Acting out in song

Impersonator started as a dancer, but went over the rainbow to find her new calling.

August 05, 2010|By Candice Baker, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • Some of Bethany Owen's many impressions in her one-woman show.
Some of Bethany Owen's many impressions in her one-woman…

Stop the presses — Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Keely Smith and Marilyn Monroe will be joining forces to perform in Newport Beach next week.

Well, sort of.

Bethany Owen, the "Woman of 1001 Voices and Faces," will bring the four favorites to a one-night appearance Aug. 13 at the Balboa Bay Club.

A singing impersonator par excellence with a dazzling collection of costumes, wigs and routines, Owen can swap in seconds from Madonna to Martha Stewart, Britney Spears to Barbra Streisand.

Hard to imagine that it all started with Edith Bunker.

The fictional New Yorker with the memorably shrill voice from "All in the Family" was Owen's first impersonation. It led her on a path she never could have foreseen when she was an aspiring ballerina.

Owen has since become a well-known singing phenomenon who has performed around the country, and has a long-running one-woman comic revue in Lake Tahoe that features a staggering array of impressions and onstage costume swaps.


Her song and dance abilities combine with an uncanny facility to capture each character's most minute voice inflections and facial expressions. Owen's classically balanced (and easily mutable) facial features help carry each impression to dizzying heights.

Owen said the upcoming show with the Laguna Beach Swing Set big band is going to be quite different from her usual act; by focusing on just four characters, she will have the chance to fully change costumes and develop each personality.

"I don't think that many people get to see whole swing band orchestras with impersonators, so that's going to be really novel," she said. "They usually perform with a singer, but never a singer dressed up as a legendary character — and it will be really novel for me, too. In my one-woman show, I don't perform with musicians. I have a backup tape. So for me it's a big thrill to have a live band, and these guys are quite accomplished. Ed Peterson, the conductor, is an accomplished musician, and the nicest, sweetest guy you could ever meet."

A change of pace

Owen's father was a Southern aeronautical engineer who had his daughter take dance lessons, and always wanted her to sing country music. Her family moved all over the country before finally settling in Huntington Beach.

"My father was always an encouraging factor in my life," Owen said.

Her younger brother also had a gift for impersonations, and often imitated cartoon voices from television shows, but opted not to go onstage with his gifts.

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