Twice the musical fun
Anyone who managed to catch "Deuces Wild Dueling Pianos" for either of the show's previous two performances in Detroit Lakes, Ted Manderfeld would like you to know that the name may be the same, but the show isn't.
"Even if you've seen us before, we've got lots of new stuff," said Manderfeld, who is one-half of the piano duo. "We've evolved quite a bit."
Though he and musical partner Dave Charles Eicholz have been doing shows together for "just over 10 years" now, one of the things he enjoys most is the fact that no two shows are exactly the same.
"The fun of our show is that there's so much spontaneity," Manderfeld said. "There's no real planning. That's what separates Dave and I from a lot of other dueling piano acts out there.
"Some people may think you can just put any two pianists on stage together, call them dueling pianos, and it's going to be good -- nothing could be further from the truth.
"We're both good musicians, but the success (of Deuces Wild) is based on the chemistry between the two people on that stage. We're the best at what we do, because we have spent 10 years on the road together. There's no substitute for experience at all."
Their show combines elements of both music and comedy, and it's that experience that allows them to read an audience and determine whether a new song or a new joke is working -- and if it's not, to make a last-minute adjustment.
"Things happen in a split second," Manderfeld said. "It's one thing to write out a show and perform in it, and a whole other thing to be able to improvise in the moment and have it all happen seamlessly."
Their chemistry on stage didn't happen overnight -- in fact, Eicholz had a different show partner for a few years before Manderfeld cam on the scene.
"We've probably done 1,400 shows together, and at the end of each show, we like to go out and meet people in the audience...inevitably, they ask a lot of the same questions," Manderfeld said.
One of the most common is about how they met and started performing together. Their "not serious" responses include such quips as "prison," "dental school" and "studying for the ACT...even though Dave is 10 years older than me, he's a slow learner."
Those are the joking answers -- but even though "fiction is often a lot funnier than the truth," the real story in this case is actually pretty humorous in itself, Manderfeld noted.
Eicholz developed the concept for the show from the act that he started while working at a piano bar in the Mall of America during the 1990s. With a different partner, he took that concept on the road, "and they began building a name for themselves."
After about four years, Eicholz's original partner left the show, and he began looking around for a replacement. Enter Manderfeld, a recent college graduate and fan.
"I quit my post-college job and started 'stalking' him -- following him from show to show until he hired me," Manderfeld said. "That's the true story of how we met. He hired me and gave me a six-month trial period. I was the 'new guy' -- he said that if the crowds don't like you, if the people who hire us don't like you, or if I don't like you, you're done.
"He told me that in our business it's sink or swim, and we don't rehearse, so you'd better be able to keep up. It's 10 years later, and here I am."
Though the songs they cover on stage were mostly written by other artists, Manderfeld and Eicholz put their own spin on them, combining them with improvisational comedy to create a truly unique experience.
Many of the songs they perform are familiar crowd pleasers -- "songs that everybody knows and can sing along with," Manderfeld said. "If you walk into any sports bar in America you're going to hear the same soundtrack."
The difference lies in the comedic element, he noted.
"I'm very passionate about what we do," said Manderfeld. "Even though what we do is silly and fun and spontaneous and stupid, we're very serious about our stupidity. We are students of comedy, which is an art form in itself."
In other words, anyone who comes to one of their shows had better be prepared for some serious fun.
Tickets for "Deuces Wild" are $22 for adults and $11 for students, and can be purchased online at www.dlccc.org, by calling 218-844-7469, or by visiting the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.