ORLANDO – As the colors of the American flag were shining brightly on the videos screens inside the Amway Center arena, Charles Haugabrooks brought a massive audience to a moment of complete and total silence. He had the crowd entirely spellbound.
He took a brief second to pause. Then Haugabrooks sang out the words “For the land of the free,” and that was all it took for the audience to burst into rapturous applause.
Haugabrooks had been invited to sing the National Anthem at the start of Wednesday night’s Game Day between the Orlando Magic and the New Orleans Hornets. And while the crowd turned out for a sports match — in a very close game that found the Hornets pulling out a narrow 97-94 win — the rousing applause given to Haugabrooks as he sang the National Anthem demonstrated that music and visual entertainment play as much a part of the Amway experience as the basketball players do.
Haugabrooks is a gospel singer well known for his distinctive tenor voice that interprets familiar songs with a great degree of intensity and passion, and he’s released albums that include “God’s Touch Through You” and “One Step Closer.”
His performance, and the strong reaction it drew from the audience, was a clear indication of just how diverse the entertainment is during a Magic game. If a passionate gospel singer opens the show, what follows often goes in very different directions.
The Orlando Magic games start promptly at 7 p.m. and usually run until about 9:15. During the course of those two-plus hours, there are plenty of efforts to keep the audience in its seats — with music playing a key role.
Whether it’s the use of The Who’s hit song “Who Are You” to introduce the away team, or Pilot’s 1970s hit “Magic (Oh it’s Magic)” as the home team comes onto the court, to the use of Queen’s popular anthem stomp rocker “We Will Rock You” to warm up the crowd minutes before the game starts, music is a constant feature of these games. A clip from the movie “Animal House” in the third quarter uses the song “Shout” to engage the audience in a singalong chorus of “Hey! A! A! A!”
Wednesday night’s half-time featured a unique act: Red Panda. Also known as Krystal the Red Panda Acrobat Half-Time Show, she rides onto the court on a unicycle that goes 10 feet into the air. As she circles around the arena, Krystal directs that unicycle with one foot while tossing bowls onto her head – with her other foot.
During this performance, she balanced bowls on her head and in her hands while peddling the unicycle. Then, just as Haugabrooks had the audience spellbound by his rendition of the National Anthem, so Krystal also got a thunderous applause as she balanced a stack of bowls on her foot, kicked them into the air – and each one landed with perfect precision on her head.
Red Panda often does NBA and NCAA half-time shows.
There were other forms of entertainment during the show, including Stuff the Orlando Magic mascot joining the Southwest Flight Crew Deck Team to shoot some hoops during time out, then holding up signs urging the audience to “Make Some Noise.” The video screens above the arena urged the crowd to take plenty of photos and then to email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Orlando Magic Dancers made several appearances as well during the game, and at this time of year, there was the added entertainment of the Mistletoe cam: the video cameras that capture couples in the audience and encourage them to follow that holiday tradition and kiss under the mistletoe.
The Amway Center is a sports and entertainment venue on Church Street in downtown Orlando, which is home to the Orlando Magic and hosted the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. This fall, the Amway Center also became home to the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL.
On Nov. 12, the NCAA announced that Amway Center had been granted the opportunity to host 2nd and 3rd round games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2014.
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