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Susan's Travels Tours + Trips
August 23, 2014, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal

Courtesy of Sight & Sound Theatres
Dazzling special effects bring the epic story of Jonah dramatically to life on the 300-foot stage of Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson, Mo. Here, terrified sailors, desperate to stop the mighty storm that envelops them, throw Jonah from their ship and into the mouth of an enormous whale.

57,000 THEATRE SEATS: THE CURTAIN GOES UP MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT IN BRANSON, MISSOURI. On a busy day, the small (pop. 10,842) southern Missouri town of Branson, in the rolling hills of the Ozarks, plays host to 50,000 guests, many of whom have come to enjoy the shows for which the town is famous. But there is rarely a worry about getting a ticket ... with a collective 57,000 seats in four-dozen theaters, Branson stages more than 100 live shows filled with comedy, magic, dancing, acrobats and music ... LOTS of music. From rock ‘n’ roll to country, western to classical, and jazz to bluegrass, music is so woven into the fabric of the town that it is completely natural that Branson is known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World.” Shows are scheduled from mid-morning into the evening, so visitors can easily indulge in this banquet of performances.

IN THE BEGINNING: THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS. The Branson theater tradition can be traced to Harold Bell Wright’s best-selling 1907 novel, The Shepherd of the Hills, set in Branson. Wright’s book drew throngs of devoted readers to the Branson area to see the places depicted in his story, and a dramatization of The Shepherd of the Hills was eventually staged as a tourist attraction. Now, as it has been for 55 years, Wright’s tale of love, loss and redemption may be seen in an outdoor arena with stadium seating. The Shepherd of the Hills is told in broad and dramatic strokes, with masked vigilantes on galloping horses, a chugging 1908 DeWitt automobile, and even a log cabin that is set on fire for every performance. The show runs approximately two hours, which includes an intermission that allows audience members to mingle with the cast. For more information visit or call (800) 653-6288.

AN EXTRAORDINARY JONAH AT SIGHT & SOUND THEATRE. In a large, domed building on a hilltop in Branson is Sight & Sound Theatre, containing a 300-foot-long stage that wraps around three sides of a 2,000-person auditorium. One of the largest stages in the country, it is the home of Jonah, a family-oriented, faith-based musical, whose action spreads across 71 substantial set pieces, the grandest of which is a moving 50-foot-long ship that weighs more than 30,000 pounds. A cast of 41 actors performs live vocals to an original score that ranges from sweetly light-hearted to stirringly operatic. Animal cast members include sheep, highlander cattle, camels, alpacas, horses, llamas, dogs, donkeys and even a skunk. Two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Through Dec. 31. 1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway - Branson, MO 65616. Behind-the-scene actor-guided tours are available. For information call (800) 377-1277 or visit

AND ON THE LAKE, IT’S THE SHOWBOAT BRANSON BELLE. There is one place in Branson where the theater itself is part of the entertainment ... on Table Rock Lake. Three times a day the 278-foot-long sternwheeler Branson Belle moves smoothly out from White River landing onto the waters of the 43,000-acre, tree-fringed lake. Cruises offer a three-course, prepared-on-the-ship, sit-down meal and a full stage show of music and comedy in a 700-seat theater. Be sure to visit the Branson Belle’s top deck to enjoy the view, talk to the crew and check out the captain’s wheel. Made of solid maple wood, The Wheel is more then 10 feet in diameter and, yes, it DOES steer the showboat. For information visit Showboatbransonbellecom.

SEVENTH ANNUAL FALLTASTIC SHOW SPREE. From Sept. 7-14, fans can see 10 of their favorite shows in Branson for $125. Falltastic Show Spree passes are for sale online at and are limited to purchase by individuals. Passes purchased on or after Aug. 27 cannot be mailed and must be picked up in Branson. For information call (417) 334-8287.

OH, AND DID YOU KNOW? Performers come from all over the world to work in Branson. Individual theaters handle their own casting calls. While there is no central office for casting, the Branson League of Theatre Owners and Show Producers work together to help each other out.

AND REMEMBER: One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. Andre Gide.

Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at More of her stories may be found at



Tags: branson, hills, shepherd, music, information, sight,

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