The 2007 entertainment season in Branson saw a new and unique show featuring 14 Samoan entertainers in Island Fire at the Dutton Theater. Audiences marveled at the authentic Island dance, song and fire knife performances set amidst a stage setting that recreated a Polynesian paradise.
As the Samoans prepare for their final performance of the year at the Dutton Theater on Thursday, December 6th at 2 PM, everyone in the troope was expressing gratitude for the open and friendly reception by the local community and tourists in Branson.
Although they are anxious to return home to Samoa to reunite with friends and family, they said that they will miss their many friends here in Branson. This had been their first trip to the United States and they unanimously feel that it has been a unique opportunity to expose thousands of people to their Samoan culture.
During the show’s run, the local community actively embraced the Samoans. Many were invited to share meals with local families and go on excursions to shows and tourist attractions. One family even took some of them to see the Springfield Cardinals play — their very first baseball experience.
Belle Dutton, the wife of Jonathan Dutton and a Samoan, said, “This has been a dream come true for me. I have always wanted our friends and fans to participate in the wonderful culture of Samoa – the island of the happy people. It has been a joy to have these talented young people share their lives with us for these past months. Plus they have been able to hone their talents and, in the course of promoting their show, learn new skills that will serve them well in the future in any career.”
Sheila Dutton echoed Belle’s sentiments and added, “The letters and emails that have streamed into our theater thanking us for bringing this amazing performance to Branson has been most gratifying. I know of several people who have made plans to visit the entertainers in Samoa during the next two months. What a wonderful bridge between cultures in a troubled world. We invite everyone to come for a fun-filled Thursday afternoon as we send them off with our love. And don’t forget to come early for the luau, beginning at 12:30. It is free with each full priced ticket.”
The Honorable Joe Keil, associate minister of Labor and Tourism and a member of parliament in Samoa, plans to be in attendance on Thursday. He is trying to make flight arrangements to stop in Branson on his way from Vienna to Samoa and released this statement: “The Samoan cultural dancers have had a great experience in Branson. I want to personally, and on behalf of my government, thank the Dutton family for their generosity and kindnesses to our young people. They have provided them a wonderful opportunity to share our beautiful islands with the world, and we look forward to a long and fulfilling relationship with the Duttons. We would also like to thank the community of Branson for embracing them and all the many tourists who came to see their show.”
Iafata, Pacific Champion Fire-Knife Dancer, said, “Branson is a special place to me. The Duttons helped me and my wife have a traditional Samoan wedding here — something we could not afford in Samoa. We feel like we are leaving family and look forward to our return in February. ‘Tofa’ and God bless.”
Concerning Iafata’s comment about February, Sheila Dutton told us, “The audience reaction to this show has been so great that the Samoans will be returning to Branson with a new show for the 2008 season. After spending the holidays with their families on Samoa, they will open “Hot Winter Fun” at the Dutton Theater on February 13th.”