Friday and Saturday nights in Times Square have just been kicked up a notch thanks to “NYC Dueling Pianos,” now playing regularly at Midtown Theatre. This concert-style performance blends music and audience interaction in an intimate venue, located just off New York City’s bustling center of tourism, for a show that will entertain out-of-towners and city dwellers alike.
The titular duo of “dueling” pianists is joined onstage by a drummer and, a more recent addition to the group, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Mark Rivera. Not only are each of the four band members impressively talented, but they’re all having such a blast on stage that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement.
The audience controls the setlist for the night, making each show a unique experience. On-lookers can either hand-deliver their song “requests” to the performers with money attached to ensure the song is played, or submit a money-free (and no-guarantee) song “suggestion.” Don’t like a requested song? No problem — just pony up a dollar more than the original requester paid, and the song stops immediately.
The set-up spurs on some hilarious and good-natured rivalry among individuals of differing tastes, without breaking the bank or dampening spirits. For instance, on the night reviewed, a $10 request for the classic Beatles sing-a-long “Hey Jude” halted abruptly when a man approached the stage and tendered a song-stopping $11. The anticlimactic end inspired some on-lookers to continue their robust choruses of “na na na na” well into the next song of the night.
Set lists will obviously vary, but expect to hear plenty of classic Billy Joel and Elton John tunes — a nod to their piano-driven melodies (and Rivera’s storied performance history with each).
Most other requests (on this night, at least) tended toward sing-a-long favorites and rock classics — “Sweet Caroline” and “Sweet Home Alabama” got huge responses, while the late Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” featured blazingly soulful saxophone work by Rivera.
Audiences with more, shall we say, eclectic tastes have no need to fear. If you want to hear it, the band will do their darndest to play it, tackling such non-standard requests as “Cum on Feel the Noize.” The unpredictability only adds to the excitement, and makes “NYC Dueling Pianos” a must-see.
Regular tickets carry a $20 face value, but with “NYC Dueling Pianos” discount code DPTN, TicketNews readers can save 50 percent on tickets.
“Dueling Pianos” takes the stage each Friday and Saturday at the Midtown Theatre, located at 163 West 46th Street in New York, NY. The music starts around 10 p.m. and continues for about four hours.
“NYC Dueling Pianos” was reviewed in participation with TicketNews’ Discount Theatre Program, which provides unique discount codes for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and other theatrical productions. For more information on the program or enrolling a production, visit our Discount Theatre Program page or e-mail Liz Hoffman.