls "the beautiful and desolate prairie land of Tallgrass Gothic."

Her indolently amorous heroine, Laura [Lia Aprile], is unhappily married to gruff but loving stone-cutter Tin [Michael Newcomer]. After a hard day's work, he craves nothing so much as a six-pack and a fuck. She desperately wants one as well, but not with Tin. She has eyes—and wide-open mouth—only for Daniel [Asa Somers], a newcomer to their desolate prairie town. She doesn't realize that her best-chum, Mary [Tonya Cornelisse], is also in love with her. In the event, she's plowed by the town ne'er-do-well—and she begins to show signs of cropping, as was said of Cleopatra & Caesar in that tragedy by Shakespeare: "He plowed her and she cropped."

When the boys are having a beer in the barn, and someone mentions ghosts, you can be sure this is not an idle remark. Sure enough, at the close of the play, her bloody murdered husband appears to her! Well, she did want him out of the way…

It also seems a most remarkable dramatic convenience that Mary appears with a sword-swallower's kit, complete with both trick-sword and one with a real edge to its blade. These are in very short supply in most small American towns. Assault Guns are more favored for protecting the American Republic. Mary excuses this by noting that her brother traveled with a carnival.

Paul Owen's grass-infested multi-level stage featured very tall grass indeed. Marc Masterson staged, but this time no actor blocked the spectators' sight-lines. As for insightful—rather than hormone-crazed—Prairie Gothic, bring back Willa Cather, but not Laura Ingalls Wilder. Or how about Ole Edvard Rölvaag's Giants in the Earth?

Contact for information about Script & Performance Rights:

Bruce Ostler, Bret Adams Ltd.

448 West 44th Street

New York, NY 10036




Kirsten Greenridge is on record: "I tend to think about ghosts more than other people do." She obviously has something common with Melanie Marnich and Tallgrass Gothic in that affinity. As she also likes Stereotypes, the two playwrights are also in sync on that, as Marnich's poor white-trash prairie-dwellers are certainly stereotypes.

The ghosts in Greenridge's fantastic surreal vision of striving middle-class African-Americans "in the Promised Land" are largely unseen. But they hover over all, as do the incantations and curses of the family's malicious would-be nanny, supplanted by a young black nanny who cannot read or write. She is, however, a quick study and remembers well what she hears or is told. This helps her conceal her lack of education, to her cost. She cannot read the instructions on the rumbling washing-machine—which routinely shreds the family laundry.

Her employers are Politically Correct strivers. She's a Condi Rice-groomed lawyer; he's a pretentious architect without clients—but with an eye for the succession of nannies they've had for their seriously overweight daughter. She dawdles in bed, dreaming of being Snow White, which horrifies her mother, who insists on Black Icons. This leads to the incursion of a flaky African-Studies mentor who works wonders with plants. At the close, the stage is filled with Jack & the Beanstalk columns of vinery. The mother is driven to an insane collapse.

The various African-American Stereotypes Greenridge evokes—while almost embarrassingly amusing—would get a white playwright pilloried. This feels as awkward as those times when a colleague tells an anti-semitic joke, prefaced by: "I'm Jewish, so I can say this. You can't. And don't repeat it!"

Greenridge's script needs some work: even the Surreal needs some Clarity. But it will surely find appreciative audiences. Randy White—is he any relation to Snow White?—staged this complicated show, designed by the resourceful Paul Owen. The all-African-American cast included Angela Bullock, Leon Addison Brown, April Matthis, Kibibi Dillon, Sharon Hope, and Tamilla Woodard.

In these enlightened times of ardent Politically Correctness and Color-Blind Cross-Cultural & Gender Casting, it would have been even more Surreal to have had all the women's roles played by Asian Men and the lone male part played by a burkahed woman from Kabul. But what regional theatre can afford such a wide-ranging ensemble?

The Ten-Minute Plays:


KUWAIT [***]

Maybe Tim Robbins needed something like this short sequence in his drab satire of the Iraq War, Embedded. Vincent Delaney imagines a female New York Times reporter—very full of herself and her position—caught by an American MP as she is actually covering the war in the Bush I Kuwait Combat Zone. She has knowingly gone beyond the borders ordered by predecessors of Paul Bremer, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice—whoever was then running the great American-UN offensive against "The Man Who Was Worse Than Adolph Hitler." He has blindfolded her and tied her up. She appears to be in a Hilton Hotel suite, but he makes her believe she's in some dank prison. There are clear sexual overtones to his interrogation-harassment, which is abruptly ended when the US Army Press Officer enters to put a stop to the charade. This needs to be part of a larger drama!


THE SPOT [****]

Steven Dietz's parody of the production of a TV info-mercial for the forthcoming Presidential Race could be viewed as a contemporary extension of commercial TV as shown in Ruby Sunrise. It even has the same actor as the foul-mouthed, hard-hitting producer. He could be Roger Ailes and Karl Rove all rolled into one!

There should be more satiric spot-skits like this, not only in the theatre, but also on television. But who would sponsor such a bushwhacking variety show?



Dan Dietz has crafted a fairly boring monologue of a loving brother who is going to permit his crazy brother to extract one of his perfectly healthy teeth. His bro changes identities as his reading and fantasies move him. According to the program, this strange diatribe answers the question: "What are the limits of Brotherly Love?" There are other more serious dramaturgic questions it does not answer, however…



I guess you have to be a baseball-crazy to find the single sight-gag of Craig Wright's shortie very amusing. Owen & Ruth are having relationship-problems. So he takes her out to the ball-game. But every time he tries to make nice or kiss her, he gets smacked in the face by a foul ball. OK, batter up! Who's on third?



Brochure for the Roy Rodgers/Dale Evans Museum

Nashville's Country & Western Rival—

If there were no Nashville, Missouri's Branson could be the nation's Country & Western Capital, hands down. Were there gambling, it could challenge Las Vegas in the number of attractions & shows. As it is, there's hardly parking enough for the thousands who flock to Silver Dollar City, Dixie Stampede, and the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum, in season and out.

For an outdoor drama like The Shepherd of the Hills—based on Harold Bell Wright's best-selling novel, in turn based on real people who once lived here in the Ozarks—tourists need good weather. Not far away, in Arkansas' Eureka Springs, they can even experience something like Mel Gibson's Passion in three-dimensions. If not actually the Gospel According To Mel, this pious reconstruction of Christ's Last Days is at least based on the same best-selling source.


Dolly Parton's Horse-Opera

Detail from brochure for Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede

Sited at the top of a rise in Highway 76—Branson's main strip—is an oversize Ante-Bellum Plantation Mansion, complete with a long corridor of stables, its stalls filled with handsome horses. This is Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. It is Dinner Theatre With A Difference!

Behind the Tara-like columns of the mansion is a well-stocked Gift Shop and a large performance arena, the Carriage Room. Here, audiences are warmed-up by a juggler. After nearly an hour of his tricks—plus drinks & snacks—they file into a much larger arena. This looks like Rome's Circus Maximus, cut in half to form an extremely long U. It is 35,000 square feet. At the far end, a woodland scene, filled with flowers, eventually parts to reveal another Southern Mansion facade.

Spectators are seated around the great horseshoe in six vast tiers. Serving dinner is a wonder of efficiency and management. Each section of each tier has its own quasi-cheerleader/server. Courses are swiftly served between acts of the colorful show. The fixed menu includes Soup, Homemade Biscuits, Whole Rotisserie Chickens, Hickory-Smoked Barbecue Pork, Herb-Basted Potato Wedges, Hot Buttered Corn on the Cob, Apple Turnovers, and unlimited coffee, tea, & PEPSI-COLA™. As everyone has to eat with fingers and wipe them on skirts or trousers, there's no way most can finish an entire chicken. You can get a doggie-bag, however.

As in that old song about Dixieland, at the Dixie Stampede, "Old times there are not forgotten." The two long sides of the arena are divided into North & South. The horsemen & women are costumed either as Union Cavalry or their Confederate counterparts.

The cowboy-costumed MC reminds the audience that these forces represent Two Ideas of Patriotism. This is an interesting concept, as it—perhaps unintentionally—implies that owning black slaves was a form of American Patriotism. Incidentally, the entire cast is Caucasian. There are no African-Americans anywhere to be seen—except in the audience. There isn't even a token black slave to demonstrate this uniquely Southern form of Patriotism.

The show itself is terrific—as is the dinner. The horses are handsome and beautifully groomed. Their young riders are skilled and attractive. Feats of horsemanship are impressive, as are historic evocations of the Old South. One of these involves the descent from the ceiling of a large columned interior with Southern Belles & Beaux in an elegant dance. There are wagons & carriages, Buffaloes, parades, marches & counter-marches, cavalry charges, quasi-combat, Ostrich Races, fire-eating, and even a Rodeo Clown.

Various events are staged as competitions between North & South, with flags and awards mounted on the front rails of the two sections, with much cheering and booing. During dinner, the photos you posed for on entering are delivered to you.

As Dolly Parton cannot be everywhere at all times, at the Patriotic Close—with fireworks—a huge screen descends so Parton on Video can share with her guests a Patriotic Song & Finale written by Dolly herself. She looks great on tape: not a wrinkle or a tuck. But then the focus is fairly soft… The finale includes a Flight of Doves of Peace. Plus Luminous Costumes. To quote: "An All-American palette of red, white and blue!"

If you cannot come to Branson, Dolly has duplicate Dixie Stampede shows in Pigeon Forge, TN; Myrtle Beach, SC, and Orlando, FL. This means thousands and thousands of plump little chickens are being eaten—and partly eaten—by Dolly's guests in four states. Early in the spring season, the Branson operation was already offering three shows a day! To packed houses!

Winter weather is also no bar to Dixie Stampede shows. Dolly's Special Christmas Show pits the North Pole against the South Pole, with elves serving the dinner! Santa arrives by sleigh, but the pre-Islamic Wisemen come in on camels!


Other Shows Along the Branson Strip:

Both Roy Rogers & Dale Evans are fading memories—and Trigger is long-dead & stuffed—but they live on at their Museum. Roy Rogers, Jr., performs their music, and there's even a themed laser-shooting-gallery. Comedian Red Skelton is surely dead, but Tom Mullica brings him back to life at Music City Center.

Frank, Dean, & Sammy live again in The Rat Pack at the Branson Variety Theatre. This venue features three different shows a day, including Irish step-dancing in Spirit of the Dance, and Broadway! The latter show puts on Santa-suits in winter for Christmas on Broadway!

How about Jim Stafford, Comedy Dude in his very own theatre! Or there's Ann-Margret & Andy Williams at the Moon River Theatre. At the Welk Resort Theatre—as in Lawrence Welk—you can see & hear Darren Romeo, The Voice of Magic. Not to overlook The Voice of John Tweed, at the Caravelle Theatre: he has a four-octave range.

The once-famed & even notorious televangelist Jim Bakker—minus Tammy-Faye—can be seen in the live TV show at Studio City Cafe. Other venues include the Kirby VanBurch Theatre, the Mickey Gilley Theatre, the Dutton Family Theatre, the Yakof Smirnoff Theatre, the Branson Mall Theatre, the Grand Palace, the Country Tonite Theatre, the Shoji Tobuchi Theatre, the Sons of the Pioneers Theatre, the Moe Bandy Theatre, the Dinner Bell Theatre, & the Waltzing Waters Theatre. There are also such attractions as Believe It Or Not Ripley and the Hollywood Wax Museum, with a Mount Rushmore facade of movie-greats.

On nearby Table Rock Lake, you can cruise, eat, and enjoy a show on Showboat Branson Belle, an outside feature of Western-themed Silver Dollar City. This self-contained park has rides, shows, and fake-facades, with a hefty admission, in the style of Disney Orlando.

Dominating the Branson skyline is Inspiration Tower, in the center of the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Theatre. This sentimental story of Plain Folks in the Ozarks has been made into four films, one featuring John Wayne.

The Oberammergau Passion Play is performed only at ten-year intervals. If you feel you cannot wait until the next time, in 2010 AD, you might combine a trip to Branson with a visit to nearby Eureka Springs in Ozarkian Arkansas. This is the site of what locals modestly call THE GREAT PASSION PLAY, performed in an outdoor theatre in good weather. In winter, Christ's beginnings—rather than his Passion—are celebrated with the indoor Beyond Dickens at the Great Passion Play. This opens in Dickensian London, moving rapidly to the unfortunately-named Holy Land and Bethlehem.

Even if you are not a fan of Christian Entertainment or Country & Western, the Ozarks are beautiful at all times of year. But especially in the springtime!


Copyright Glenn Loney, 2004. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: jslaff@nytheatre-wire.com.

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