by Linda Burlingame
From toddlers to teens, to those of us who remember many decades of music, I think everyone has a physical, sometimes emotional reaction to certain melodies. And there are so many songs that span generations with their appeal. Doesn’t everyone have a favorite Elvis Presley song, know a Johnny Cash ballad? Younger music fans may not always know “who did that song,” but that doesn’t affect their reaction when hearing the refrain. I saw Legends in Concert recently, and a young girl was sitting near me. When The Four Tops started singing Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, she was excited — I heard her say, “Oh, that’s who did that song!”
Legends in Concert at Branson’s Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater takes you on a musical journey, the soundtrack of your life. After the Legends in Concert Dancers and Legends in Concert Band kick things off with Legends Never Die, “Elvis” gets things rockin’ and rollin’ with GI Blues then Frankfurt Special, from that same movie. Ryan Pelton is a trim, handsome Elvis in his GI uniform! Teddy Bear was fun with little teddy bears, and the audience was quick to stand for his rendition of America the Beautiful. The “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” comes back in the second half of the show with more favorites.
When “Johnny Cash” walked on stage, I did a double take. Paul Eve looks so much like the John Cash I got to know here in Branson in the early 90’s. He seems at ease, and his performance is quite natural. He sings Jackson, which Cash wrote with his wife, June Carter Cash. When he does Ring of Fire, he reminds us it was also written by June Carter (with Merle Kilgore). During the evening’s performances, video screens show footage of the legends themselves, at various concert venues and publicity events.
Do you realize it’s been 25 years since singer-songwriter Martina McBride came onto the music scene? Since 1992 and The Time Has Come, McBride has garnered an impressive number of awards and chart-topping recordings. She’s one of the legends featured in this Spring Lineup. Stacey Whitton Summers bursts onto the stage with This One’s for the Girls. All the songs are spot-on, with not only her voice but also her “moves.” She enchants a few fellas in the first row, too, while choosing one to come up on stage with her!
A musical sketch on Saturday Night Live gave birth to The Blues Brothers April 22, 1978. And the band took on a life of its own. John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues and Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues released an album later that year and in 1980 starred in the Hollywood film, The Blues Brothers. Doesn’t everyone love the driving rhythm of Soul Man?!
During intermission “Johnny Cash,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Martina” come out to visit with the audience, take photos and sign autographs. That night many audience members were as excited as if they were talking to the legends themselves. The portrayals are remarkable — the voice and physical likeness, costumes, and mannerisms.
The harmonies and smooth moves of the fabulous Four Tops helped define the Motown sound of the 1960’s. That rhythm and blues soul sound never goes out of style. You’ll love hearing chart-topping hits like I’ll Be There, Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got, Baby I Need Your Loving, Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, and a medley of other classics.
The Elvis we see in the second half is the timeless, unforgettable Elvis Presley in Las Vegas, wearing the bejeweled white jumpsuit. “The King” excites the audience with CC Rider, Love Me, and Suspicious Minds. Pelton is comfortable in his role and has a good rapport with the audience. The entire cast comes out for the Celebrate Finale, and the audience that night was on its feet!
The lineup of legends always includes Elvis and The Blues Brothers. This lineup is on stage through May 22. Other legends throughout the year include Tina Turner, Elton John, Wynonna, Adele, Barry White, Garth Brooks, Michael Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn. The theater is wonderful, with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, and comfortable seating.
The concession stand has a wide variety of snacks. And if you’d like a glass of wine or a beer before the show, that’s offered on the second level. Your experience at Legends in Concert in Branson is designed to put a smile on your lips and a song in your heart. Maybe Plato said it best. There’s a quote on the video screen during the opener, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Well said.