The Arizona Journey 2011
On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, our family band, The Duttons, finished up our best season ever at our theater in Branson, Missouri. That day we did two shows, a 2 p.m. matinee and an evening show at 8. By 10:30 that night, we had bidden farewell to the last audience members and wished them a wonderful Christmas.
A mere day and a half later—on Thursday morning, at the distinctly uncivilized time of 5:11 a.m.—we bid hello to sunny Arizona. We had accomplished the impossible—again. Most of the family said it couldn’t be done with only one day between shows, but once again the “Dutton Difference” had made all the difference.
It all started, some 30 hours earlier, seconds after that last audience member stepped out of the theater. Under the direction of our operations manager, Jed Rothrock, family and staff members immediately started disassembling backdrops, the Santa drop (You have to see the show to appreciate) , the fireplace, and other pieces of our stage set. At the same time, members of the second and third generations leaped into action. Amy and the grandchildren started organizing the more than 200 costumes. Brande loaded in her fudge supplies and the gigantic fudge kettle. Abigail was in charge of all the merchandise: DVDs, CDs, and gift shop items (not to mention the soft-serve ice cream machine!).
By 3:00 a.m. the touring bus, Ben and Brande’s van, and Dean’s (Mr. Dutton’s) Chrysler were chock full, every spare inch loaded with all the costumes and props for our first Christmas show at Palm Ridge Recreation Center in Sun City West, Arizona. We had even managed to squeeze in the fudge.
Our eldest son, Timothy, and Rob Wilson, The Duttons’ wonderful drummer, attached one of the two U-Haul auto transports to the back of the bus and Sheila drove Ben’s van onto it.
“I’m impressed,” said Rob. “Pretty good, for a girl.” (He’s new to touring with The Duttons.)
Unfortunately, the adapter to hook up the auto transport lights had disappeared from its customary place under the steps in the “rig” (the bus). We stopped at both of Branson’s Walmarts, to no avail—no adapters. Jonathan, so handy to have around, bought parts and made one.
Finally, at 4:30 a.m., our caravan hit the road. The rig, with Dean at the wheel, was pulling Benjamin’s van. Sheila drove the Chrysler; Judith drove her van. Chris, The Duttons’ sound engineer, had his family in his van, and the three amazing Lavatai brothers—Malaki, Juerell, and Brandon—drove their car. One by one, they pulled onto Highway 65. Arizona, here we come!
Fifteen adults and 15 children made up the company. Most were tucked comfortably into the many bunks and couches in the 43-foot bus. We left Benjamin, a.k.a. Julio, in the parking lot of the theater to finish loading the 26-foot U-Haul truck , with Michael , Chip and Joshua Lindblom, and Jason Rothrock to help. Jed had gone home to get a good night’s sleep, planning to drive the U-Haul truck to Arizona the next day with the Lindbloms' help. At about the same time the main caravan left the Walmart parking lot, 4:30 a.m., Benjamin sent Michael and Jason home, telling them to sleep all day and not come to work.
Now alone, Benjamin secured the buildings and vehicles at the complex. Left to his own devices, it suddenly occurred to him that he could help Jed by hooking the second auto transport, which would carry Jonathan and Bella’s van, to the back of the U-Haul truck. That is when his alter ego, Julio, Ben's identical cousin, kicked in.
“Julio” backed the big U-Haul truck up to the auto transport, which was sitting in the flat parking lot behind the Dutton Inn. He tried to be quiet, to avoid disturbing the hundred or so sleeping guests who were staying at The Dutton Inn. Once he thought he had the trailer hitched, clamped, and chained into place, “Julio” got a great idea: He would pull the truck to the north end of the Inn where the incline was steepest.
“That should make it easier to drive the van onto the auto transport,” he thought. And not having his “Aunt Sheila” there to advise him, he set about executing his plan.
“Julio” parked the truck on the steepest part of the incline and extended the loading ramps for the auto transport. Then he got behind the wheel of Jonathan’s van, drove it up to the truck, and started driving up the ramps, carefully edging up the narrow metal slats.
Wham! The transport—as anyone who knows “Julio” might have predicted—was not securely connected to the hitch. Like a giant teeter-totter, the van-encumbered end of the transport suddenly slammed down into the pavement, while the front jumped skywards like the business end of a catapult. Only the chains kept the transport from flipping over onto the van.
“Well, that wasn’t too quiet,” Ben thought, his ears ringing. “I hope no one heard that.”
Putting the van in reverse, “Julio” carefully backed it up off the transport and onto the pavement.
This immediately proved that Isaac Newton, in case you were wondering, was right. Freed of the vans’ weight, the auto transport rocked back to its former position with a loud crash, slamming the trailer’s tongue against the truck.
“Julio,” now a little wiser (and a little more deaf), got a flashlight and made sure that the ball on the hitch was in exactly the right spot, never to come loose again. This was not easy—the angle of the ground was so steep that the support leg would not touch the ground, even in its lowest position. After much maneuvering, “Julio” was successful. The auto transport was securely in place.
Grinning in triumph, “Julio” carefully drove the van into place on the transport and secured the tire anchors. Yippee! He jumped into the truck and started trundling around the inn, glowing with a sense of accomplishment that was almost justified.
“Julio” had forgotten just one little thing. Unfortunately, the sound of the truck engine masked the roar of the metal loading ramps as they dragged, bumped, and scraped along behind the transport.
“Julio” would like to apologize to the guests of The Dutton Inn, who were awakened at about 6 a.m. Wednesday morning by a noise that would put any road construction crew to shame. He hopes you had a nice day and that you enjoyed the complimentary early hot breakfast buffet. He loves you all.
“Julio” fell into bed at 7 a.m. for a five-hour rest, knowing that he had done his best.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Oklahoma, Timothy, who by then was driving the rig, heard a clatter and noticed exhaust billowing across the windshield. He called Dean on his cell phone, "Dad, do you want to come up and look at the exhaust?'.
Dean, who had just gotten into a deep sleep, thought that was a stupid question. "No, I want to sleep," he replied.
"No, Dad, you don't understand. I need you to come and look at the exhaust!".
To Dean's dismay, the passenger side exhaust smokestack and metal casing were dangling, perpendicular to the side of the rig. So he had Timothy carefully pull off on the next ramp. With no time for welding, Dean and Timothy tied the metal casing securely into place with ropes, knowing that the ropes would not burn as long as they were not touching the smokestack. Problem solved, he got back on the freeway, four cars laden with Duttons and equipment following close behind.
Fifty miles east of Oklahoma City, Brande, who was driving the Chrysler at the time, radioed Dean. “Hunks of rubber are flying everywhere. It’s coming from the auto transport tire!” We stopped and called the U-Haul company. We couldn’t leave the auto transport and just drive on with the van, so the other three vehicles went on and the passengers in the rig and the Chrysler waited at the side of the road for the repair truck to come and change the tire. The repair truck was there in 50 minutes and the tire replaced in 10 minutes. Once again The Duttons were on their way. And since the rig has a 150-gallon gas capacity, they were able to overtake the cars in Albuquerque, New Mexico, because they didn’t have to stop for fuel.
Just a little more than 24 hours and 1,325 miles after leaving Branson, the Duttons pulled into Sun City West. They took a four-hour nap and unloaded and set up for another two-show day. The two sold-out audiences loved every minute of it. Audience comments included: “Delightful.” “Thoroughly entertaining.” “We couldn’t believe all the production elements.” “We are not used to that.” “Wonderful.”
The audience gasped audibly, when they were told that we had done a show Tuesday night in Branson, Missouri. And in true Dutton fashion, we had two shows the next day and two more the day after that. But then, Sunday, with no shows. What a blessing!
12/09/11 3:51 pm
Dutton VIP shows sell out
Thank you all the wonderful VIP ticket sellers, hotel managers, front deskers, opc boothers, and all of the others that came to VIP show number one. It was so much fun to have you here! Those of you that have reservations for Saturday night--we are going to have a BALL!! And the show is again SOLD OUT. Okay, back to truth in advertising....we have about 50 seats left--but they won't last long!!!
11/26/11 5:54 pm
Customer Appreciation Day Set for Friday Sept 30 at 8pm Show
Branson, MO…The Dutton Family is holding a Customer Appreciation Day on Friday, September 30th to celebrate their fans as part of their 20th Anniversary Show celebration.
According to marketing manager Judith Dutton, “This is much more than the typical appreciation show! Festivities begin in front of the theater at 6:30 PM with refreshments at our “Dutton Party in the Parking Lot”. The Dutton’s 20th Anniversary Show at 8 PM, complete with door prizes that include vacation packages for the Dutton Inn, gift certificates for Abby’s Tourist Trap, tickets for The Duttons and George Dyer shows, and much more".
To celebrate two decades as professional entertainers, all of the Duttons wanted to create a very special, high-energy anniversary show for their fans by bringing back the crowd favorites from over the past 20 years. From bluegrass to classical, country to rock ‘n roll, clogging to comedy, the show has been receiving rave reviews as one of the highest energy shows in Branson. The singing and dancing is literally non-stop in this highly choreographed extravaganza with a liberal sprinkling of humor. Look for such favorites as Splish-Splash, Mr. Sandman, Rocky Top, Cotton-Eyed Joe, This Little Light of Mine, Dueling Banjos, Vivaldi, I Saw the Light, a Beach Boys medley including Fun, Fun, Fun, Til Her Daddy Takes the T-Bird Away, Blue Moon, and much, much more.
This year, as part of the celebration, The Duttons transported their show to several communities around the country in Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, and Arizona among others. Most recently, they packed up the show and put it on board a Holland America cruise to Alaska. “Alaska was the last state in our country that we hadn’t performed in,” said Sheila Dutton. “What a great time for us to go there as part of our 20 years in entertainment!”
In honor of their 20th Anniversary show, the Duttons are offering tickets for this special show for a special box office rate of $20 + tax. For reservations and additional information, contact the Dutton Family Theater at (417) 332-2772 or (888) 388-8661, or visit www.TheDuttons.com.
09/20/11 2:00 pm
Dutton Theater Spruces Up for 2011 Season
By Jack Burke
Branson, MO…TheDutton Family Theater lobby is getting the finishing touches of a completelobby makeover this winter in preparation for the new 2011 season. From granite countertops for the concessionareas and new fixtures in the bathrooms to new flooring and fresh paint, thepurpose is to create a warm and inviting atmosphere for theater guests. Additionally, the front porch area and ticketbooth is being enclosed with glass to better protect guests from weatherconditions when purchasing their tickets.
04/01/11 2:00 pm
New Show Celebrates 20 Years
Branson, MO…The Dutton children were all pre-schoolers whenthey began learning to play violins, as a way for their parents to instill asense of discipline and a strong work ethic. That early training led to performances at church and community eventswhere they would be lucky to receive $25 for gas money. In 1991, their lives changed as they hit theroad for a nine-month, 300 show tour as full-time entertainers.
Over the past 20 years, the Dutton fame has spread acrossthe world and the family has built an entertainment complex in Branson withtheir Dutton Family Theater, the Dutton Inn, and Abby’s Tourist Trap. Additionally, the Dutton Family Theater #2was opened this past year in Mesa, Arizonafor winter performances. In 2007, theDuttons gained further acclaim as they made it into the Top 10 finalists on America’sGot Talent.
The family’s love affair with Branson began in 1997 whenthey first played here at the Positive Country Theater, which is now the PierceArrow Theater. The following yearresulted in their first full season in Branson at Barbara Fairchild’s theater,which is now the Starlight. In 1999Boxcar Willie offered his theater for their show, which was renamed to theDutton Family Theater in 2000 and purchased by the family in 2002.
To celebrate two decades as professional entertainers, allof the Duttons wanted to create a very special, high-energy anniversary showfor their fans. As show director AmyDutton explained, “We design two completely new shows every year, and it seemsthat each show has several crowd favorites. So we thought it would be fun to bring back these favorite songs,sketches, and dance routines into one gigantic, fast moving extravaganza thattruly celebrated the past twenty years".
04/01/11 2:00 pm