Realizing that we were close to Missouri on our trip back from the University of Chicago, we decided to take a detour from our journey south and are now in Branson, Missouri. We made it as far as Sullivan, Missouri last night, spent the night at [lost], and drove on in.
My aunt and uncle have often come here for a vacation, and we have long wanted to come here ourselves. Upon arriving, I must admit that I was rather disappointed. It was certainly obvious that the city had grown significantly just during the last few years or so, but the city had a air of cheapness about it that was apparent even before one came near the city. Indeed, I had joked on the way here that this was the “redneck’s Broadway,” and it seemed that the longer we were here the town did its best to reinforce that impression.
The first show we went to (not my choice) was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The show is, of course, one of the most famous Broadway shows, and I was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately, the show was not in fact a true Broadway production, but a “Branson version” that starred many people from the local area. The show’s most notable cast member was Kellye Cash, the great-niece of Johnny Cash, and formerly Miss America.
Despite somewhat enjoying the show, the show was not exactly what Mom and I are used to. For instance, theatergoers were allowed to wear anything they wanted into the theater, and some went so far as to wear shorts and even cheaper T-shirts. Audience members were also allowed to purchase popcorn and candy, and this gave me some idea of what kind of “Broadway show” we were to expect. The theater itself was huge, but nowhere near as lavish as something like the Majestic in San Antonio, and I said as much to Dad when he commented on how “well” the building was built.
Remembering the farce at Riva’s in Chicago in which I was told to remove my cap after I had put it back on in frustration, which I have so far not written about, I thought this entire scene was especially funny. Dad fell asleep several times during the show, although he insists that he did not. The huge theater (the American Mansion) must have been only 1/10 full. I freely admit that despite these somewhat good-natured criticisms, we did have a lot of fun. Only one cast member, though–the one who played Joseph–received a standing ovation, and Mom and I are not quite sure that even he deserved it.
After the show, we went to a nice place called Ribs ‘n’ Bibs or something or another and ate. Having about two hours left before we had to be at the next show, we went to the hotel and took a quick nap. Upon awaking, Dad told us that he didn’t feel like going to the other show and preferred simply to stay in the room and sleep. This was disappointing and disheartening since Dad was the person who wanted to come here in the first place, but Mom and I told each other that Dad would merely end up nodding off again. The new theater was just as kitschy–this being the word that best describes everything in this town–and the anteroom was decorated in such a way as to resemble–if only so slightly–the Italian sotto in su paintings one sees in Venice and other places. The men and women in the painting, looking somehow Southern and thus probably modeled on local performers, had angel wings and poorly drawn putti fluttered around them. Even the doors were painted to look like they had gold on them. Kitschy indeed.
Fortunately, the show was not as large a disappointment. The show was called Broadway and consisted of selections from several famous Broadway shows such as 42nd Street, Oklahoma!, and so forth. Most of the cast spoke with a noticeably foreign accent, although they could feign an American one well. The show doubles with Spirit of the Dance, either a third installment of the Riverdance series or a cheap imitation–I have not been able to figure out which. Regardless, the cast had certainly had professional dance training, and during the performance of “Memory” from Cats, two of the cast members performed a beautiful ballet duet that should have received a standing ovation. Mom and I were originally on the eighth row, and, after the performance of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” we made our way to the back of theater and waited for the end. When it appeared the show was about to end–at the performance of “New York, New York,” if I recall correctly, we jumped from our seats and headed to the car as fast as we could and were the second car out of the parking lot. The traffic that greeted us was utterly horrible. By now it was 10 PM and evidently all the shows had ended at the same time. We had barely made it three blocks before we came across a car with Wisconsin plates attempting to pull out in front of me. Originally, I was not going to let him in, but seeing the driver’s determination and his absurdly angry face, I let him in, laughing. His license plate read “B OVERLY” and I joked to Mom that he “be overly rude!” Lame, I know. I somewhat regretted allowing him to get in front of me not long after, as he was apparently determined to allow passage to every single person who wanted to get in front of him.
Sick of the traffic, we pulled into an ice cream parlor and bought two ice cream cones. Mom bought a sherbet, and both of us heard some man behind us mutter, “Why come in here if you’re going to buy a sherbet?” Having never eaten sherbet and not knowing the “proper” places in which one must eat it, I frankly didn’t understand it, and, what’s more, we were riled that someone would even say such a thing. Not much else happened, and by the time we were done traffic had cleared enough to make it easy to go home. When we arrived back at the hotel, I realized that I had lost my card key somewhere. I’m still quite sure that it’s in the car, but the parking lot was so crammed that it was difficult to open the car door and I decided to cease the search until morning. The majority of people here are either rednecks or retirees (often both), but they tend to be amusing rather than disgusting.