Branson Open for Business

The entertainment district in Branson, Mo., cleans up after storm damage

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: March 7, 2012

Dean Z. as Elvis, Stacey Whitton-Summers as Marilyn Monroe, Jourdan Carroll as Barry White and Bucky Heard and Justin Clark as The Blues Brothers help clean debris at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo., home of Legends In Concert.

The majority of entertainment venues in Branson, Mo., are back on schedule after a group of tornadoes swarmed through the Midwest, beginning Feb. 29.

A small section of the main theater district, on historic Country Music Highway 76, was damaged by the storms, but the highway is now open for business.

The Missouri entertainment capital escaped with damage to less than 10 percent of the more than 50 theaters and 116 live shows, said Lynn Berry, director of Public Relations for the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Our biggest attractions are still ready to welcome visitors,” added Berry.

Venues that sustained damage include the Branson Variety Theater, The Americana Theater, Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater, Baldknobbers Country Music Theatre, Hot Hits Theatre, Owens Theatre and the Icon Theatre.

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater lost part of its roof and suffered interior damage, as well as a destroyed entrance. The venue is a work in progress, but moving quickly into reconstruction. Electricity came back on March 3 at the theater, which hosts Legends In Concert, an impersonation, live-tribute show that has been postponed until April.

“We’re all over the initial shock, which took a day or two,” said Jeannie Horton, GM of Legends In Concert Branson and American Bandstand Theater, “and we should have a new roof by the end of next week.”

There is already a temporary roof on the structure, as well as a temporary door and the frame of the new entrance. Executives are looking at carpet samples for what Horton called, “a shiny new theater.”

Horton said it is important to move quickly because “this is our busy time of year and we need to get up and running. We love where we are and have been in this market for 16 years and plan to be here 16 more.”

Legends In Concert will not add extra shows to make up for the delay from the storm. “We don’t take any down time and go all the way from when we open until the end of the year with the New Year’s Celebration. January is a slow month anyway, so we plan on keeping the same schedule,” said Horton.

Producer Bob Nichols of Bob Nichols Company said that he stopped by Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater and it “looks like a beehive because there are so many people buzzing around there to get it fixed up to stop losing revenue.”

Nichols moved his Dancing With the Stars of Branson event from the damaged theater to the White House Theater, delaying it one week. The event is an annual fundraiser for seven charities. However, in light of the tornado, one of the couples will be dancing for Branson Storm Relief Fund and all of the money collected at intermission will be donated to the charity. Fundraising money collected for specific charities before the event will still benefit those organizations.

Moving Dancing With the Stars of Branson to a different venue was less difficult than anticipated.

“I would love to tell you what an extreme hurdle it was to overcome,” said Nichols, “but the truth is that one of the dancers, Renae Johnson, is the assitant GM of the White House Theater and the executive director of the Branson League of Theater Owners and Show Producers.”

The White House was not scheduled to open for another 30 days, but Nichols said his team went in and knocked down the cobwebs in order to make the event happen. Dancing With the Stars of Branson is expected to raise at least $20,000 for the Branson Storm Relief Fund.

Americana Theatre is expected to be open mid-April after also losing part of its roof and a section of wall. Branson Variety Theater, which was hit in its southwest corner by a tornado, began its season in February. Production is now postponed pending repairs.

Hollye Gurley, GM of Baldknobbers Jamboree Show at Baldknobbers Country Music Theatre, said they postponed four shows, but that most of the cleanup was actually completed within 48 hours of the tornado.

“We had no real structural damage,” said Gurley. “Our damage was from parking light poles and marquee signage downed, and our air conditioner wasn’t working. To the eye, signage and trash was our biggest problem.”

Having completed a couple of inspections from the structural engineer, Baldknobbers Jamboree Show opens tomorrow, March 8., and Gurley said she expects a good crowd.

“I’m looking out to the street right now and there are people walking up and down the strip; the sun is out,” Gurley said. “Everyone’s moving forward.”

Grand Country Music Hall, which hosts close to 1,000 performances each year, didn’t sustain damage. “We were only closed the day of the storms,” said Asst. Box Office Manager Libby Casey.

Interviewed for this story: Lynn Berry, (417) 527- 5670; Libby Casey, (888) 505-4096; Hollye Gurley, (800) 998-8908; Jeannie Horton, (417) 339-3003; Bob Nichols, (417) 593-3418

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: March 7, 2012