The Renegade Rip

The California Dueling Piano’s road show arrives to Bakersfield

Dueling pianist, Rome Da Luce and Michael Tuten from California Dueling Pianos, play the crowd’s favorite classic hits at The Padre’s Prospect Lounge.

Melissa Puryear, Managing Editor

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Rome Da Luce, 33, of Los Angeles and Michael Tuten, 34, of Las Vegas, are two dueling pianists with The California Dueling Piano’s road show that came to Bakersfield. Both teamed up to go head-to-head with an entertaining play-off to a crowd that had gathered to hear them at The Prospect Lounge in The Padre Hotel on Feb. 2.

Da Luce began his career at the age of 20, worked in a Milwaukee piano bar and was inspired by the shows he saw performed there. It’s how he became a dueling pianist. Tuten has been a musician for 30 years and part of dueling pianos for 13 years. He said he wanted to do something that he was crazy about. Music performances like dueling pianos fulfills that for him.

Both pianists’ first evening was a part of a three-day series of performances lined up for Bakersfield. This is their third time in Bakersfield, with each visit they perform a series of shows at The Padre.

At the top of the show the lounge was lively and nearly every seat was taken for the three-hour performance. The Padre staff had created mood lighting and staging for two white grand pianos that were the center of focus. There were menu options ranging from calamari, sliders, and truffle fries, to artichoke dip and hummus.

Guests began arriving as early as an hour prior to the show and filled out song requests. Each song had a $5 tag to it, but was upped to $20 per request, with the kickback of being in a raffle drawing for a three-night’s stay in a lavish Padre suite or a dinner gift certificate valued at $50 in the Padre’s Belvedere.

Although the show was a few minutes behind schedule due to technical difficulties, the crowd didn’t seem to mind as staff was on hand to serve a vast selection of beer, food, wine, and mixed drinks.

Valerie Guzman, 28, of Bakersfield, who is a bride-to-be and will tie the knot with her fiancé Arlen Littlefield, didn’t mind the delay. That’s because it was her bachelorette celebration, and it was also her first time attending a dueling piano performance. Guzman said, “I’m very excited because classic music is my favorite.”

Guzman admitted she didn’t know what to expect. She said she was open to the idea of being pulled on-stage and embarrassed by a ballad if it came down to that, “As long as it’s a love song that I like.”

Once the show was underway, the lounge vibed with borrowed classics like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Eagles “Hotel California,” and Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.”

Both Da Luce and Tuten performed 80s Top-Billboard pop culture hits like “Careless Whisper” by Wham!, “Purple Rain” by Prince, and “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey.

They changed some classic lyrics to reflect some not-so-proper verbiage, but made sure that the listening audience was on board so they wouldn’t find themselves offending their listeners.

They also performed some newer hits like Outkast’s “Roses,” and at one point the Las Vegas pianist said, “A great crowd deserves a great song,” and both singers performed “Living on a Prayer,” by Bon Jovi, while the crowd filled in the missing lyrics when prompted by one of the pianist’s lifted hands.

Sounds from the grand pianos and sound system spilled out into the halls of the hotel.

Tuten said, “If you requested a song like Tootsie Roll, I’m probably not going to know it.”

But then as if to prove he could, he performed the hit “Baby Got Back,” by Sir Mix A lot. He stopped within the first line, and said, “wait, wait, wait, we’re missing one thing, you know … the butts on stage … butts on stage.”

The audience chanted “butts on stage,” with Tuten, while he pounded the keys on the piano to match the tempo of the audiences’ demands for healthy butts. Three women from the VIP section rushed to the stage and entertained the crowd.

At one point in the show, Tuten identified members in the crowd that he wanted to sing to. Valerie Guzman, the bride-to-be, was spotted in her wedding veil, and was pulled out of the audience to join Tuten on his piano bench. It wasn’t the song choice that was the point of interest as much as it was the lyrics. They were tailored to make the audience laugh and to make Guzman embarrassed.

The crowd laughed, sang, and acted especially amused by Guzman’s facial reactions to the lyrics. Guzman couldn’t contain her surprise. By the end of the slightly dirty comedy-based serenade, she was blushing from it’s very private and intimately adult-rated content.

The same scenario followed for Julie’s Zweigle, 49, who was attending the show with friends for her birthday. Da Luce invited Zweigle onstage and had crafted an equally embarrassing song about Zweigle and her husband’s romantic relationship.

The crowd had been warned at the start of the show, “Don’t laugh at us sister, this is how we make our living, said Tuten”

But laughter is what the dueling pianists had delivered at the end of the night.

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The California Dueling Piano’s road show arrives to Bakersfield