Famous Impressions, one of Branson’s newest shows, is hosting its inaugural Christmas Food and Toy Drive this week at the Hughes Brothers Theatre to benefit two local non profits.
Famous Impressions General Manager and Emcee Mark Sander said the food and toy drive will take place during their shows on Dec. 10 and 12.
“We teamed up with a couple of charity organizations in Branson. It’s always been one of our goals to give back to the community. So we teamed up with The Salvation Army (in Branson) and Christian Action Ministries,” said Sander. “So for those two shows, instead of taking monetary admission, we’re going to take non-perishable food items and/or an unwrapped toy and then we’re going to distribute that to The Salvation Army and Christian Action Ministries.”
The inspiration to host this drive and offer admission into the shows in exchange for food and/or toys donations came from the desire of the Famous Impressions team to do more for the Branson community, according to Famous Impressions Performer Doug Stiel.
“It’s just been something on our radar. I’ve got to tell you. We feel more like a ministry than anything. We really do feel like a ministry and a lot of people kind of see us as that,” said Stiel. “I think it just goes hand-in-hand with caring about people, trying to cheer them up either with comedy or music, but this way we can also cheer up families with food in a tough time and with some toys when their budgets are hurting, especially because of this COVID stuff.”
Famous Impressions began their Branson journey in mid-August of this year when they held a one night only showcase at the Hughes Brothers Theatre to gauge if their performance was a good fit for Branson. After performing in Las Vegas and all over the country for more than 20 years the voices behind Famous Impressions, Stiel and Cindy Bea, fell in love with Branson during a previous visit. After that visit, Stiel, Bea and Sander came together knowing that they not only wanted to come perform in Branson, but also make it their new home.
Following the success and positive reviews of their showcase, Famous Impressions announced at the beginning of October that they would be performing regular weekly shows throughout the rest of the 2020 show season in Branson.
Since their regular show schedule on Oct. 8 began, Stiel said that audiences have continued to react positively to both the show and the Famous Impressions team, even outside of the theatre.
“They’ve been wonderful. They’ve been cool. They’re not as big as they would be without COVID, but the response has just been super cool,” Stiel said. “Now when we’re out in the community, people will say, ‘Hey, I saw your show’ and it’s really cool. The other night Cindy went to Noah (at Sight and Sound Theatre) and people walked up to her and said, ‘We saw your show earlier today.’ It’s been fun and we just love what we do and I think people can tell when we’re on stage we love what we do.”
For the show, Stiel provides many of the impressions, which range from Elvis and John Wayne to Johnny Cash and Jack Nicholson to Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. While Stiel brings the impressions to the stage, Bea brings out the showstoppers with songs matching the talents and performances of icons such as Crystal Gale and Karen Carpenter.
While they have included some seasonal elements into their shows since the Branson Christmas season begun in Nov., Stiel said for the toy and food drive shows, they would be upping their Christmas material.
“We’re going to sing some “Blue Christmas,” we’re going to talk about Christmas and we’re going to talk about the joy of Christmas. We’re going to sprinkle in some Christmas music and then have the best Santa in this part of the world,” Stiel said as he switched to a Donald Trump voice, “Okay, it will be the best Santa in the universe.”
Sander added that for these shows they really wanted to be able to give thanks to the Branson community, while also being able to give a little Christmas spirit at the same time.
“Totally focused on giving back,” said Sander. “This is our way of giving back to Branson, because we really like this place and want to stick around.”
While families have always been invited to attend the Famous Impressions show, Stiel said he especially wants parents to bring their kids to see the shows on Dec. 10 and 12.
“We want to also get some kids in there. I think our humor works with children too,” said Stiel. “We want families and kids to come out and we just want to help put Christ back in Christmas.”
The Thursday Dec. 10 show is at 2 p.m. and the Saturday, Dec. 12 show is at 10 a.m. For other specific show times and dates, as well as ticket information call the Hughes Brothers Theatre at 417-334-0076 or visit famousimpressions.com.