Are you up for a little midweek DP action? You are? Well, then get your butt over to The Pub in Wilton Manors this Tuesday (or next) and prepare to be deeply touched by the hot-and-heavy tag teamwork of dueling pianists Eric Swanson and Gerianne Ditto-Harvey, better known as The Dynamic Duo. Eric and Gerianne are touring North America, on a mission to expand people’s musical horizons. We sat down with Eric to find out what to expect from the Duo’s totally interactive new show — audience participation is strongly encouraged!
Were you always a performer, even as a child?
Both Gerianne and I grew up making music with our parents. Gerianne’s mom and dad were in barbershop quartets and were both instrumentalists: piano, guitar, and trumpet. Gerianne was performing in choir and band very early on. My mom was a singer in the then-famous group Up with People, and my dad was a pianist. He was self-taught, and he taught me how to navigate a piano!
My mom was a single mom who thought that, since I was a boy, I should do “boy things.” She put me in baseball in 6th grade. After a few games, I got in the car one day, and my mom asks, “You don’t really want to play sports do you, honey?” I told her: “Not really. Why do you ask?” Her reply was priceless: “Because I saw you out in left field singing something. I walked down the fence line and heard you singing Barbara Streisand’s ‘People.’” The next day she enrolled me in voice lessons.
What was your first professional gig?
Gerianne and I both had professional gigs, separately, during and after our college years: Gerianne used to sing with Michigan Opera Theatre, and I toured professionally in shows. Early in our thirties, we wanted to focus on building a home base, so we secured our first professional gig together back in 2007. Our parents were very supportive of our careers. Now, our spouses push us even further, allowing us to perform, travel, and be crazy creatives.
When did you know performing would be your career?
When I was 13, I saw my first Broadway show in New York City: It was 42nd Street starring Christine Ebersole. After the show, I knew I wanted that. I knew I would become part of that culture.
You both work behind the scenes at the Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company. Do you like that work as much as you do performing on stage?
I founded the theater company back in 2011 with my business partner Michael Johns, Gerianne, and our current artistic director, Mindy Grissom. We wanted to create opportunities for artists to grow, create something they cared about, and have a conversation in the process — particularly about social-justice issues. Gerianne and I feel like we get the best of both worlds: running a theater company that serves its artists, and having a cabaret act to give us our personal performance fix. We are so lucky that our lives are truly lived on stage.
How long have you two been friends?
Ha! Depends on whom you ask. We met our sophomore year at Adrian College. Gerianne was a transfer student from a community college majoring in Performance, and I was in Music Education. I thought Gerianne was way talented, and I didn’t know how to talk to her; she was too cool for me. Gerianne would say we were friends almost instantly, but I was stressed out for the first six months — about having such a talented musician among my friends. Who am I kidding? I still am! I’m her biggest fan. It has been an amazing friendship for 16 years and counting.
What made you create the Dynamic Duo?
It was a combination of Gerianne’s idea and my own travel to NYC for a wedding. I went to Marie’s Crisis, the famed [West Village] piano bar, where I met the fabulous host Kenny Green. I loved his energy — and his ability to get a whole bar to belt out “Evita!” I thought to myself, “This could work in Detroit.” I came home and the next day — I’m not kidding — Gerianne says, “You know, we should finally bite the bullet and just do our own thing: We could totally jam with our pianos and make it a thing.” The rest is, as they say, show business!
What should The Pub’s customers expect from your show?
First, they should expect to sing along. We really do encourage it! We try to perform a variety of songs, to please as many in the crowd as possible. We’ll cover everything from Oklahoma to Hamilton. We also toss a bit of Disney in there — though, sometimes on our Florida stops, everyone is a bit Disney’d out.
We’ll sing a few showstoppers and tell stories that go along with certain numbers. Each show is different because each audience is different. We chat with people, get a vibe for what they may want to hear, and move with them. Many audience members have a cocktail in one hand and their phone in the other — with lyrics to a song pulled up on it! Others simply sit back and enjoy the variety.
The Dynamic Duo is at The Pub (2283 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors) at 8pm on both Tuesday, April 24 and Tuesday, May 1, Admission is free.