Several very bad things came out of Germany in the 1920s, but give the country credit for at least one thing that was very good: Waltzing Waters.
Invented by Otto Przystawik, the fountain technology that makes water dance was a hit in the ballrooms of Berlin before being exported to the U.S. by Otto's son, Gunter. He christened it Waltzing Waters, a merry kaleidoscope of lights, music, and squirting H2O (Its success has led to supercharged descendants such as the Fountain Show at the Bellagio). Waltzing Waters has built splashy spectaculars for other venues (such as Jordan's Furniture in Massachusetts), but the showcase for its top-of-the-line "Liquid Fireworks" display is in Branson, with over 500 fountains and 15,000 watts of lighting.
The concept is simple: music plays in a darkened theater while, onstage, choreographed plumes of water arc and rotate. Candy-colored spotlights play on shimmering sprays and spritzes, creating an ever-changing technicolor tapestry. Swept along, you are only denied complete transportation into the world of fantasy by the constant audible slosh of 40,000 gallons of water splashing back into its reservoir tank.
The Branson theater for many years was the playground of The Amazing Frederick, known for his ability to bang out two different tunes on two different grand pianos at once. Frederick's sudden death in 2006 closed the attraction for three years, the Przystawiks apparently unsure that the show could survive without him. Then local go-kart track owner Kevin Curtis convinced the family that the theater should reopen, and it has successfully continued the run it began back in 1984.
Under Kevin's stewardship Waltzing Waters presents a mix of prerecorded and live music shows. Even the live shows, however, are rigidly formatted in advance by a "Master Fountaineer;" there can be no spontaneous jam sessions, which would throw off the precisely programmed waterworks. We took in a performance by vocal impressionist Cody Dooley, who sang a set of country classics ("Ring of Fire" is a Fountaineer's dream). The audience of seniors hooted and clapped enthusiastically. Dooley thanked his mom (who operated the spotlight), finished with a Christian hymn, and then politely hung out in the lobby with the crowd.
One bonus of the live shows is that audiences are invited afterward to come to the front of the theater and see the Fountain Keyboard console. Although meant to appeal to kids, adults enjoy it, too. We were impressed by the hair-trigger power that can blast water 45 feet high with the tap of a finger, like the firing switch of a German V2 rocket.
Kevin told us that he hopes to some day "go harder" with the music. "Maybe a Pink Floyd show at 10 at night," he said, which would have probably blown the mind of Otto Przystawik and might scandalize half the folks in Branson. "It's like one of those diamonds," said Kevin, a sincere Waltzing Waters fan. "We're just trying to make it shine."