they're one heck of a funny family.
This is the very first story I wrote for Tie Dye Travels, on September 10th, 2007. They've come a long way. Check the postscript at the end of this article. ~ Kat
Went to the show the night of Monday, September 10th -- a dark and rainy night, when the clouds hung in the air like thugs outside a movie theater in a seedy neighborhood.
But inside this Branson theater is a good natured family of interesting and talented people who just happen to be related to each other.
After checking in, I went inside to the concession stand, where popcorn is still reasonably priced and you can purchase anything you'd want if you were going to the movies -- and there's fudge. Oh my, there is fudge.
Took my seat and looked around. The theater wasn't packed to the gills, but it was well-populated with people who had come from all over to see the show. The boys came out and sold light-up "swords" to the audience for $5 (a pretty darned good bargain, considering) and the tour groups were clamoring for more.
Before the main show, the group Island Fire came out to perform a couple of numbers. Their show plays each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 2pm at the theater... and I bet it's grand.
The group performed a lively Samoan dance number, complete with sarongs. Then one of the guys showed off with a fire dance. Incredible. Somehow or another I am going to have to make some type of time to go see them this week.
After that... all craziness happened. The audience was forced to endure a round of video clips from Dutton fans who would rather be in Branson, watching the show. I say forced, but it was more like suggested... and everyone watched. I may have injured myself laughing at some of the pieces.
There are definite family resemblances among the cast members -- heck, that makes sense, since they're all family! And when they all started to jam, it was something else. Not too far into the lengthy set, the Duttons did a tribute to Box Car Willie, who once performed at the theater. A good tribute, too -- too many people have cheesed up his memory, but he was a great performer and deserves to be remebered with respect.
The moment I was won over came a short time later, when the guys formed a trio, headed out into the audience, and sang "Good Enough For Now" to the ladies. I have never heard the song performed live before -- because Weird Al Yankovic hadn't released it when he was last on tour. After the show I was informed that yeah, most folks didn't know who it was from, but it sure was a crowd pleaser.
The kids (Dean and Sheila Dutton's grandkids) started popping up through the show on such numbers as "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Jailhouse Rock," with 10 year old Jessica rockin' out and three of the younger kids jamming on imaginary instruments with her.
Along the way, you learn more about the Duttons... the fact that Dean and Sheila were told they wouldn't be able to have kids (Sheila told the audience "I guess we had the last laugh!" and "I was afraid to stop!"), that they have seven of their own blood and seven they've made their own -- teenagers adopted from other countries to become part of the broad Dutton family. You learn that there are now 18 Dutton grandkids (number 19 is coming soon, if Abigail's "swell" contribution is to be believed -- and from what I overheard her saying after the show, that would be correct). You learn that each of the kids started to play the violin at five (Ben jokes that the kids didn't have to play before school -- they didn't have to eat, either), and that Sheila took her first music lesson at 37 so she could learn to play the bass -- and become an integral member of the family band.
But what you also learn is something that's not said or written down everywhere. This is a family that truly enjoys being together -- working together, living together, traveling together. And that's something very unique and special. In a world where small families even have difficulties staying together -- to see such a large and extended family that works, stays, and plays together is really something.
That alone is worth a story.
But the bigger story is just how original and funny this show can be. There's a good reason the Duttons made it to the finals in America's Got Talent -- these folks are good. They have an inherant talent that can't be ignored. Every one of the second generation of Duttons is a world class musician -- and when you bring it all together -- bam! -- it's something else.
Which brings me to the other part. Close to the end of the show, there was a power failure or something. Something took out the audio and a good portion of the lights. At first, I figured this was planned -- because the show just kept humming along. It was storytelling time, and we were all entranced, wondering what the next thing was going to be. And finally, the last song happened -- a great number where all the brothers and sisters switched instruments several times, and at the end most of the grandkids came out and played all together on their tiny violins.
From what I understand, the outage wasn't planned -- but it was okay anyway. Like a strong house, this family can weather any storm. And they do it with grace and peace and a happy contenance. I felt like I'd been sitting in their living room on an old plush rug, watching the kids pull out their violins and gather around the piano.
If you get a chance, go by and see The Duttons -- they perform April through December in Branson -- usually Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday -- and sometimes Tuesday but never on Sundays. Shows are at 8pm when they perform, and sometimes they'll do 2pm shows, too.
And if you want to hear what the family sounds like, check out their MySpace page, too.
POSTSCRIPT: Ten years after writing this, I've gone back to see how my style has changed, and how the stories themselves have evolved. I'm thrilled to say that The Duttons have done very, very well in those years in-between. It may be time for me to make my way to Branson to see them again - after all, those kids are grown up now!
Check up on The Duttons at their website.