By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
JOPLIN, Mo. —
I had a captive audience of Branson entertainers last Saturday morning. I was backstage during the Ozarks Mountain Christmas show at MSSU's Corley Auditorium. The star-studded event raised funds for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States and Joplin's Ronald McDonald House.
With almost a dozen of Branson's best assembled for the live show, I decided to touch base and check in on their Christmas show plans to see what they wanted for Christmas.
Did you miss the sold out show? Don't fret. The live show was recorded for TV and Internet radio broadcasts to be aired later this holiday season. Check the Globe for air dates and times.
Jason Robinson, a former Ozark Christian College staffer who now sings with the quartet New South, was the first entertainer I ambushed and asked what he wanted for Christmas.
"I'm very excited to be expecting our third child in February," Jason said. "This show is about helping children and their families. That's what the Ronald McDonald House is all about. It is special to be a part of this."
Jason and Trey Wilson, a fellow New South singer, penned a song shortly following the Joplin tornado. The pair and their two other singing partners don't hesitate to lend a hand when called upon. "Hold On," their Joplin tribute song, is still available for download on the Internet.
"We were listening to 'Hold On' on the way up from Branson," he said. "It was nice to let David (the group's newest member) hear it. It's a different Joplin than the last time we were here as a group. The progress that Joplin's made is impressive, and we are thrilled to be here."
Trey's Christmas wish list was short but a little complicated.
"I want a baby," the 30-ish veteran entertainer said. "Everybody is having kids, and (Jason) almost has three already. I think he should just give the third one to me, and it will be our little secret. No one will ever know.
"His first two don't even look like him anyways. It's not like anybody would know."
Trey was joking, I think.
"This time of the year everyone always says they want this or that for Christmas," Trey said. "I have family and friends. I cannot think of a single thing I want or need. Just being so blessed and having the opportunities we have personally in our lives and being able to share the this time of year with the ones that you love is just all I need. It's very easy."
David Price, 24, the groups newest singer, had a simple request for Santa: "I just want a week of sleep."
Mark McCauley sings bass and has been with New South since its debut at Grand Country Music Hall more than a decade ago. His wish wasn't complicated, either.
"I want some older (New South) members," said the self-described "old man" of the group said of his younger group members. "I've worn out two or three of them over the years."
Filling out the show
Todd Oliver, most recently acclaimed for his long run on "America's Got Talent," was quick to respond when queried about his Christmas desires.
"I want another talking dog," he said, laughing. "You know, you never can have too many of them. Maybe a talking horse or talking moose. Maybe a mother-in-law that doesn't talk."
Todd was quick to clarify and get more serious.
"The holidays are a great time to be home," he said, having recently come off the road while working with "AGT." "You put a fire in the fireplace and just be home with the family, slow down and count your blessings."
I snagged Bucky Herd, who portrays Jake Blues at Legends in Concert. He brought his "Rock U Mentally" review to Joplin for Ronald McDonald House. The kid-friendly show advocates against bullying and for the safety of kids of all stripes. He said he was excited to be in the show.
He had a simple wish for Christmas: "I want 'Rock U Mentally' on Nickelodeon. Think big or go home, right?"
Bucky's sideline show is dedicated to teaching children about important social and environmental issues.
"The opportunity to perform here is very special to us," the Legends veteran said. "We wouldn't want to be anywhere else today than here in Joplin."
He said the crew at Legends offers a great variety of celebrity impersonators this fall.
"We've got a great Liberace, Whitney Houston, Elvis, George Straight and the Blues Brothers," he said. "Daryl Wagner, who does Liberace, does such a fantastic job."
Matt Gumm, who performs at Clay Cooper's Country Music Express Theatre, said he wanted world peace for Christmas. Maybe he does, but his wish didn't stop there.
"Everybody needs a Snuggie, too." the comedian said. "We just stared our Christmas show with a lot of Christmas music and a little bit of comedy. It's a really a good time. We try to help out as much as possible, too. Everybody wants to share their blessings and talents and abilities for a good cause."
Other than wanting to pay off his Visa card, show host Terry Sanders, (aka the Elfin Clarence Peabody) wants very little for Christmas.
"I'm very content, Terry, a 33-year Silver Dollar City employee said. "They call me 'Branson's business comedian.' I have 10 jobs, and it's exciting."
Then, Terry's tone turned serious.
"My Christmas wish is that everyone has happiness," he said. "No matter what is going on in their lives that they find true peace."
That's a good Christmas wish, I think.