Amy McCarthy combines a fun look at “dinner theater” shows with thoughts on the more sinister side of the tourist town that hosts them. You’ll find playful descriptions and disturbing concepts in this compelling essay.

Still, I was aware that the Branson of today has a decidedly mixed reputation. Those who love it say that it’s a wholesome destination for good, clean, Christian fun in the Ozark Mountains, while its critics would suggest that it’s a haven for aging white baby boomers who are clinging to their God, their guns, and their wistfulness for a bygone era. In the midst of a 35,000-square-foot arena on the city’s theater-packed Strip, Dolly Parton’s Stampede is proof that it’s both — and a whole lot more.