Dueling Pianos event to benefit Theatre Victoria

Kyle Noack, Matthew Albrecht, Michael Teer, Patricia Nagle, Nina Milam, JR Bauer and Aaron Muegge at Club Westerner for the Dueling Pianos event benefiting Theatre Victoria.

Theatre Victoria will host a casual and relaxed evening involving music and singing that, oddly enough, will not require Crossroads residents to have any talent.

Rather, two multi-talented pianists with comedic and improvisational chops will entertain and interact with the audience at the eighth annual Dueling Pianos, the theater’s main fundraiser from 6:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday at Club Westerner. The evening also will include a buffet dinner catered by Mike Pozzi Catering, an open bar, live and silent auctions, raffles and games.

“It feels right. It’s very relaxed at Club Westerner, so wear your jeans and come have a good time in August when it’s hotter than Hades outside,” said Michael Teer, executive director of Theatre Victoria.

This year, a new musical team composed of Mark Smith and Kevin Charles, of Piano Punch from Houston, will entertain with two pianos and a drum set. They will arrive without an agenda for the all-request evening. The musicians who performed for past theater fundraisers moved to California, so Teer said this is a good time to “make a change, freshen it up and make it lively for people.”

“We have no idea what we will play until we get there,” Smith said. “We play a lot of music from the ’50s to the present – country, pop, rock – and we just try to entertain as best we can and have a lot of fun with the audience however we can.”

The concept for dueling pianos originated when a couple of ladies played pianos opposite each other at Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans during Prohibition, Smith said. They competed for tips, so the one who knew more songs played more requests and earned more money. Since then, the format has evolved from a competition into a partnership. The two musicians work together with their four hands to emulate chords of other instruments in a rhythmic fashion for a full-band sound and sing-along. And they have fun interacting with the audience.

Smith played the trumpet as a music major at Stephen F. Austin State University, so his understanding of music theory allowed him to pick up piano quickly for an audition. He got his start as a dueling pianist at Pat O’Brien’s and performed there until Hurricane Katrina forced him to move.

Live and silent auction items will include hunting trips, a package for Victoria arts events, a yearlong pass to the Texas Zoo and lots of jewelry, among many others.

Typically, ticket sales cover 40% to 45% of the expenses associated with producing Theatre Victoria performances. This fundraiser along with grant-writing and patron donation campaigns helps cover the remainder. Expenses include royalties for some of the productions, lighting, sets and costumes. While selling tickets for $100-$150 would take care of it, Teer does not want to charge that much. Ticket prices are put in place to make the shows accessible to all in the area, “and that is important to us around here,” he said.

The fun and relaxed nature of this event bridges the gap between all kinds of different people and helps gain new supporters for the theater, Teer said.

“Having a good time is something we can all do, and when that also supports Theatre Victoria, then it’s a win-win for all of us,” he said.

Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate. 

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