by Linda Burlingame
Raiding the Country Vault is a history of country music, a show filled with country classics and presented by a cast of talented entertainers. Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire is the opening song, the first of many that elicit applause and smiles of recognition from the audience. And the hits just keep comin’, standards from artists like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Flatt & Scruggs, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Eddie Rabbitt, George Strait, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and more.
Along this musical journey, it’s more than just the songs that take us through the years. Video screens are filled with interesting and often little known facts about the legends and about the songs. Throughout, there’s also fascinating material about very early country and rural music. Did you know Vernon Dalhart’s The Prisoner’s Song in 1925 was country music’s first million seller? Did you know Patsy Cline taught herself to play piano when she was eight, quit school at 16 to support her family … that she was on crutches when she recorded Crazy? It’s these extraordinary backstories I find captivating!
The vocalists, musicians, and songwriters who make up the cast have outstanding credentials of their own, and they’ve also been on stage with and recorded with country music artists like Roy Clark, Alan Jackson, Ronnie Millsap, George Jones, Restless Heart, Shania Twain, Hank Jr., Tanya Tucker, Trisha Yearwood … well, you get the idea. This is a stellar troupe!
Country music tells stories, probably getting its start with rural music and ballads from the British Isles. The stories the songs reveal are our stories … about love and loss, about fun and family … and foibles. Stories that make us smile or laugh, sometimes cry. What makes a hit song? The story is just part of it. It’s the telling of the story; that’s where the songwriter contributes. Then it’s the portrayal of the story, the singer’s interpretation. And of course, our favorite songs have irresistible melodies, rhythms that stay with us forever. Refrains we recognize after just a few notes. The musicians who pull all this together in Raiding the Country Vault are Billy Yates, Colt Prather, Heath Wright, Eric Heatherly, Michelle Poe, Scott Kwapiszeski, Steve Ramsey, Melody Hart, David Smith, Pete Generous, and Keith Horne.
Billy does most of the emcee work. One of the songs he does is I don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair, which he co-wrote! Melody Hart is a Branson favorite. An award-winning vocalist and fiddler, she’s been singing and fiddling on stages here since 1989. Most recently she’s been nominated for Arkansas Country Music’s Female Vocalist of the Year and Fiddler of the Year.
The Starlite Theatre has state-of-the-art sound and lighting, comfortable seating, and … there’s food! If you’re a country music fan, I’m guessin’ you probably enjoy good BBQ. That’s what you’ll find at Gettin’ Basted! Their award-winning ribs and “chicken teams” serve up succulent entrees like the Blackout, a platter that includes smoke sliced brisket, pulled chicken, pulled pork, and sausage. To get started, try the Basted Nachos or the Basted Championship Wings, the Chicharron Split, or the …. But wait, save room, because they do dessert, too! Basted Butter Rum Cake and Key Lime Pie are two of my favorites. But you’ll like the Candy Bar Cheese Cake, too. And the Ice Cream and the Sundaes! Sigh.
Be sure you check out the other shows at Starlite this year. Raiding the Rock Vault returns for select dates; it was a big hit last year! The Janice Martin Cirque Show, Buckets ‘n’ Boards, and Larry’s Country Diner have schedules at the Starlite. Gene Watson and Jimmy Fortune have fall performance dates. And The Prophecy, a Trans-Siberian Orchestra style show, makes its debut in Branson at the Starlite Theatre in November. Your experience at The Starlite Theatre will satisfy all your senses! (Did I mention the gift shop?!) Enjoy!