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Louise Mandrells Joy to the World Christmas Dinner & Show

Opryland's A Country Christmas

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Louise Mandrells Joy to the World Christmas Dinner & Show

Louise Mandrell

Photo Courtesy Gaylord Opryland

Louise Mandrell's Joy to the World Christmas Dinner & Show Photo Gallery

Louise Mandrell enters rooms with a boundless energy. Her smile, as it always has, still lights up any room. With the family being away from home performing, as a young girl, Mandrell realized that she would have to learn to play to spend more time with them. She became a star herself charting many top 10 hits.

In 1997, she opened her own theatre in Pigeon Forge, TN. But when her husband, John Haywood, became ill in 2005, it pulled her away from performing to be able to be with and take care of him only doing a couple of shows since closing her theatre. Mandrell has now been able to merge her two loves together. She's able to be on the stage and still be at home with her husband afterward.

For eight years, Mandrell was performing two-and-a-half-hour shows with lavish sets, sixteen costume changes and special effects. She also played over a dozen musical instruments along with the dance routines that are synonymous with the Mandrell name.

For 2008, Mandrell brings her "Joy To The World" stage production to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, that time has been cut back to what Mandrell considers a short show at an hour, which meant cutting at least eight musical instruments. Something else she cut down on is the costume changes, with only four in the show, one of which is done on stage.

While performing on Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters show in the early eighties, Louise went to Barbara and told her she didn't like the way the writers were taking the show, but she didn't know what direction she wanted it to go. Barbara told her not to come to her unless she had suggestions.

When Barbara retired in 1997, she completely retired, even selling her collection of musical instruments. When time came to put this show together, only her sister could pull her out of said retirement. Louise called for her help in writing the show. It was now Barbara's turn to put in her suggestions. It is the first time they've worked together since the television show. Louise said that once they started, "she wouldn't leave me alone," even calling as late as 11pm at night, with ideas. While she had other projects going, it seemed to be her older sister's main focus.

This is the first time for Mandrell to ever venture into the world of dinner theatre. Feeling responsible for every aspect from the time you walk into the show until the time you leave, it is something she doesn't take lightly. She even put in the suggestion for one of the main dishes on the menu.

Nephew, Matt Dudney - a former chef - had prepared turkey rolls with stuffing for her in the past, which she just loved. Chef Swann turned that suggestion into Chicken Roulades because chicken retains heat for a longer period than turkey. Mandrell and Swann met for a food tasting where they had everything that is now served for the dinner show. Swann revealed, "I expected her to change a lot more.

She didn't change anything." The timing is such that you will receive a greeting from Matt Dudney, the Master of Ceremonies, during your main course and dessert arrives just before Mandrell hits the stage.

In a sparkling white dress, it is a somewhat soft opening with "Joy To The World" because as Mandrell says "I am a joyful Christian," and that is what she wants to share with everyone as well as showing off her niece, Christy Sutherland - married to Dudney.

Following one of the rehearsals, she quickly told Sutherland "If you weren't family, I would not be showing you off!" Daughter, Nicole, has participated in past shows, but when asked, Louise said that she has decided that she's very sure of what she wants and would prefer to become a counselor instead of following in her mother's entertainment footsteps. It is during Sutherland's performance that Mandrell prepares for her "Lou The Mailman" routine. What begins at a humorous skit actually turns quite serious towards the end as she relays the true meaning of Christmas.

Mandrell has also taken an element from a military show she saw in 2007, when she arrives on stage for a performance of the "Little Drummer Boy" with a single snare drum eventually being joined on stage by drummer, Mike Swope for a dueling drums performance.

Knowing it was going to be a challenge for the non-drummer in the family, she really locked herself into the routine following the purchase of the two expensive snares that light up during the performance. The youngest of the Mandrell sisters, Irlene, taught her in the past to play drum solos, but as she said "with the single snare you really have to know what you're doing."

Because she wanted to be able to bring in varying musical instruments from the snare drums to the fiddle, a trip around the world was in order. With multiple wigs, the journey starts with the steel drum and continues with the horn, accordion, bass guitar, and two differently tuned fiddles which leads her into the dancing portion.

Her choreographer/director of over two decades, Pedro Tomas, returned to assist in creating a two-minute dance routine including a lot of time for her to be in the air. She told Tomas that with the Rockettes next door, she wanted to make sure that it was spectacular, with a lot of kicks and gymnastics, and to prove that she could still do what she could when she was twenty-four years old.

Tomas, though he still performs, is not dancing in this show. He helped her, along with Chris Sanford and Greg Woodruff, deliver an incredible routine without disappointment. It turned out to be one of the longest dance routines she's ever done. The audience's multiple gasps with each flip spoke volumes. Mandrell closes out the show the way she started it spreading her Joy to the World.

Mandrell's love of meeting and talking to people is very evident with her decision to meet with fans and friends in the lobby following the show as does Dudney and Sutherland.

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