Update: All performances at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (whpbac.org) are postponed or cancelled through April 16. Patrons who have purchased tickets to any events scheduled between those dates may request a refund or ticket transfer to a rescheduled date. Ticket holders will be contacted directly by the box office.
By Jennifer Henn
Imagine you’re at a house party and someone is playing the piano and taking requests. Now imagine there are two pianos, two players and a third guy on drums.
Oh, and they’re doing a little improvisational comedy — and taking turns playing each other’s instruments.
Steve Savage hopes so because that’s what he’s bringing to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Thursday, March 19, with his Savage Pianos performance. The show will be a three-hour dueling pianos party — with drums and a little violin, too — that will tap nearly all musical genres in ways audience members have probably never even thought of.
Savage, 37, of Cranford, N.J. will be joined onstage by his longtime collaborator Matt Tobin, 34, and relative newcomer Tom McGovern, 28.
“I’m going to directly quote Matt here and say this is definitely not your grandparents’ piano bar, but there’s plenty of room for them, too,” Savage said in a recent interview. “We’re going to cover a lot of ground.”
From opera to Eminem, with some familiar television and movie themes, jazz standards, Disney tunes, with country and reggae in between, Savage and company are prepared to play something for everyone.
And that’s not even including the requests.
“Savage Pianos” is part of the performing arts center’s innovative programming initiative focused on bringing unique events to Thursday nights. The show will run from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. and while tickets for the VIP onstage and table side drink service sections have sold out, general admission tickets are still available for $23.
“We are excited to bring ‘Savage Pianos’ to the PAC because of its high energy performers and party vibe,” said interim executive director Julienne Penza-Boone in a press release issued about the event.
Savage, a classically trained pianist from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, founded the “Savage Pianos” company in 2018 after performing in other dueling piano shows for a decade. He works with a roster of about 15 other musicians, who alternate in joining him at shows.
And he and Tobin perform weekly in Manhattan, he said.
“We started out competing, literally, for work in Boston around 2010 when I was a student there,” Savage said. “Fast forward to now and we’re great friends who work so well together. I get to work with my favorite people and I think the audience can tell that we’re having as good of a time as they are.”
Savage plays piano and sings. Tobin plays piano, sings and plays the violin. And their third man for the Westhampton Beach show, McGovern, plays drums, some piano and has a background in sketch and improvisational comedy.
At one point in the show, the three musicians take turns playing each other’s instruments.
“We go into a rotation and it’s a lot of fun,” Savage said. “That’s part of what I think sets us apart. We do some unexpected things to keep the audience on their toes.”
The PAC show will be “Savage Piano’s” first appearance on the East End. Typically, the group performs for a lot of private parties, fundraisers and wedding, in addition to bar shows. Their approach to a theater show is only slightly different, Savage said.
One of the things Savage is most proud of in the show is the diversity of music the audience gets to hear and the genre bending the musicians do.
“We’re getting known for doing hip-hop and other out-of-the-box stuff,” he said. “And it’s funny, when you watch people hearing hip-hop played on a piano for the first time you can almost see them enjoy it and react as if to say, ‘Oh, now I get it!’
“Helping people gain a new appreciation for something they thought they already knew and wouldn’t have given the time of day to before, that’s really cool.”
“Savage Pianos” is Thursday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 at whbpac.org. The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is located at 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach. For more information, call 631-288-1500.