Theatre offersBranson-style entertainment

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Chisai's Roaring River Theater, which is located on Highway 112 between Cassville and Roaring River State Park, offers area residents Branson-style entertainment at a convenient local facility. The theater held its first show on Aug. 2.

"We've brought the best of Branson together," said Chisai Childes, who is leasing the theater facility and owns the variety show production. "These people were looking for a way to promote their shows on the road. We have traveled to Illinois, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Arkansas, and received a tremendous response."

Childes will be joined at the family-operated theater by her husband, Mark Allen, who is an accomplished singer and songwriter. The show will also feature Suzi Weber and house band members Lance Griffin, Cody Titus, Steve Harbour, Jason Turner and Buddy Burr.

"Mark will be performing music by Kenny Chesney and Randy Travis and his original material in each show," said Childes, who will add comedy routines to the performances. "Suzi started on the Country Tonight Show. She is also a singer and songwriter."

Harbour, an Arkansas State Champion musician, performed in Andy Williams' show. He will serve as the house band director and plays the banjo and guitar.

"Buddy Burr will play bass guitar," said Childes. "He is a Branson icon, who has performed on the Ozark Jubilee. He can play every instrument on the band stand."

Cody Titus, who performed in the Branson show 50's at the Hop, will play keyboard. He is known for performing hits from the 1950s and 1960s like "Rock Around the Clock," "Crocodile Rock" and "Great Balls of Fire," said Childes.

"He got two standing ovations last Saturday night," said Childes. "Jason Turner is our drummer. He is from the Road to Rock Show."

Lead guitarist Lance Griffin will round out the five-man band. He has performed in the Pump Boys and the Dinettes show. He will also add original music to the variety show mix.

"The show will be spontaneous," said Childes. "It can change in the wink of an eye. Audience members can ask for requests, and we will try to do them. We will have lots of costume changes. It will be a family friendly show with gospel, patriotic, country and 50s and 60s music."

Childes plans to offer audience comment cards to gather feedback on performances and ideas for future shows.

"I think this area is a wonderful tourist destination," said Childes, who has leased the theater for two years. "It will be nice to have entertainment that is not so far away. I want to be the Baldknobbers of Cassville."

Childes said she envisions three or four shows operating in the Cassville area within the next five years.

"When I came to see the theater the first time, I missed the entrance and drove down to Roaring River," said Childes. "I fell in love with the park immediately. I am an avid fisherman.

"After I visited the theater, I came into town and everybody from the restaurants to the gas station attendants were friendly and exciting," said Childes. "I asked them if they would like to have their own show and what they would like to see."

After committing to lease the facility, Childes gave the theater her own touches. The theater's foyer features a fireplace with a sitting area and an awards display.

"When audience members walk in, they will feel at home," said Childes. "We will meet people in the lobby and find out where they are from and what they want to hear. They will know our family from head to toe, because everyone from our sound to our light people are family.

"We have a lot of audience participation where people can get up and dance and have a good time," said Childes. "When they leave, they will have new friends."

In addition to bringing entertainers from the Branson area to Barry County, Childes will be looking for local entertainers interested in performing at the Roaring River Theater.

"I want to find talent here," said Childes. "We will have talent shows with cash prizes. We will have monthly winners and then a grand prize winner who will be paid to perform in the show."

The Roaring River Theater's two-hour shows will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Adult tickets will be $15 each. Kids under the age of 17 will be admitted for free.

Door prizes, including free tickets to the Passion Play and the Ozark Mountain Hoe Down, both located in Eureka Springs, Ark., and free gas cards will be given away during each performance.

The Roaring River Theater will host a pair of special performances in August and September.

On Aug. 23, the world-famous Platters will visit the theater. Individuals will be required to make reservations for the special show, which will have limited seating. The performance will be followed by a one-hour dance with 1950s music.

Doug Gabriel, a five-time male vocalist of the year, five-time morning show of the year winner and a seven-time entertainer of the year in Branson, will perform at the theater on Sept. 20.

In September, the theater will also begin offering children's movies and games from 2 to 4 p.m. each Sunday.

For information on the Roaring River Theater or to make reservations for a special performance, call Childes at 417-699-4748 or 417-669-1375 or visit the theater.

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