While many Branson shows are taking some time off in the coming weeks, one show is offering guests an amazing time year round.
The Amazing Pets Show at Grand County Country Music Hall is providing winter visitors the chance to catch their show every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. for the next couple of months.
Just as the title of the show suggests, audiences in attendance will be treated to some amazing pets, including dogs, cats and even a couple of colorful birds. While any child watching the show will probably tell you afterward that the pets are the stars of the show, none of it would be possible without world-renowned animal trainer Valery Tsoraev. Originally from Russia, Tsoraev has performed with the Cole Bros. Circus all over the world and has been a part of the Grand County family for more than a decade now.
Joining Tsoraev and his line-up of talented four-legged friends, as the show emcee is long-time Branson Comedian Shannon “Apple Jack” Thomason. When folks come to check out the Amazing Pets Show, Thomason shared they can expect to see a variety of things.
“First of all pets,” said Thomason with a laugh. “We’re going to have a lot of fun with the pets. We’ve got dogs and cats and parrots and just so much fun and all kinds of different dogs. We have poodles up there. We have little wiener dogs, little dachshunds, we’ve got the Siberian huskies the kids love. That’s our big dogs. Of course we do have a full-size poodle, Brownie, is a full size and he’s a standard. Just a lot of fun.”
Joining the doggies on stage are two high-flying parrots and several cats. Thomason explained that some of the cats have come from a variety of places, including the theatre’s own backyard.
“The cats are literally just regular house cats. There are some different kinds, but they’re all adopted pets. Some of the cats have literally wondered up to the building, because they smell the other cats. So Valery does this little test, he did it to my cats when he came over, and he can tell right away,” said Thomason. “He has had cats that have wondered up to the building and in the show within a week. They were that smart. They’re just so smart.”
Also appearing during the production to assist with the animals is Tsoraev’s wife Anna and daughter Olga. Even though the title of the show is Amazing Pets, guests should come ready to also enjoy a little comedy, music and audience participation during the performance.
“My part of the show is pretty easy. I get to play with the kids. We get them up there (on stage). We tell jokes in the beginning. That used to be a throw-away. That used to be a stall, but the kids love it,” Thomason said. “So now it’s like, the kids want to tell some jokes, let’s hear some jokes. Sometimes I hear some doozies. I (also) do a couple bits where we sing songs.”
In the past, Thomason said he’s tried to make some changes to his comedy routine for the show, but whenever he does, he automatically hears back from the parents.
“I’ve had families say, ‘Do not change anything,’ because their kids go home, they watch the DVD (of the show) and they practice all year. Because that’s their plan,” Thomason said. “There were kids in our audience today that have decided this is where they are coming for vacation again and they’re going to know everything Apple Jack does and they’re going to have a joke, they’re going to have their song ready, they’re going to have everything and they’re going to be ready to come back and have a good time.”
Thomason, who also performs as a part of the Comedy Jamboree show at Grand Country, added that he considers himself blessed to have the chance to be a part of the Amazing Pets Show.
“It’s so much fun to get out there and have fun with the kiddos and make them laugh, and kids come back every year and want to come see their best friend Apple Jack. I’m just blessed to have all these little friends that come see us every year and the families come back,” said Thomason. “They know it’s a good safe place for their family to come and they know they’re going to have a good time at Grand Country.”
Since audience participation is such a big part of the show, Thomason said that sometimes he never knows what’s going to happen next.
“I’ve had kids take over the show, and I just roll with it. That’s the beauty of improv where you just don’t say no. You just kind of roll with it and you try to steer it,” said Thomason. “That’s our job. To keep it fun. To keep it light. I don’t know what the kids are going to do or what they’re going to say, and that keeps it fresh for me. I never feel like it gets stale.”
Thomason added, compared to other shows, they have the unique ability to allow some of their unscripted and unexpected moments to play out.
“I’ve had kids come up and want to sing a song. We have the time. We have the flexibility with the pet show to do that. A lot of shows do not,” said Thomason. “This show, we have a little more flexibility. We have fun with the parents, too.”
The 2021 schedule for the Amazing Pets shows has performances every weekend now though March 7. There will be performances every day in March at 10 a.m. starting on March 11.
The show will return to weekend-only shows for all of April and the last two weekends in May, before launching into the summer schedule, which features shows almost every day through June, July and August. For the rest of 2021, shows will mostly be held on weekends, but there will be a handful of special shows held during the week, including performances on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“We’re celebrating 50 years this year. It was 1971 officially. At Grand Country, our motto is ‘Treating Folks Like Family Since 1971,’ and we’re celebrating 50 years this year,” said Thomason. “I look forward to 2021. I just look forward to what this season has. I’m always excited around the new year and to see what we have and the new challenges we face. I think it’s going to be great.”
For additional information about the Amazing Pets Show, tickets, show times and other shows and attractions offered by Grand County, visit grandcountry.com or call 417-335-2484.