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Unexpected humor makes Dueling Pianos a hit

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Photo: Katie Degtyareva

While the name “dueling pianos” may sound intense, performers Michael McCaslin and Ryan Miles got the Friday night crowd in Sheslow Auditorium to sing, clap and cheer throughout their unique concert. However, dueling pianos is hardly a new concept. McCaslin and Miles said it has been popular since the 1980s and bars all across the country are dedicated to the performance. Sure enough, roughly half of the audience had seen dueling pianos before.

For the rest of the audience, McCaslin and Miles explained that dueling pianos was not a competition, but a sing-along. Audience members were encouraged to request songs through paper slips on stage and to sing and clap along. They also encouraged the sides to compete against each other and see who was the loudest. The crowd roared as McCaslin led with “Great Balls of Fire” and Miles joined him on the same piano.

The performers pulled four male students out of the audience, gave them hats and had them dance like the Village People to “YMCA.” Two young boys, both under 12, were also recruited to do “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The twist was that they ended up doing it to each other’s bodies. Even unplanned events were simply a joke for the two. McCaslin attempted to finish the concert with “Piano Man” and tried twice before pulling first-year Madison Dockter out of the audience to hold his harmonica. She made it through the first chorus before dropping it.

This sort of unexpected and unplanned humor was the highlight of the show.

“The best part is their faces,” sophomore Erin Mercurio said. “I love their expressions.”

Whether they were twisting the lyrics to “Baby” or ordering a person in the audience to stop yawning, McCaslin and Miles kept the audience laughing. However, this comedy did not overpower their talent.

In an hour and a half, McCaslin and Miles played 48 songs. Some were classics including “Pretty Woman,” while others were pop hits like “Tik Tok.” They held a shout-out for themes, had a commercial break and had several other surprises. No matter the song, both knew the lyrics and the melodies, and they managed to improvise on both.

No one expected McCaslin, a 35-year-old father, to break into “Baby Got Back” or for Miles to rap the entire “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song. The duo also took every opportunity to let the audience sing. On the Spice Girls’ song “Wannabe,” Miles and McCaslin simply played their pianos as the left side of the crowd belted out the lyrics. The whole night was filled with surprises, laughter and good music. Somehow McCaslin and Miles took dueling pianos to a whole other level where an entire auditorium became the ensemble.

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