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“Branson – Up Close and Personal” with Shoji Tabuchi

Shoji Tabuchi at his desk just after the interview.

BRANSON, Mo. On the Branson show scene five words just seem to fit together “fiddle,” “production show,” and “Shoji Tabuchi.” Shoji has been performing in Branson for 30 years, 22 of which have been performing his own show in his own theatre. The Shoji Tabuchi Show is easily one of the most popular in Branson not only because of the talent of its star, but because of its production, choreography, costuming, leading edge special effects and his supporting cast including one of the best bands in Branson and his very talented daughter Christina. As he was preparing for the start of his 2011 season on April 15, Shoji was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule for this “Branson – Up Close and Personal” interview.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, and is intended to provide readers with an up close and personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interview with Shoji Tabuchi (ST) uses a “Question and Answer” format with the interviewing being done for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary J. Groman, a 26 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and free lance writer.

BTC: A lot of your fans know you have close relatives in Japan and are concerned. Is there anything you would like to say to them?
ST: We thank them for their concern. I have a brother and sister in Japan and, luckily, both are safe.

BTC: What came first the “fiddle” or the “violin” and whichever it was how did you learn to play it like you do?
ST: As I have said many times on stage, they are both the same instrument, it’s just how you fiddle around with them. My mother started me playing the violin using the “Suzuki method” at a very young age.

BTC: What caused you to start “fiddling” around with the violin?
ST: I got interested in fiddling when Mr. Roy Acuff came to Japan and did a concert which included “Listen to the Mocking Bird” played on the fiddle. It was his music and encouragement that inspired me to come to the United States and he was instrumental in having me play on the Grand Ole Opry in 1968. One of the numbers I played was “Listen to the Mocking Bird” and the other was the “Orange Blossom Special. I have two of Mr. Acuff’s favorite violins, one of which was presented to him by the Grand Ole Opry in commemoration of his 50th year with them.

BTC: How long have you been in show business?
ST: Since about 1965 when I was a college student at Momoyama Gakuin Univesity in Izumi, Osaka, Japan, a sister university of St. Andrews University.

BTC: When did you come to the United States permanently?
ST: In 1967.

BTC: How did you end up in Branson?
ST: I was working in and out of Nashville, as well as all over the country performing concerts. A friend of mine told me about Branson. Branson sounded really interesting so I decided to come and visit. I fell in love with the beautiful surroundings and with the warmth of the people who live here.

BTC: How long have you been Performing in Branson?
ST: I have been performing in Branson for a total of 30 years, of which 22 years has been in my own theatre.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
ST: I was so impressed by how beautiful the area was and how warm and wonderful the folks that live here are.

BTC: What led you to build your own theatre?
ST: We had a vision of the kind of show we wanted to present and there was not an available existing theatre in Branson at the time that was adequate.

BTC: When people think of production shows in Branson the Shoji Tabuchi show is one of the first that comes to mind. How did that evolve?
ST: My wife Dorothy is the one who has made us the production show we are. It is thanks to her vision, planning, and producing the show.

BTC: Where did the idea for the famous “Shoji Tabuchi” restrooms come from?
ST: That was Dorothy’s idea and I was against it at the time. Boy, am I glad that she didn’t listen to me.

BTC: Who in your family is involved with the show?
ST: My daughter Christina sings and dances in the show and, as I have previously mentioned, my wife Dorothy produces the show.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
ST: I love being able to stay in one place which allows me to spend more time with my family. I also love being able to have my own theatre, specifically designed for me, which allows me to perform my show the way that I want to and permits me to perform my very best show for the audience.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ST: I am very much a homebody. I like spending time with my family.

BTC: Where is your favorite place to eat in Branson – Favorite dish?
ST: My family and I eat out a lot, so there are way too many places in Branson that we love to eat at to name one favorite. I can tell you that I will go to wherever the fried catfish is.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
ST: I would love to have seen and met Jascha Heifetz, when he was alive. He was truly such an exceptional master of what he did.

BTC: In your career, of all the performances you have made and you have been in, no matter how big or small, which one personally meant the most to you and why?
ST: I have been blessed to be able to have performed in so many unique and wonderful situations. The performance that has meant the most to me personally was the first time my mom and dad came from Japan and saw me perform in my own theatre in Branson.

BTC:  Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
ST: I used to fish, fish, fish and fish, fish, fish. Now, I golf, golf, golf and a little bit of fishing.

BTC: Do you have a “little known” fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
ST: I absolutely love to paint artistically. If time permitted, I would love to be very involved in landscaping.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
ST: It wasn’t funny at that moment, but is now. It’s one of those situations that can happen any time when you have a live show. In the Finale of the show, the first 4 “pick up notes” were in the same key of the gospel segment I had just played. My wife Dorothy, daughter Christina and all of the cast were on stage ready for the finale and I started playing the gospel number again. The band did not know how to follow me and I fumbled around playing until I finally got back on track with the correct song. I would like you to know that not many of the audience noticed anything was wrong but boy, did we….especially me!!

BTC: What part of your show do you enjoy performing the most and why?
ST: I love talking with the audience. I also love playing slow, beautiful and touching music.

BTC: If I were planning a trip to Branson why should I plan to see your show?
ST: The show is always new and exciting with different special effects. There is truly something for everyone.

BTC: If I were coming with children ages 9 through 13 would your answer be the same and why?
ST: Yes. because they will never be bored and there are so many exciting and interesting things happening on stage that will totally amaze them and hold their interest.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
ST: Our goal, each and every year is to have our guests come see the show and walk away saying, “I didn’t think it could get any better, but it has!” and to make our guests feel, at all times, from the time they drive into the parking lot to the time they leave the parking lot, that they are very special and deserve the very best. We want them to know that our dream of having our own theatre would never have been possible without their support and would like to say a great big “Thank you!”

Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center reminds everyone that the Shoji Tabuchi Show opens its 2011 Branson season on April 15. For additional information or tickets for the Shoji Tabuchi Show or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC by either calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

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