BILLINGS – Illusionist Jay Owenhouse is bring in his magic to the Magic City for two separate events this week.
The Bozeman illusionist has traveled the country and Montana with his family and twin Bengal tigers, treating magic enthusiasts for years.
However, Billings is a favorite place for Owenhouse.
“We love coming to Billings. It’s the third time that we’ve done the show here in the last six or seven years and we wanted to do something special this time,” he said Wednesday.
He spoke to Q2 from the comfort of his tour bus moments after it arrived at Rimrock Mall. It’s a bus that Owenhouse revealed has held great rock legends on tour. The band that most recently used it was Journey.
“We spend a lot of time here,” said Owenhouse. “I feel fortunate that my kids can travel and be a part of the crew, because during the week we all are busy living our separate lives.”
His children each have a part in the show. Three are with him this time in Billings, but Owenhouse said the oldest was recently sent to England for his first year of college.
The Owenhouse family is usually on the road from Thursday to Sunday, and the travel time is minimal for Owenhouse’s two twin tigers.
Shekinah is the iconic white one and Sheena, although a twin, has traditional tiger colors. The sisters travel together but as Owenhouse explains they have plenty of time to just be tigers, as well.
“We like the tigers to have 20 days a month in their sanctuary. It also allows the kids to have their own lives, then we come together on the weekends,” he said.
The first performance was at Rimrock Mall on Wednesday where the crew gave spectators quite the show with a recreation of Houdini’s iconic upside down straight jacket escape.
“With an added element of danger,” said Owenhouse. “So rather than just escaping from a straight jacket, I’ll be inside two 300 pound steal jaws. It kinda looks like a bear trap,” he explained.
In this particular trick, Owenhouse has two minutes to escape before a rope holding him burns up.
The show gives magic lovers a lesson in history. Owenhouse said a lot of people don’t know that in the 1920s, Houdini was the highest paid entertainer in the world.
He said recreating his work gets people excited.
“This year, we focused on creating more awareness among the younger generation about Houdini and what he accomplished and what an iconic figure he is in the history of entertainment,” said Owenhouse.
Then on Saturday, another chance to see the Bozeman illusionist. Two shows will take place at the Alberta Bair Theatre at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Owenhouse was eager to do a show before work begins at Alberta Bair Theatre, which will undergo renovations next year.
Those shows are a part of his “Dare to Believe” tour with a collection of magic acts done over the years. The shows will also feature Owenhouse’s famous Bengal tigers
“You get to see them up close and in an intimate setting. Out on stage, they are not paraded around in cages. They are in a very interesting environment for people to see them” he said.
Owenhouse also said it gives his crew the chance to talk about the tigers, where they live, how they travel and work and something really important to him which is tiger conservation.
So how much do the tigers like to work? Very much, said Owenhouse.
He said they back up the trailer to the edge of the sanctuary, where there is a passage for the tigers to walk right up to the truck and load up.
“They love to go,” he said. “We’ve always had a policy we never force our tigers to go it’s always their choice.”
Reporting by Andrea Lutz for MTN News