The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Best of Branson

August 17, 2012

Dave Woods: Icons to be featured at Moon River Theatre

BRANSON, Mo. —

I’ve been a lucky guy this year. I’ve made a couple trips out of town and managed to catch a couple of musical icons in concert. Not your average, run-of-the-mill icons, but real killer icons. Classics.

During a recent trip to Reno, Nev., I happened upon a hotel listing announcing that Wanda Jackson, the queen of rock and rockabilly, was performing at an area venue.

That was a no-brainer for me. Could I have told you one song Wanda for which Wanda was famous? No, but I can now. Look her up on your next trip to a digital jukebox.

Jackson was 75 years old when I saw her show.

I didn’t want to take the chance that I wouldn’t get another opportunity to see real rock ’n’ roll royalty perform again. And the third row tickets were only $36 a seat. That’s a score.

Last weekend during a quick trip down to Oklahoma City I was thumbing through a local entertainment guide and did a double take.

Chita Rivera —  that’s right, theater fans, THE Chita Rivera — was performing a one woman show, “My Broadway,” at The OKC Civic Center was part of Lyric Theater’s season.

I opened up my laptop and started searching for seats. I wanted the best ones in the house, but, my last name is Woods and not Rockefeller, so I wasn’t sure what I could afford.

Score: tickets were only $64 each. Not bad to see a legend. I snagged a couple of sets up in the mezzanine and was happy to get them.

Another added bonus: At the civic center you can take cocktails to your seat.

Many people know Rivera for her performance as Velma Kelly, a merry murderess, in the stage version of “Chicago.” At 80, she is a Broadway legend and I got the chance to see her. Scratch that one off the list.

All that to say this: If you are as star-obsessed as me and are looking for a chance to scratch a couple famous names of your own legends bucket list during September and October, you don’t have to drive to Reno, Oklahoma City or Braodway to do it.

Beginning Sept. 10 at Andy Williams Moon River Theatre in Branson, a lineup of icons will celebrate Andy’s 75 years in entertainment.

I’m not talking has-beens or used-to-bes, but real big names in Andy’s class of performers.

Debbie Reynolds will kick off the run of seven great names with her own week on stage. Each of Andy’s friends will perform only one week each.

The former wife of Eddy Fisher was best friends with Liz Taylor and is the mother of Carrie Fisher (hello “Star Wars” fans, it’s Princess Leia’s mom). Reynolds played the Unsinkable Molly Brown in film and dozens of great roles on stage and screen.

Then, Frankie Avalon takes the stage the week following Reynolds. Remember Beach Blanket Bingo? No one kicked up the sand and danced like Frankie and Annette Funicello. Avalon stared in some of the best beach movies ever made and appeared on all of the great comedy variety shows of the ’60s and ’70s.

Jack Jones, a double Grammy winner, will fill out the third week. Some folks my age wrinkle their brows when I say how excited I am to see Jones perform.

In his middle 70s, Jones still packs theaters and smaller venues and serves up songs from many of the great crooners. His best knows hit, “Wives and Lovers,” is one of my favorite songs of all times. Jones also made famous the title song to “The Love Boat.” He’s a class act.

The Osmonds will be there for a week and Debby Boone and dad Pat will fill a couple of weeks, too.

Country fans, stand by. Clint Black will bring his great voice and songwriting skills to the theater.

I saw Black preform more than 20 years ago at a state fair in Washington. He’s a great showman, and back then, he was relatively unknown.

Now, the singer is a country icon and I can’t wait to catch his show.

He’s sold more than 20 million albums and written more than 100 hits in his career. He’s got it going on and adds some country appeal to the iconic lineup.

For those looking to laugh a little, Ray Stevens is returning to Branson. The longtime Branson staple will spend a week at the theater offering his signature brand of comedy and music. From “The Streak” to his songs filled with social commentary and political themes, his run is one I will try to catch.

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