Let him entertain you

Chris Middlebrook appeared as Horton the elephant in Tulsa Project Theatre’s presentation of “Seussical: The Musical” at the Tulsa Convention Center in December.

To call Chris Middlebrook a well-rounded performer does not fully capture everything this actor/singer/dancer/teacher does. Formally trained at the Mountview Academy in London and Norton College in Sheffield, England, the owner of BAM Entertainment offers everything from murder-mystery parties to drama and circus classes to children’s parties and science shows to singing telegrams and other forms of custom entertainment. Middlebrook is currently a solo act, but he says he hopes to hire a small group of entertainers this year.

A native of Sheffield, Middlebrook met his wife, Hannah, in 1998 while singing on a cruise ship and moved to Tulsa, her hometown, five years ago. The couple now have three boys, ages 10, 8 and 5.

After a brief stint in radio sales, with his wife’s support, Middlebrook made the leap and started his own entertainment business in June 2010. Now, in addition to teaching drama and voice lessons at Owasso Community Theatre, Theatre Arts in Broken Arrow, Tulsa Public Schools and privately, Middlebrook spends his days doing what he loves — entertaining Tulsa.

How he ended up in the entertainment business: When I was a kid, I would go with my parents to rehearsals and performances for amateur shows. They are both entertainers, and my mum is a professional opera singer. In fact, BAM is my mum’s initials (Barbara Ann Middlebrook). I wanted to thank her for all her help getting here. I eventually started playing musical theater and drama roles, became part of England’s first Equity sponsored street theater company and finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of performing in London’s West End theaters.

A typical workday: That’s the great thing; no two days are the same. I could be singing in a tuxedo in the morning, coming home and putting on a pink gorilla suit, then driving out to Muskogee in full clown makeup. In between times, I meet with prospective clients, work in my home office writing scripts and planning entertainment, and make sure I give my family some time in all of this. The kids are so used to seeing me dressed up that they hardly bat an eyelid these days.

Recent acting or singing appearances: I (appeared) in "Seussical: The Musical" this (past) Christmas as Horton the elephant. I regularly sing at Saint Simeon’s, Trinity Episcopal (Church) and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, plus events out of state.

Interesting or memorable experiences and performances: I have performed at the Jazz Hall of Fame and in the Brown Bag It concert series at the PAC. Also, I work with the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Oktoberfest and River Parks’ Fourth of July event. I got to sing at a restaurant in Sheffield for a benefit honoring (Luciano) Pavarotti in the ’90s.

What makes him successful in this field: Over the years, I tried not to limit myself to one thing. Yes, I trained in acting and singing, but I also learned how to ride a unicycle and juggle, stilt walk, do puppetry and science and, generally, pick up any new skills that would help me become more successful.

How his job touches others’ lives: I try to do classes in places where kids haven’t necessarily had the exposure to drama or circus acts and training, for example. I have worked with the Arts & Humanities Council (of Tulsa), and they are so great at sending you to schools where they (students) love these kinds of experiences. It means a lot to see their reactions, and I hope I get to do a lot more in the future.

His goals for BAM Entertainment: To expand. I need to employ some talented people. There are so many of them in Tulsa, and it’s not always easy to find work in this field here. I hope to be able to provide that and to eventually provide quality entertainment countrywide.

Anna Holton-Dean is a freelance writer and editor of TulsaPets, OKC Pets and OklahomaHorses Magazines. She’s a wife and boy mom, and when she isn’t working, she’s dodging Nerf bullets and planning her family’s next Disney vacation.

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