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Audience invited to mix it up at Deuces Wild concert

Sometimes, persistence really does pay off.

When Minnesota native Ted Manderfeld first auditioned for a spot in the Deuces Wild Dueling Pianos show, he didn't get the gig. But he didn't give up: Instead, he followed the performers on tour and gradually talked them into realizing that he was the right man for the job after all.

"I was in a place in life where I could afford to do that," he said. As a recent graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, he was working in Fargo at a job that, while "the people were nice," was just not what he wanted to do with his life.

So one day, when he heard that Deuces Wild was playing at the bar next door to where he worked, he went to see the show, introduced himself to the players, and "by chance, found out that one of the guys that was doing it was quitting."

Manderfeld auditioned for them on the spot.

"They told me I wasn't the right person for the job," he said. Inspired by what he had seen on that stage, Manderfeld wasn't about to take no for an answer. "I said, 'I'll do whatever it takes.'

"I quit my job and followed them around from show to show," he said. "I got to know the guys, started to learn the act and they invited me on stage with them."

Eventually, he got the job, and five years later, he's still a part of the act that will be taking the stage Thursday at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre.

"I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up," said the 28-year-old musician from St. Cloud. "From the time I was 10 years old, I've wanted to be a musician of some kind -- but I never in a million years would have thought I'd be doing something like this.

"It's an opportunity that just falls in your lap and if you're smart enough to go out and get it, you do just that."

Manderfeld said that hundreds of people had auditioned for the show before they finally gave him the job five years ago. One of the reasons that it was so difficult to find the right person, Manderfeld said, is that Deuces Wild is a completely unscripted show.

"There are a lot of good piano players and singers out there," he said. "But I can guarantee you that, especially together, we (Manderfeld and partner David Charles Eichholz) are the quintessential entertainers. You have to be a really well-rounded entertainer to do what we do.

"It's a totally interactive show, absolutely high energy. You have to be really quick on your feet -- part comedian, part musician, part idiot," he added with a laugh. "Kind of a jack-of-all-trades."

"There are situations every night you play that you can't prepare for... it flows from whatever the audience wants. I think that's part of the attraction, part of what makes us an appealing show. It just takes on an organic feel, from the second we step on stage. We literally just go with the flow."

In a way, Manderfeld explained, the crowd directs the action. They request songs, come up on stage to participate in skits, or ask for friends to be mentioned or pointed out in the audience.

At the same time, he added, they do have certain songs and skits that have become an integral part of the show.

"There are just certain songs, certain things that people are going to want us to do every show," Manderfeld explained. "Over the course of a thousand shows, you find things that work, and stick with them."

Thursday's show at the Historic Holmes Theatre may be a little different from the duo's typical live performances, he noted, in that it's a more formal setting.

"We will be doing two one-hour sets, with an intermission," Manderfeld said, adding that it's a little shorter than their usual performance format. However, if the crowd wants them to continue, "We'll keep going until the police come and kick us out, or the lights are turned off -- whichever happens first," he joked.

"For those who have never seen us before, I'd like to say... come prepared to participate and to be a part of a show like you've never seen before," he said.

Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos will take the stage at the Holmes Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students; for more information, contact the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office, 218-844-SHOW (7469), or visit the Web site,

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454