By Joshua Clark
Source: Branson Tri-Lakes News (Click Here)

The 2017 season is already up and running, but that doesn’t mean the fabled “Branson Shuffle” has ended. After announcing the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre, formerly known as the Mickey Gilley Theatre, would be the 2017 home to both the “Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai,” as well as Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee performing their “Urban Cowboy Reunion” show, theater representatives announced local group Prince Ivan will call the theater home this season.

“2017 will be the biggest production we have ever had in Branson,” said Ziqian Tan, owner of “Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai.” “Our goal is to provide something new that audiences of all ages have never experienced. I also wish to add that it will be thrilling to be performing alongside country music legends, Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee, and also Branson’s new, hot, young show, Prince Ivan.”

Prince Ivan, a local group who write, produce and perform their own original tunes, features Aaron Ellsworth and Garon and Brydon Brett. The guys are moving into a new venue with an evening show slot after spending the last two seasons at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater.

“We can’t thank them enough for believing in us, taking a chance on an unknown group and giving us two years there,” Brett said. “But we’re excited about this year, especially with everything that’s happening here (at the theater). Look at all the research on Branson, it’s really cool.

“People still love country music, they love the acrobat show, and they love something that’s fresh, unique and original. Now, we’re going to have all that in one spot, and I think it’s perfect.”

According to Brett, their vision behind the formation of the group was to “create new music that is really cool, fresh and that anyone can relate to, especially the kids who listen to mainstream radio, but do it in a way that we’d never be embarrassed to show it to Ivan, their nephew who the band is named after.

Despite having successful runs the last two seasons, the group decided it was time to “make themselves more accessible” in a prime time slot.

“We see this as a big step in moving our career forward, and in the direction we want to go,” Ellsworth said. “We still want Branson to be our home base, but we’re also working toward launching into the national market.”

Prince Ivan will take the stage every Friday at 8 p.m. from Apr. 28-Aug. 4.

“With this schedule, we have time to tour and perform road dates from Saturday through Wednesday,” Brett added. “We have something we’re working on for Thursday nights in B-town.”

The “Urban Cowboy Reunion Show”

In addition to Prince Ivan, country music hitmakers Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee are also calling the newly renamed venue home in 2017, after performing at the Clay Cooper Theatre last year.

“The folks from the ‘Acrobats’ ... asked us to come back this year,” Gilley said. “I’ll be performing in a theater with no business ties to it, so I’ll be able to concentrate more on the show. I’m also excited that I’ll still be able to work the road and continue to bring the music to the people.

“I’m going to get to have my cake and eat it, too.”

In 2015, Gilley announced he’d be leaving Branson as a full-time performer, but not too long after departing for road shows, he and Lee were asked to fill in for their friend Mel Tillis at the Clay Cooper Theatre.

“It was so successful and we had fabulous turnouts for last year’s shows, we decided to come back again this year,” Gilley said.

The “Urban Cowboy” duo will be performing three shows a week, 8 p.m. Sunday and Mondays, and 3 p.m. Tuesdays, in April and May, then from September through November.

“This year, we’re going to revamp the show so that we open and close the show together featuring the ‘Urban Cowboy’ music,” he said. “It was my ultimate goal to do that last year ... we’re excited about coming back and doing something new.

“My batteries are recharged, and I’m ready to rock.”

Gilley’s career has spanned more than 50 years and includes 17 No. 1 hits. Gilley also took home five Academy of Country Music Award wins in one night with song of the year, single of the year, album of the year, male vocalist and entertainer of the year. He was also featured in movie and television roles, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was the owner of the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” which was featured in the film “Urban Cowboy,” a box office hit starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger. Gilley also recorded several songs used in the soundtrack.

Lee, his fellow “Urban Cowboy” co-star, began pursuing a career in music immediately after returning home from Vietnam in 1968. Soon after, he began a working relationship with Gilley, both on the road and in the nightclub in Pasadena, Texas.

He was then asked to perform in the film “Urban Cowboy.” The massively popular “Lookin’ for Love” became his signature hit and first Gold Record. He followed that with “One In A Million,” “Bet Your Heart On Me,” “The Yellow Rose” and “Cherokee Fiddle.”

“Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai”

While Prince Ivan and the “Urban Cowboys” are doing a combined four shows a week, that leaves the popular “Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai” to handle the bulk of the dates.

“We are excited this year’s show features an internationally recognized, award winning troupe from China,” said Executive Vice President, Cathay Tan Gao. “It is a privilege to share a small but integral part of our culture by the stories told through the acrobatic dance, skill, strength, grace and comedy of these amazing performers.”

The show, which features a large cast performing acrobatic stunts, renditions of classic Chinese dance and human performance art, and dozens of colorful costumes, has been one of the area’s most popular shows for more than a decade.

The “Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai” opens March 10, and will perform shows daily throughout the entire season.

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