The Carolina Opry, the largest country music theater on the East Coast, has a secret. With apologies to Donnie & Marie Osmond, it's a little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll.
That may be a different image than most vacationers have about the traditionally country/western venue. Founded by country music star and former Grand Ole Opry performer Calvin Gilmore, the Carolina Opry was originally based in Surfside Beach and boasted an all-country lineup, as did the Dixie Jubilee that Gilmore opened in North Myrtle Beach a few years later. The sellout crowds at both venues led him to open his current and largest theater to date in 1993. The 2,200-seat location near Myrtle Beach's famed Restaurant Row shares a scenic and convenient location with Dolly Parton’s Pirates Voyage theater at the northern junction of Highway 17 Business and Bypass.
After nearly 30 years of providing quality, country-music oriented entertainment on the Grand Strand, Gilmore and the Carolina Opry have finally started to let its hair down a bit. Just as the country music industry is discovering the magic of the pop crossover, Carolina Opry is expanding its boundaries to include music from many genres. Sure, classic country music song-and-dance shows still take the stage on a regular basis to the delight of sellout crowds, but so do rock-based shows with a bit more edge and off-Broadway-style theater productions featuring more mainstream music.
The long-running, self-titled show, “The Carolina Opry,” brings traditional and contemporary music to the stage to deliver a two-hour, high-energy showcase. Featuring some of the top up-and-coming country acts as well as old-school, American-style artists, this highly acclaimed show includes dancers, highlighted by the popular stomp troop All That! Featured on the hit TV talent show “America’s Got Talent,” these high-stepping dancers bring the audience to their feet with their impeccable timing and creative flair.
But visitors can also kick off their cowboy boots for a good, old-fashioned sock hop with the Carolina Opry’s latest smash, “Good Vibrations.” Chronicling the history of rock ‘n ‘roll with music from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, this production gives patrons a wide selection of musical styles, from the Frankie Valli’s Doo-Wop days to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Contrary to its country roots, the Carolina Opry hosts tributes to pop-culture icons, like The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, and to musical movements, such as the British Invasion and the Motown Sound. This show offers something for everyone, regardless of which musical genre you prefer, and it’s the perfect opportunities for families to bridge the generation gap.
The Carolina Opry leans even farther toward rock in its latest addition to the lineup, the “LIGHT Laser Extravaganza.” This high-tech production puts dazzling late-night light displays to the sounds of classic rock acts like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. And on the polar opposite side of the spectrum, as in the North Pole, the Carolina Opry goes back to its country roots for the annual “Carolina Opry Christmas Special,” which runs in November and December. The traditional event packs the house every holiday season, including many repeat visitors who can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit until they’ve seen the show.
So if you haven’t checked it out lately, it’s safe to say this isn’t your grandfather’s Carolina Opry. The diverse selection of shows that appeal to broader audiences has breathed some new life and excitement into the Carolina Opry’s formerly all-country lineup. For more information about dates, times and ticket prices, call The Carolina Opry at 800-843-6779, or visit the website at www.thecarolinaopry.com.