I wasn’t planning on doing this. I had no intention. I was just going to live out this day in my new routine, because my typical way of dealing with strong emotions is to just keep moving forward, trying not to ruminate on things that might make me sad or melancholy. But today, I’m leaning in. I can’t let this day go by without acknowledging a flood of emotions and publicly expressing them. You see, for the past twenty-three years, on November 1st, our family has taken our stage in Branson, Missouri for the opening day of our Christmas show, “A Brett Family Christmas.” But today, we’re not. Last December we closed the curtain on what had become much of our life – performing day in and day out for amazing audiences, on one of the most beautiful stages in Branson – a full-scale production show with all the lights, video, props, costumes, choreography, live musicians, skilled technicians, and incredible support staff. And on top of all of that – our family. OUR FAMILY! We did ALL of it, and to be honest, I’m just out and out sad. I miss it.
As long as I’m waxing nostalgic, can I share with you some of the things I miss – behind the scene things that no one else ever saw – things that made “A Brett Family Christmas” so meaningful to me? (Warning! This will be long and self-indulgent and nowhere near complete! It’s okay if you don’t read it all. This is more for me today. Therapy.)
What I Miss About Our Big, Beautiful Branson Stage Show, “A Brett Family Christmas”
by Andrea Brett
The all year long, and always way too long, family meetings about set lists and production ideas and costume design and all the required things.
Working with world class designers for props, lights, sound, video, costumes, and music arrangements.
Brainstorming and writing original songs with Brydon that actually made the set list cut – “There’s No Place Like Home for Christmas” and “I Picture Christmas.” Sometimes the writing process can get messy, but Brydon made it a joy.
Singing and rehearsing Christmas music beginning in mid-August. I never tired of Christmas music.
Monthly visits to the wonderful people, (who were also our friends,) who sold our tickets.
Early morning October tech rehearsals with the band and crew, dialing in the sound, dusting off our harmonies, brushing up on choreography.
Decorating the lobby and seeing the Christmas transformation – proudly and gratefully putting up “The Honor Tree.”
Last minute Halloween night costume fittings. Christmas is tomorrow!
Walking into a cold dark theater, early in the morning, turning on the lights, and Voila! The Legends in Concert elves were up all night decorating the stage! Thank you, Robb and all! How did you do it?
Turning on the space heaters in the dressing rooms. Waking up the theater.
Cheerful greetings with all the musicians and tech crew and staff who showed up early every morning to put it all together.
Setting the costumes in so many places, making sure every single piece was in the perfect position for lightning fast costume changes.
Hearing the pre-show playlist through the dressing room speakers – Michael Jackson singing “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus,” Harry Connick, Jr. singing “The Happy Elf,” The Carpenters, Josh Groban, Mariah Carey, Bing Crosby, John Legend… I loved it all! And every morning at 9:40 – YMCA! Yes, really!
Seeing all the coaches pulling into the parking lot, being led to their spots with light up “swords.” Faith & Tom and Brydon running to greet each one. (Casey, and Rebecca, and Linda in the earlier days.) We’ve had the best staff in the world! Thanks to these people, it ran like a smooth machine.
Sneaking a peak into the theater through the side door, stage left, to see the crowds gathering, hosted to their seats by smiling staff wearing plaid scarves and boingy Santa hats.
The overhead view from above the lobby – watching people line up at the box office and coach groups winding through the queue. Smelling popcorn and sweet roasted pecans. Experiencing such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Seeing Briahna enter the employee entrance of the theater and walk down the side aisle with school books, stroller, snacks, coats, hats and five sleepy headed children in tow. This scene often brought me to tears. How did she do this day after day?
Family prayer before each show, inviting the Spirit of the Lord and the true meaning of Christmas to envelop the theater. We really tried so hard to make that our mission and our focus – the heart of our work.
The feeling of anticipation every single day as the music started and curtain opened. That never gets old.
Watching from the wings as our children, who grew up on this stage, command the audience and deliver world class performances – “Briahna’s big note on “O Holy Night” always gave me chills. Brydon’s “Little Drummer Boy” was stunning, and Garon’s “Cocoa” made my heart ache in all the good ways.
Feeling so proud of Tom as his beautiful tenor voice rang out on “The Song of Christmas,” “Mary Did You Know” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” just to name a few. He, too, commanded the stage but no one in the audience saw all the behind the scenes work he did. No one will ever really know the scope of his work ethic and dedication. Suffice it say, it’s because of him that we came to Branson and made a career in live entertainment for more than two decades.
The Sleigh Ride Medley! Such fun music, whether we remembered the words or not!
Happy backstage hugs with all the grandkids as they awaited their entrance to sing “My Christmas List.” All dressed up in their Christmas sweaters and fluffy holiday dresses, they stole the show every single day.
Santa Basketball! Nobody else was doing that!! Thanks, Brydon, for being such a good sport! 😊
The patriotic part of our Christmas show – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Reciting the “I Am a Veteran” poem, Brydon’s soldier monologue (wearing his grandpa’s Army jacket) and the “White Christmas” dance with Tom. And even though Brydon, Briahna and Garon wanted to scrap it every year, I loved “Yankee Doodle!” (Sorry guys!) And the “family reunion” at the finale got me every time. As I looked into the audience and saw tears, I could never hold back my own.
Singing through illness and laryngitis and grief and fatigue. The show went on no matter what. Oh, how hard our family worked, and how consistent and devoted and faithful we all tried to be!
Very quick costume changes that didn’t always go smoothly, but somehow, we always made it on stage wearing something!
Dressing room conversations with Briahna. It’s amazing the ground you can cover and the world problems you can solve in between songs! Popping in to say hello to the kids in the green room. Running to and fro because we forgot this or that! The in-between, backstage scenes would have made a pretty interesting show themselves!
Wearing beautiful dresses and costumes that we designed and had custom-made. Thank you, Michelle. Shopping for all the perfect accessories that I’m sure no one even noticed but us. We always wanted things to be right, down the very last detail.
Meeting so many wonderful people at intermission – signing autographs – shaking hands with men and women who had made untold sacrifices for this country, and our family, so we would have the freedom to sing on stage in Branson. And they wanted MY autograph? I still can’t get over that.
Adapting, on the fly, to all the unexpected things that can happen in live theater. Going with the flow, trying to make the audience feel like it was all planned that way. It was always a challenge and a rush!
Sneaking out into the audience every day to watch Briahna dance to “Cocoa,” with the video of Garon on all the big screens. Briahna’s lyrical movement, her grace, her beauty! This mom was filled with so much pride and gratitude and love for a remarkable daughter, and an amazing son.
Brydon’s “Charlie Brown Christmas” monologue – delivered with the perfect balance of humor and sincerity and spirit. What a pro! What a good soul!
Seeing Brydon sing with his Mina! He waited so long to find her and seeing them together on stage made me feel so happy for them. Not to mention that they can just flat out sing!
Looking out into the audience, seeing family and friends from all over the country – some who came every single year. We were part of their Christmas tradition! How cool is that? And so humbling.
Feeling the Spirit of God so powerfully as we sang, with our whole souls, the final bars of “Hallelujah,” and the powerful words, “fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices” during our finale. Oh, those family harmonies! I always pictured my mom and dad being among the angel voices. It filled my soul in a way I can’t describe.
Taking the last bow and stepping back as the curtain closed. The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and love. The grandchildren, now back in their street clothes, waiting in the wings to run to give us hugs and love. A quick thank you to all the band and crew, who were still working hard as we rushed out to say goodbye to all the wonderful people in the lobby and on the coaches. Sometimes we were out there for a very long time, and strangers became lifelong friends.
Yes, I miss all of this, and so many other things – too many to mention. Mostly, I miss what a privilege it was to be on that amazing Branson stage, day after day, year after year, singing about God and family and country, and doing it side by side, hour by hour, note by note with the people I absolutely love the most – MY FAMILY. It truly does not get better than that, and I thank God for all of it. But today, as I’m here alone in my home office writing about it all, I’m trying hard not to feel too sad as I think of the empty stage this morning at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater – our second home for so many years.
At this point, because I really am a pretty resilient person and I nearly always try to see the bright side of things, it would be like me to tell you of all the wonderful new things that are going on in our lives and it all would be true and good, but instead, I’m going to allow myself a little time to just sit here in the memories, cry a little bit, or a lot, and just feel what I miss. I think it’s good to do that sometimes, too.
P.S. If you are reading this, you have been part of our story, and I want to say thank you! It’s such a blessing to have so many sweet memories and such wonderful people to miss! Thank you for your continued support and love.