When you think of Myrtle Beach vacation attractions, you think of the white sands of the Grand Strand. You think of family amusements like arcades. You think of golf, golf, more golf, and when you’ve had enough golf, mini-golf.
But a live music variety show? Probably not—unless you’ve already been to The Carolina Opry. In that case, it might be the first thing that comes to mind. It certainly is foremost in the minds of those who award the highest honors in South Carolina tourism. And local fans who vote for best show in Myrtle Beach. The Carolina Opry has finished No. 1 in that poll every year since the show debuted in 1986.
You don’t have to have an MP3 playlist that starts with Acuff and ends with Yearwood to enjoy The Carolina Opry. It’s much more than country music. It’s two hours of song, dance and comedy performed by 36 talented entertainers. You’ll hear some of your favorite country tunes, classic and current, but you’ll also hear pop, rock, Broadway and more—even gospel—from an ever-changing song list. The skill of the musicians, singers, dancers and comics, coupled with the top-rate production values, are what have earned The Carolina Opry national raves from the likes of NBC Nightly News, Variety, The New York Times and USA Today.
The show’s name might be quaint, but it’s every bit as cutting-edge as its venue—and the venue indeed is impressive. The elegant, 2,200-seat Calvin Gilmore Theater has state-of-the-art sound and lighting and three giant video screens. It has all the goods necessary for the slick multimedia elements to The Carolina Opry, its sister music-variety show Good Vibrations and a nightly lasers-put-to-music program called Light.
The same great cast stars in the equally fast-moving Good Vibrations, which celebrates popular music of the 1960s,’70s and ’80s, mixing in comedy bits and more special effects as well. One show or the other is performed daily except Sundays (usually) 11 months of the year. Before taking much of January off, the cast spends two months in holiday mode as The Carolina Opry becomes The Carolina Opry Christmas Special.
The Carolina Opry has grown and evolved over its run of more than 7,000 performances but remains in the firm control of its creator, Calvin Gilmore, a singer-songwriter-musician and entrepreneur from Missouri.
When Gilmore first came to Myrtle Beach, the oceanfront resort town offered nothing to tourists in the way of live country music or variety. His brainchild was an immediate hit. Routine sellouts at a much smaller venue led him to add a second show at a second venue, but even that couldn’t satisfy the demand.
The newest theater, which opened in 1994, still sells out, even as rival shows began springing up along the Grand Strand. Some are good, but none can match the accolades earned by The Carolina Opry.
Gilmore, meanwhile, has spun his business into print, television and other interests. But he still produces, directs and even performs in his shows.
And what shows they are. But find out for yourself on your next vacation to Myrtle Beach. Pry yourself away from the beach. Tilt the arcade. Pardon the sacrilege, but skip a round of golf. Take in a performance of The Carolina Opry instead. You’ll be glad you did.
It’s All That! And more.