Band: Brandon Styles
Date: Check visitowa.com for showtimes
Venue: Downtown OWA, 1501 S. OWA Blvd., visitowa.com
Tickets: $16 to $29, available through the OWA website
OWA continues to establish its reputation for being one of the Southeast’s premiere entertainment destinations. Now, visitors to Downtown OWA can take in one of three different shows from master entertainer Brandon Styles. Styles has been delighting audiences since he was a child. Now he uses the stage in his personal theater, The Showroom, to entertain audiences with magic, song, dance, impressions and whatever else he feels like pulling out of his hat. Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni got better acquainted with the entertainer known as the “one-man variety show.”
Steve Centanni: Why do you call yourself a “one-man variety show”?
Brandon Styles: I guess it’s because I have a lot of variety in my show or more than the norm. As far as the 60 impressions, along with the dancing, magic, comedy and ventriloquist, I don’t think it’s ever been done before.
Centanni: When did you discover that you had a knack for entertaining people?
Styles: I was doing a lot of comedy growing up. I was a crazy kid, who wanted to be the center of attention. I was wearing wigs and costumes and all kinds of wild stuff. Then I started getting into magic when I was 7 years old. I was professional at 13. I had restaurants paying me and giving me free food and I thought, “This is way to cool.” It’s the only job that I’ve ever had. Around 13 years old, I started turning everything into a career with the impressions and the magic.
Centanni: What was it about magic that made it such a passion for you?
Styles: It wasn’t really the magic itself. I thought the magic was cool, but it wasn’t as cool as the way people were reacting. I love making adults feel like kids again. I love watching people have fun and just being in awe. I think that’s what attracted me the most to it.
Centanni: What was the first impression that you did?
Styles: If I had to put one down, then Elton John was one of my first. Michael Jackson was probably my very first. Even though I didn’t know that I could sound like him yet, I was doing him in third grade and doing him in full costume at talent shows and assemblies and things.
Centanni: When it comes to magic and impression and comedy, which do you love more and why?
Styles: I like impressions. Being a singing impressionist allows me to do hundreds of impressions. I probably do more than hundreds, but I have a lot down. I think it really depends on what you have down. I say impressions, because it’s very rare for someone to change their voice 60 times in an hour. You can’t find that very often. There’s very few singing impressionists out there, but there’s a ton of magicians. I love magic, but there’s something so cool about becoming an artist onstage. It’s almost like feeling like you’re them. Seeing how close that I can get their voice down is magic in itself.
Centanni: What’s your favorite impression these days?
Styles: That’s a tough one, because I do so many. If I had to name a few, then it would be Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin or Louis Armstrong, but it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite.
Centanni: Tell me a little about The Showroom at OWA.
Styles: The Showroom is very intimate. There’s only 100 seats, so there’s not a bad seat. It’s really neat for the magic, too, because everybody can see everything so well. We have a magic shop in the front, which I always love doing magic. I loved magic shops when I was young, so I thought, “Hey, I need a magic shop.” There’s a really cool stage with great lighting and great sound. It’s more of a Vegas-style show, but it’s very intimate. I hand-build all my own stuff from the rigging to the sound and lights and staging and illusions. Yeah, I’ve been building my whole life, too.
Centanni: What’s it like putting together one of your shows?
Styles: Choreography is key. When you build a show, you need the right lighting and sound. All our stuff is done on Mac computers, so it’s all MIDI-controlled lighting. So, everything is on point. With the show itself, the choreography is done by my wife and I. There’s no dead time. The shows have to flow really, really clean. So, there’s a lot of building, but there’s stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see with costuming and how things are set up and how I can change that quick. Everything is basically lined up.
Centanni: What are some of the challenges of putting on one of your shows?
Styles: It’s just designing it and figuring out exactly what people want. We’ve gotten really good at it over the years, and that’s key. There’s also marketing. I have too many shows, so we have to figure out how to market everything. That’s the number one hardest thing that we had to conquer. I have a variety show with all the different stuff in it. Then I have a magic show, where I strictly do comedy, magic and illusions. That’s pretty wild, too. It’s a very different type of magic show. It’s not your average magic show. Then I have “Trip Down Memory Lane,” which is a dinner show where I become 40 legends out of a suitcase kind of deal. That’s a real cool dinner. I do Neil Diamond, Tony Bennett, Roy Orbison and the Rat Pack. So, marketing all that and letting people know that there’s three different shows is the hardest part of everything.
Centanni: What are you working on for the future to keep your show fresh?
Styles: We’re always adding new things to the show. We have so much material to choose from, and I learn impressions so quick. Those things never get old. We create new illusions constantly. Me and my father actually build the grand illusions. It’s fun for me to keep the show fresh. It’s not really work. I enjoy doing something new. If I do 80 shows of the same show, then I can’t wait to mix it up and do something wild. So, for these three different shows, just last week, I learned 10 new impressions. It just comes easy for me, because I’ve been working so long doing this stuff. There’s something new and fresh with every show every year.
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