Journey Branson

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There’s a little theatre here in town that isn’t that big. It doesn’t have balconies or a fancy lobby, but the sound that comes from this charming venue is some of the best you’ll hear in Branson. I had the opportunity to go see Journey Branson and I’m so glad I did. As soon as the band took the stage, and the first rock-n-roll beats filled the house, I found that little piece of my heart that had been missing. My love of head banging, hip swinging, bass-thumping music.

Jon Sousan is the mastermind that brings something different to Branson with his vision to take a store front and turn it into a little rock-n-roll tribute theatre. In addition to the Journey tribute, Jon also offers tribute shows to the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Creedence Clearwater Revival. After listening to the guys do an amazing job with the Journey songs, I know I will be back for the rest of the shows. Jon Sousan is not only the driving force behind bringing classic rock to Branson, he also produces the shows, manages the theatre and either sings vocals or plays in each of these great shows.

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Bucky Heard is the front man for the Journey tribute concert. I call it a concert rather than a show because that’s how Bucky referred to what they do. It’s a rock concert. And, it was the best rock concert I’ve ever attended. Yeah, I know that’s saying something, cause I’ve seen some of the best, but the difference is the intimate setting and the amazing talent that is on that little stage. While I loved Journey, I was never a big fan of Steve Perry. After hearing and seeing Bucky perform these memorable tunes, I decided that this local Branson musician should have been given the lead in the real Journey band.

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Bucky belted out all the famous songs with heart and soul that Steve Perry could only pretend to have. Bucky shared a piece of himself with every note he sang. I loved him in this show and was so impressed by his strong vocal ability that it made me want to hear him sing Carmen. While Journey is nothing like opera, I believe that the guy headlining this show could do some Pavarotti covers with as much style as he did the Journey songs. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s such a likable guy. Whether he’s on stage or talking a mile a minute to one of his fans at intermission, you just can’t help but to like this affable man.

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Joining Bucky on stage is one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard. Tony Bones Irasson plays lead guitar and is quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard in this genre. He’s uber talented, feels the music and owns the guitar licks he puts down. He’s also one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve ever met. I spoke with him during intermission and had to pry some facts from him concerning his background. He embarrassingly told me, “I just play the guitar.” Yep, it might be rock-n-roll, but this guy has the heart of a hillbilly for sure. There’s a reason guys like him come to Branson.

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Doug Clifford is the guy driving the beat on drums. I’ve always thought that drummers have to be the hardest working part of any band, considering the energy it takes to make the rhythm happen. Doug certainly gave it his all and did it in perfect sync with Bryan Lawson.

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Now, let me say one thing, when you think bass player for a hard-hitting rock band, a certain image comes to mind. Well, that image is really Bryan Lawson as he is the epitome of talent, long-hair, stage presence and looks. He looks like he eats and breathes Led Zepplin and Whitesnake tunes and has absorbed a little of Cliff Williams from the AC/DC band. He and lead singer, Bucky, are fun to watch on stage and you can tell that they have a real friendship off the stage.

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One last guy I have to talk about. Richard Kittleman, also known as The Maestro, is the keyboardist for this tribute show. Once again, Jon Sousan made a perfect choice when putting this act together, he chose this local, but legendary, musician. When not playing at the Branson Tribute Theatre, Richard plays in a number of local bands and also plays for the great Roy Clark. No wonder this show is that good.

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Branson is known for it’s hillbilly humor, back-woods humility and of course, country music. But there’s a little corner in town that offers up the most unique entertainment in Branson. You need to catch a couple of shows here and relive your high-school days with some old rock-n-roll. The shows are intimate enough to make you feel like you’re listening to your best friend’s “garage” band, but so high quality, that you find yourself thinking that you’ve traveled back in time and finally won that back-stage pass from the local radio station.

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As I was leaving the show that day, I was reminded of a farmer’s market that my mom used to go to early on Saturday mornings. We would get to the home-made stands and my mom would buy tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. There were any number of fruits and vegetables and being a kid, those kind of things didn’t really excite me. However, always up by the cash register were the real goodies. Not fruits or veggies, but cakes and pies and homemade apple butter. That was my favorite part of the whole day and even my mom couldn’t resist picking up something delicious to have as a treat after all those healthy foods.

Well, Branson is the farmer’s market and it’s one of the best in the world. We offer top quality produce that is organic and tasty. You can go to a country show, The Titanic Exhibit or one of the excellent magic shows that we have in town. You can taste country, and gospel and funny. All the fare in this town is blue ribbon awarded and the bounty is beyond belief. But, it’s heavenly to find something sweet, something a little decadent at the end of the shopping trip. This Journey tribute band and the guys in it were like finally getting to the cash register and finding the goodies. In my mind, they were the cupcakes.

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The Hits Starring Collin Raye

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There is a theatre here in Branson that is legendary. On May 1,1992, Andy Williams opened his own theatre and named it appropriately, Moon River. I had a chance to go see an incredible show there and I was not disappointed in either the building or the entertainment.

The Hits Starring Collin Raye is a show that includes some of the fifteen number one hits that Collin Raye has written, produced and recorded, but also includes some of his favorite songs that of course, were a lot of my favorite songs. I have to be honest and admit that I wasn’t quite sure who Collin Raye was. Yes, I had heard the name and I knew he was a country star, but I couldn’t have named a song he did before I saw this outstanding show. Now, he has gained a fan for life and the only regret I have is for not discovering him earlier than I did. He’s that good.

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Collin started the show with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and I knew that I had to immediately throw all my preconceived notions out the nearest exit. He had me from that first song. I also have to mention that his band was maybe one of the tightest, hard-hitting bands I have heard. It was also great to hear the audience singing along on so many of the songs including Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock.”

Collin Raye has a beautiful voice with rich, high tones and he was pretty much pitch perfect throughout the night. When he did his own hit, “Love, Me” the tears started flowing and the only time they really stopped was when Chipper Lowell provided some magic and comedy. If you have never heard, “Love, Me,” please do yourself a huge favor and go take a listen. If you don’t at least tear up, then I don’t see how we can be friends. It’s a beautiful love song that will pull at your heart strings in the best of ways.

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There’s also a segment of the show that Collin pays tribute to Glen Campbell. There’s a short clip on the big screens in the theatre of Collin Raye presenting the Pioneer Award to Glen Campbell when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Collin explains that it was one of the greatest moments of his life and you could feel his sincerity. He then sang, “Gentle On My Mind.” For those of you that aren’t familiar with this song or are too young to remember it, it’s another one that you absolutely need to go listen to. The song brings forth poignant memories for me as it’s one I can remember my dad singing. The guitar intro on this song has to be one of the most recognizable ever and by the time Collin had finished the two song tribute, I was close to sobbing. Collin pointed out that they don’t write songs like this anymore, and I absolutely concur.

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As much as I like the good tears and the emotions this wonderful show brought out in me, I was thankful and relieved when funny-man, Chipper Lowell took the stage to entertain us for a few minutes. I had never seen Chipper live before, though by chance, I had caught him on Masters of Illusion just a few nights before the concert. My first thought within a minute of his routine was that he’s Carrot Top without the bright orange hair and a lot less frenetic. Honestly, I liked him much better than Carrot Top and actually found myself laughing at his interaction with members of the audience. He does funny magic and a juggling bit and works out of a large trunk that holds all his gags and props. Chipper Lowell provides the perfect interlude with just the right amount of levity. It was also fun texting back and forth with Chipper during the intermission and of course, this is Branson, so these great entertainers are really that accessible. Yep, so accessible and friendly that I’m sure I almost made Chipper miss his cue to start the second half while I was busy blaming my stupid smart phone for spelling a name wrong three times!

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Collin Raye returned to the stage after Chipper’s opening act and wowed me once again. Another person that really stood out was Shaunna Larkin who plays fiddle and mandolin as well as singing back-up vocals for the country crooner. This young lady was outstanding on the fiddle and I loved when her and Collin launched into “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” which is a classic Charlie Daniel’s song. Ms. Larkin absolutely made that fiddle sing. I really have to give kudos to the entire band and tell you that they are one of the hottest sounds around. Really tight and clean and simply kickin’ it!

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This phenomenal show had old favorites, new favorites and I loved all of it. However, one of the most emotional moments came at the very end of the night when Collin Raye surprised me once again and did a song by of all bands, New Direction. He did a cover of their “Story Of My Life” that he sung so well and with such heart that I could believe he had actually written the song. This man is a top-notch, professional performer while managing to maintain his selfless humanity. I did get to meet him, Chipper Lowell and Ross Thomas after the show and I understand why they fit in so well in Branson. They’re exemplary guys that went out of their way to meet with their fans, sign autographs and take a couple hundred pictures. This is one thing that makes Branson so unique and so soul-inspiring. The people like Collin Raye and Chipper Lowell that do their jobs so well that it really stops being a job and simply becomes something magical.

The Hits Starring Collin Raye is only in Branson for a limited engagement and I can’t encourage you enough to go see this quality family show. You’ll not only be entertained for a couple of hours but you will walk away feeling better than when you went in.

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Baldknobbers Jamboree

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A few weeks ago I found out that one of my favorite shows in Branson would soon be adding a new female voice to their cast. I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that Tammy Beebe was the performer they had brought onboard. I had a chance to see this wonderful, family show a few months ago, but couldn’t wait to see the new production with an added female singer. I had the opportunity to attend their wildly entertaining show last night and I was not disappointed.

The Baldknobbers Jamboree has a variety of songs including a patriotic medley, gospel and current country hits. Between the songs, there’s old-style comedy featuring Hargus Marcel and Droopy Drawers, Jr. These lovable, bumbling sidekicks are played by Jerl Adams and Tim Mabe. The interaction between the two of them combined with their silly antics had people laughing out loud and you couldn’t help but to love the skits. Brandon Mabe plays the straight guy and does a great job being the only “normal” one on stage. It’s Ozarks comedy at it’s best and it also dates back to the beginning of this family show way back in 1959. This funny comedic team only get better with time.

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The Baldknobbers show has a great band that includes, Johnny Dumplin’ Cox, Mike Ito, Nathan Agdeppa, Jerry Adams, Jonathan Black, Pete Generous and Brent Mabe on bass and band director. Between the great songs, goofy comedy and emotional numbers, there’s a constant beat that runs through the show. It’s the sound of big-hearted, loving people that put themselves and their talent out there six nights a week.

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I know that I’m not supposed to have a favorite, but I do. As soon as the curtain rose and I heard Brandon Mabe with his sweet, southern drawl, I liked him best. He’s handsome and charming, but when he sings a pretty song, the women in the audience all swoon at least a little. There’s also a crinkling at his eyes that make you know his smile comes from the heart. Brandon is just plain likable and the perfect front man for his family show. He also puts up with the antics from Hargus and Droopy in a comically stoic way that lends credibility to the comedy routines.

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And, then, Patty Mabe sings a song with such attitude and sass that I quickly have a new favorite. This talented woman sings with a growl in her voice and a swagger to her step. When Patty belts out a song or sings the harmony lines, she believes every word she’s singing and she convinces everyone who hears her that they need to listen to what she has to say. She’s one classy lady who I’ve come to admire and respect as much as anyone I’ve ever known. So, Patty was the definite favorite of the night.

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I know I’m always slightly skewed in favor of the girls, because I love the pretty dresses and glittery outfits, so it’s no wonder that my mind was swayed to another absolute favorite in the form of Megan McCombs. No matter how many times I see this young woman both on and off the stage, I am stopped dead in my tracks by her beauty. She’s stunning, demure and petite, but has a voice that reaches the heavens. When she stepped out in the gorgeous lavender dress and began her sweet,sweet song, there was absolute silence in the theatre except for the girl on stage.  Megan makes you feel every note as if you were living it, so of course, there were tears from me. She’s riveting in her performances and is a true professional with every note she sings and every gesture she makes. How could she not be my favorite?

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Yeah, but then there’s the Dreamy Cowboy. For those of you that read my first review of this phenomenal show, you’ll know that’s the nickname that I gave to Denton Mabe. This young man has only to sing in his quiet country voice and look at you with his soulful eyes for the vote to quickly turn to Denton in the favorites category. He’s quiet and dignified and gives a near perfect performance in this show. Deton has small-town manners and world-class charisma. So, he was definitely my favorite.

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And, then, there was Tammy Beebe. I’ve written an earlier article on Tammy and I’m sure I will repeat much of what has already been said, but, I really can’t rave enough about this woman. First and foremost, she has one the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. She literally wears it on her sleeve and is a fine example of humanity at it’s finest. Get beyond her caring and generous nature and you find a woman that is genuinely happy with who she is. And, she should be. She’s over the top talented with a voice range to rival any pop-star. Add to that, she’s classically beautiful with a face that Michelangelo would have wanted to paint. Ms. Beebe is the total package and yet has a graciousness about her that welcomes you to her world. Have to say that Tammy was my favorite.

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It all started more than half a century ago when four brothers and a friend decided to entertain folks with music and laughter. The Mabe family has carried on their tradition in the best way possible; with love for each other and for the people that come to their shows each night. At intermission, they all come out and greet their fans. They sit on the edge of the stage and sign autographs. They get hugs and handshakes and they pose for pictures with the grand-kids. But, what they really do is bring a couple hours of fun, love and laughter into our lives. At the end of the night I finally did decide on a favorite and it’s called the Baldknobbers Jamboree.

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Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers

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A big thanks to my best friend for procuring center-stage seats for one of the best shows in Las Vegas. This is the same man that took me to my first Broadway production more than two years ago and because of that introduction, I have fallen in love with this genre of art. Broadway shows tell a story through music and you get the best of both worlds. You get to see a marvelously acted story and you get to hear a grand musical concert.

Steve Wynn and the creators of ShowStoppers brings its audience to the absolute pinnacle of musical performance with a cast of sixty-six singers, dancers and musicians. The orchestra is led by Conductor Dave Loeb who does a legendary job in directing the music for each of the numbers. The curtain rises after a short audio introduction by Steve Wynn explaining what we’re about to see and experience. He tells us that a “showstopper” is a musical number that is so outstanding and so over the top that it literally stops the show. Sometimes, it will be a piece from the beginning of a show and sometimes, it can be at the end. Mr. Wynn decided that we needed a show where every song is the showstopper. I couldn’t have imagined what then took place for the next ninety minutes.

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There were more than twenty hit songs from classic Broadway, including personal favorites like, “Together (Wherever We Go),” “Cabaret” “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “One.” These sensational showstoppers were garnered from such greats as, “Mame”  “Annie Get Your Gun”  “A Chorus Line” and many more. There were six vocalists featured in the show and while they were all uber talented, I have to say I had my favorites. The three male leads are, Randal Keith, David Burnham and Andrew Ragone. These guys are all so versatile and are experienced actors and singers with impressive credits ranging from top Broadway shows to movies and television that we would all know.

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The guys were great, but, the three lead female performers were the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe because as a little girl, I was entranced by opera performers or the pictures my mom used to bring home from the Reno showrooms. There’s something old-world style about glamourous dresses and trendy coiffures. The first woman to blow me away was, Kerry O’Malley. What a classically beautiful performer with a voice more powerful and authentic than any I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing live. She’s mesmerizing in all of her stand-out performances and I swear by the end of the night that I had a little crush on this amazing lady. When she sings, she commands you to pay attention and to feel. Feel each note as she wrings it from her soul for the benefit of the hundreds of people that show up for this show each week at The Wynn Las Vegas.

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Kerry O’Malley could star in this show and it would be good, but add in the other two female singers, Nicole Kaplan and Lindsay Roginski, and you have the epitome of Broadway and you have a compilation of true “Showstoppers.” Nicole gives a genuinely cute performance in many of the songs including an interaction with a lucky audience member when she does, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent.” She’s as gorgeous as any Vegas showgirl, but has an obvious sense of humor and comedic talent up on stage. I loved her air of innocence and approachability with every song she sang.

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Lindsay Roginski was the stand-out performer of the night for me. With this sensational show and cast, that’s saying a lot. There wasn’t one member of the ensemble that were not stars in their own right and it’s really unbelievable the amount of talent that Steve Wynn found for this incredible production. However, there was one strikingly beautiful performer that instantly drew out the heart in me and that lady was, Lindsay. It’s hard to name just one thing about this performer as there’s so much to draw from. She has a great voice, she’s more gorgeous than a Victoria’s Secret model, she’s tall and willowy, she makes you think of the girl next door or the famous pin-up posters from an earlier generation. She’s all those things and yet, there’s something more. Something that brings to mind the golden age of Hollywood, the glitz and glamour that used to be old Las Vegas. I could easily imagine Ms. Roginski draped on the arm of Frank Sinatra or a young Howard Hughes. She has something; a ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality. She has IT. That something special, that something destined to make her a star.

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Showstoppers has incredible sets and colorful costumes and part of the fun was getting to be dazzled again and again when the curtain would rise to some spectacular scene or a stage full of sequined performers. It’s hard to say that I had favorite numbers as they were all so brilliantly performed. But, if I’m hard pressed, I loved the numbers from “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” probably because I knew the shows and really knew the songs.

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One of the most poignant moments of the night came in the form of a duet between Randal Keith and Kerry O’Malley. It was the song, “Anything You Can Do” and though there were many other numbers more flashy and complicated, there was none that touched me as a human more. The two of them not only sang the song creatively and brilliantly, but put enough of their own personalities into it, to make it relatable and funny. There’s a part of the song that Randal sang in such a way as to actually make his co-star laugh for real. Not acting, not pretending, but really having fun on stage. When performers can make you feel like that, there’s a magic that is unattainable in any other venue.

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Millions of people visit Las Vegas every year. Some go for the gambling, some go for the shows and some go to do things that can only be mentioned when in Las Vegas. The next time you find yourself in the desert of southern Nevada and are looking to have a “real” experience, you have to make your way over to the high-end, luxurious complex known as Wynn Las Vegas. Then you have to shell out a few bucks (okay, more than a few, but you get what you pay for.) and go see this perfectly suited to Las Vegas show. It’s a taste of yesteryear and some of our favorite Broadway shows. Bring the kids if you can afford it. While it’s not geared for a younger audience, this production keeps it fairly clean and there’s nothing like exposing a younger generation to art and culture that is on this level.

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers could just possibly be the best Broadway show out there, even if the Las Vegas strip is a long way from New York. This show will leave a mark on your heart. For me, it was one of those special, magical nights that makes me so thankful to be living my life. Another perfect night of friendship, Broadway and songs that I’m still humming three days later.

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The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil

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Just as I knew that it would, this vacation has flown by and it’s almost time to leave. I’ve had a wonderfully magical time and though there have been many, many spectacular experiences, there’s one that stands out above all the rest. Last night, the bestie took me to The Mirage to see The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil. I’ve been to many shows, many plays and many musicals, but there’s nothing out there that can compare to what I witnessed and felt last night.

Within minutes of finding our seats, the show started and the magic began. The Beatles are the epitome of generational and revolutionary music that represents the turmoil and peace in the lives of millions of baby-boomers. I am right at the end of that generation and am so grateful that I grew up listening to these classic songs written by a bunch of guys from Liverpool, England. The Beatles songs are the ones we all know the words to and I can hear one of their tunes on the radio and break out in tears. Their songs always touch me and it’s always been a dream to see Paul McCartney in concert. By the time I was old enough to go to a live venue of The Beatles, the band had already broken up. Then, John Lennon was murdered and a reunion concert was made impossible by one heartless, lone gunman.

So, their music has always touched that emotionally charged place in me and I knew this Cirque du Soleil show would astound my senses, but I really had no idea what an impact it would have on me. It’s one of those shows that quite literally changed who I am inside. I’m better for having seen it and felt it. Kudos to The Mirage and the creative team that brings this show to life several times a week in Las Vegas. If you ever come to Vegas, make sure that you set aside some time to see something that everyone in my generation should see. Actually, it’s a show every generation should see, for it highlights and emphasizes the most important thing in life; love. Hence the name.

The arrangement of the songs were overseen and approved by both Ringo and Paul and they’re arrangements that you’ve never heard before unless you’ve purchased the soundtrack to Love which was released in 2006. The show contains elements from 130 individual commercially released and demo recordings of The Beatles. For example: the track from Get Back uses the opening guitar from A Hard Days Night, drum and guitar solos from The End, percussion from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and the orchestral swell from A Day in the Life. Standout songs of the night were, While my Guitar Gently Weeps, The Walrus and of course, Hey Jude and All You Need is Love.

There were tears for many of the songs including a lovely performance by an obviously pregnant performer on Lady Madonna. Her cast mate (possibly her husband) bends down at the very end before the lights go out and gently kisses her belly. I just about lost it. Another favorite for me was a combo production of Blackbird and Yesterday that left me sobbing. The cast also did a great job on Revolution and Back in the USSR with a complicated series of trampoline acts that utilized netting and English phone booths.

It was a Cirque du Soleil show so that means it included high flying acrobatics, interpretive dance and athletic feats that wowed the imagination and ignited my soul. It was beautiful, mesmerizing and an perfect example of what happens when humanity and art come together in a perfect culmination of artistry and love.

I left the theatre last night feeling like my soul had been set on fire and a love for music and life that was bigger than when I walked in. I wanted to tell everyone I saw that they had to see this show. I wanted to share with the world how enriched I felt after two hours of sitting in that theatre. The show, the performers and the music made me want to celebrate life and made me so thankful, that should my life end tomorrow, it was all worth it.

If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, go see this show. Forget the bright lights and fancy casinos. Forget the neon and the sound of chips as they are shuffled on the poker tables. Go see Love and your life will forever be changed.

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Jenny’s Canyon……Snow Canyon, St. George, Utah

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Two hours north of Las Vegas is a desert town by the name of St. George, Utah. I had the pleasure of traveling up that way to spend the day with one of my favorite people in the whole wide world who also happens to be my writing sister and friend, Tanya Lily-Reid.

There is a place only minutes from her house that I have been wanting to visit for over a year. It’s called Snow Canyon and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen something so majestic and magical. Inside that canyon is a slot canyon that is named after a young girl that fell from one of the high cliffs to her death in 1994. It’s called Jenny’s Canyon and if you ever find yourself in southern Utah, you have to pull off the Interstate and take the short drive. You will not be disappointed.

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The reason I’ve been wanting to see it actually starts about 2 1/2 years ago when Tanya was driving down Snow Canyon Parkway. The road sits above the canyon and it’s a road that my friend has traveled many times. Tanya is a writer and for those of you that know me well, you know writers have huge imaginations and something that sometimes borders on supernatural, when it comes to storylines and characters for our books. On this particular day, Tanya connected with a soul named Jenny who spoke to her the way our imaginary friends often do. They tell us their names and the story they want told. I know this sounds strange, but this is how, as writers, we do what we do.

Tanya connected with Jenny and from that point on, Jenny has always been in Tanya’s head, whispering details about her life. Fast forward more than a year and once again, my friend found herself on the Parkway just above Snow Canyon. She decides that day to make the left turn that will take her down into the canyon proper and drove the dusty dirt road that offers spectacular views of red rock bluffs and beautiful desert sage brush. She drives to the ranger station and picks up a map and is astonished to find a slot canyon labeled, Jenny’s Canyon. She realizes instantly  that the Jenny that has been speaking to her for a couple of years and the Jenny that the canyon is named for, are one and the same. Yeah, I know how that sounds, but there’s some things in life that can’t be explained and for those of us that tell the stories, it’s a magical connection.

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She pulls off the road at the marker for the canyon named after a young teenage girl and begins the short hike back to the canyon. She is alone and at this point, very emotional. You can only imagine what it must feel like to have someone in your head that you were quite sure didn’t really exist in real life and then to feel her very real presence in the middle of the desert. There’s times like this that we, as writers, question our sanity and Tanya was no different. The emotions were so overwhelming that Tanya never actually made it back to the slot canyon and returned to her truck, crying and shaken.

She videotaped her experience sitting in her vehicle that afternoon and I’ll never forget when I saw her raw, unedited footage of her discovery. When I watched the short five minute video, I could hear the shakiness in Tanya’s voice and I could feel her bare emotion. How was this even possible? Many of you who don’t understand how storytellers think, will probably scoff and be a skeptic, but not me. I knew without a doubt that what my writing sister experienced was real. I got goosebumps and watched the video another two or three times. I knew right then, that someday I would go to Jenny’s Canyon and see it for myself.

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When planning this trip, I knew I had to take a day and travel up to Utah to see not just my soul sister, but to see Snow Canyon and to see where this mystical event occurred. So, yesterday, I found myself in Tanya’s car and when she pulled into the larger canyon, I was blown away with how beautiful it is. She traveled that same dusty road down to the ranger station where she picked up the map that day and turned her car around to start back down to the marker. As she made the u-turn, my eyes filled with tears and by the time we made the 1/2 mile trip to the marker, the tears were flowing freely down my face. I could feel something out of this world reaching out to me. It was Jenny. She was speaking to me as she spoke to Tanya and again, I know how strange that sounds, but I swear it to be the truth.

We pulled off the side of the road and got out of the car. With every step towards the sand-stone cliffs, I could hear the sweet voice of a young girl. I could hear her laughter, I could feel her love of life and I could feel her sadness. My feet sank deep into the hot desert sand and my eyes took in the beauty that is the canyon. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and I struggled to keep my emotions in check and to keep my heart steady. We stepped off the path long enough to let a family go by and to discuss where exactly we were hiking to. The day that Tanya discovered that Jenny was real, she was too emotional to make it all the way back to the cool and shaded slot canyon where Jenny died. But, today, we had each other for support and hiked the short distance that brought us to her marker and to the beautiful canyon.

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We had to climb a few rocks and then around the corner, the canyon came into view and I was awestruck. The walls of two towering cliffs rise straight up from the desert floor and between the red colored rocks is a shaded, quiet area that makes you feel like you’ve left planet earth. As we entered the deep canyon, we found a memorial to “our” Jenny.

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More than twenty years ago, a young, vivacious, adventurous girl loved coming to Snow Canyon. She never left. With every step, I felt her spirit and as we journeyed deeper into the canyon, the silence was deafening and the air was still. I have a feeling that before Jenny, this place was sacred, but since Jenny,  this place is reverential. I could feel Jenny, but I could also feel souls from before her and as hard as it might be to believe, I could feel God in this place. This little space between the towering cliffs and boulders is like no other place I’ve ever felt. It’s special, entrancing and spellbinding. The veil between this world and the next is very thin and transparent and I could almost believe that with a blink of my eye, I really could see beyond this world into the world where Jenny now resides.

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The quiet of the canyon is undisturbed and the beauty of it is unequalled. I reached out to touch the stone walls and I felt a slight vibration that made me think of paranormal phenomenon and worlds that we normally can’t see or feel. To say that it was a spiritual experience for me is an understatement. I will never forget my hour spent at Jenny’s Canyon in southern Utah. End of story, right? Wrong.

Both Tanya and I snapped a few hundred pictures. Her with a 35mm professional camera and me with my smart phone. We wandered the small enclosed canyon snapping away and never once did we stand next to each other and purposely capture the same image. But something stranger than this story happened later in the day when I was on my way back to Las Vegas. Tanya sends me a picture on my phone which I only glance at quickly as I’m driving down the Interstate at 75 miles per hour. When I looked at the picture, my arms quickly dimpled with goosebumps and I threw the phone down on the passenger seat as if I had just been burned. Only one small glance, but I know what I saw. Take a look at these two pictures side by side and keep in mind that one was taken by Tanya and the other was taken by me. Minutes apart. I had no idea she had snapped the first picture that you see and it wasn’t until I got back to Lee’s house that I looked at the photos on my phone. I took the same picture.

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Look closely at the two pictures and you will see some things that shouldn’t be there. I see Jenny two times in each picture. And, in each picture she is different. You can tell me that it’s just rocks and stones and the way the sunlight filters into the canyon. I could almost buy that explanation and simply call it matrixing, but ummm…..stones can’t move. Spirits can.

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If I live to be one hundred, I will never forget my time spent with my friend, Tanya and my spirit friend, Jenny. I will never forget the feeling of the hot sand between my toes and the voice of God in my heart. There’s not many days in our short lives that are this significant, this special and this glorious. My heart is full today and the tears have run down my face even as I wrote this piece. For me, there will never be another place as sacred and important as Jenny’s Canyon. I’m blessed, grateful and touched to have experienced Jenny’s soul and spirit. Validation of life in the biggest way possible.