Opera House Ready for Dueling Pianos

FAIRMONT – Dave and Ted are good at mixing things up – it’s their job, after all, as dueling pianists – but on Friday, they’ll pull a real switcheroo.

The Twin Cities musicians are scheduled to perform two shows that day at Fairmont Opera House, offering completely different dynamics for two completely different demographics.

At 2 p.m. Friday, Dave Eichholz and Ted Manderfeld will present “What a Wonderful World.” The production includes familiar classics for older generations, such as “Over the Rainbow,” “Tennessee Walz,” “16 Tons,” and “Amazing Grace.”

“For the afternoon show, it will be all music from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, with light humor and costume changes,” Eichholz said.

Then, in the evening, the duo will switch gears for “Deuces Wild! Dueling Pianos,” a 7:30 p.m. show that Eichholz described as “fun, energetic, ADD.”

The show has been in Fairmont twice previously, drawing crowds attracted by the prospect of a night of raucous, yet clean, musical entertainment. For this set, “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey is one of the oldest songs they’ll perform.

“In today’s day and age, if you go longer than 40 seconds without changing something, people start grabbing their cell phones,” Eichholz said.

No one at this show should expect to sit idly in their seats. The performers encourage participation right from the start, and they’ve been known to drag people on stage to bring them into the act.

“We just want people to take ownership in the performance, ownership in the night,” Eichholz said. “The earlier we can make the audience part of the show, the better.”

How to encourage that level of participation is a skill they’ve learned through experience.

“If people find that it’s OK to let loose a little, they will in a heartbeat start singing along,” Eichholz said. “They just need a little gentle persuasion.”

He and Manderfeld have been working together for 10 years, starting out in the bar scene. After a couple years of this, opening a show at 9 p.m. and getting home at 5 a.m., they made the move to the corporate world. For seven years, they performed primarily for corporate gatherings, and while the hours were convenient and their audiences enthusiastic, they were missing the excitement and exposure that comes with working with the general public.

“We need and we want to get back in the public eye, and that’s where the theaters come in,” Eichholz said. “The theaters are the best audiences of any audiences.”

They learned about towns like Fairmont and Worthington from their time at Itty Bitties, a piano bar at the Mall of America, where they kept meeting fans who would beg them to come to southern Minnesota.

“We knew when we started traveling we wanted to go to those towns,” Eichholz said.

The two write about an hour of new material each year, so anyone who has been to one of their previous shows shouldn’t expect to see the same performance. And due to the amount of improvisation they do, no two shows are ever the same.

“The senior show, we just wrote that, and the second show, the party show, half of that will be new and half will be of our hits from the past,” Eichholz said.

Both the afternoon and evening productions are appropriate for all ages, according to the performers.

“It’s all good clean fun. There’s nothing we do that a 6-year-old kid can’t watch; nothing we do that a 90-year-old grandma wouldn’t giggle into her napkin over – and I’m really proud of that,” said Eichholz, who was hanging out with his son during his phone interview with the Sentinel. “That wasn’t always the case. We used to be a Vegas-style show. Now, even if it gets edgy, it’s nothing a kid can’t see.”

Tickets to the afternoon show are $15, and $22 each for the evening show, available by calling the Opera House at (507) 238-4900 or going online to www.fairmontoperahouse.com. The Opera House bar will only be open for “Deuces Wild.”