by Linda Burlingame
A full parking lot, busy lobby, people taking their seats for a sold-out show … everyone was excited for “curtain up” at The Haygoods! It was soon obvious the six Haygood brothers and their sister were as enthusiastic as the audience. Their talent and energy fill the stage. They make it look easy, using everything to their advantage — state-of-the-art sound and lighting, their own innovative, extraordinary lighting design, great song list … and expertise on more than 20 instruments.
The violin was the first instrument the kids learned. Now they all play several instruments, including guitar, upright bass, saxophone, mandolin, piano — Patrick is the piano wizard! And it’s Catherine who changes from denim and boots to chiffon and high heels for a performance on the harp. In this year’s show, her brothers join in, taking bows to the strings of the harp. It’s all beautiful. The harp and Catherine’s gown are aglow.
I referred to the Haygoods as “kids;” many of us remember when they moved to Branson in 1993, to perform at Silver Dollar City. That turned out to be an eight-year “gig.” Five shows a day, five days a week. (The boys have told me it was hard work, but also “lots of coaster rides and funnel cakes!”)
When the boys were little, their mother was always looking for outlets for their energy. Tap dancing seemed to be a solution. Formal lessons didn’t last all that long. (Catherine says the boys got kicked out after two weeks!) But they loved it, and today their dancing is a favorite part of the show. This is not Fred Astaire, with tuxedos and patent leather shoes. It’s jeans and mountain boots and some mighty fine, fancy footwork that I’m sure “Fred” would like! Dancing on the stage, on platforms … heart pounding rhythms … it’s exciting!
I’m sorry — I haven’t introduced you to the Haygoods yet. Timothy, Patrick, Michael, Dominic, Matthew, and Shawn, and their only sister Catherine have as much fun entertaining together on stage as they did singing under the stars when they were youngsters, living near the Mark Twain National Forest. And sitting on the porch listening to their dad’s record collection, greats like Jimi Hendrix and James Taylor. I really like the show’s song selection of country, rock, and pop favorites, but not ones you hear every day. Happy (“in a room without a roof”), Will the Circle Be Unbroken, When the Sun Goes Down (“we’ll be groovin’”), Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night (I love that Lennon-McCartney tune!), Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash would like this rendition, Tim!), Rock Me … it’s during this song the instruments become video screens, for what has to be one of the two most visually unique numbers on any stage in Branson. It’s a brilliant idea and skillfully executed.
The other “most visually unique” highlight you’ll only see on the Haygood stage is Michael and the phenomenal LED suit he designed and created. It’s become an Internet sensation worldwide and has even gotten inquiries from Hollywood. Along with some pyrotechnics, it’s part of the finale. As I mentioned before, the show’s lighting design is incredible. And the Haygood lighting genius isn’t limited to the Haygoods’ show. It was Michael and his team who designed the lighting for Branson’s new Ferris Wheel. I don’t think the Ferris Wheel ever looked so good on Chicago’s Navy Pier!
The kids all “play well” with each other, but we get to see some funny sibling rivalry, too. Dominic becomes exasperated while he’s trying to introduce himself for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, when Timothy, aka “Banjo Boy,” interrupts. With the audience’s encouragement (didn’t take much!) Banjo Boy comes out with his own lighted, high-rise banjo mobile. He even has an aerial entrance later! Oh yes, glance up once in a while. The show’s opening number, an up-to-date version of Dancing on the Ceiling, is prophetic. Get your tickets early; shows are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings and are often sellouts. The Haygoods Show is fun from beginning to end — you won’t stop smiling! Enjoy!