More rock, less Bach: Sopranos bar strikes right notes

Fort LauderdaleBilly JoelSir Mix-a-LotEric ClaptonHuman Interest

When I first suggested to my friends that our weekend shenanigans lead us to a piano bar, they looked a little nervous. But as a seasoned piano bar enthusiast, I was able to convince them to give it a try. The second we got out of the elevator and heard the thunderous roar coming from the pianos, their looks of fear faded to wonder.

Perhaps I should have told them this was a dueling pianos bar, where one hears AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd rather than Bach and Beethoven.

Sopranos Dueling Pianos Bar is the newest addition to Beach Place in Fort Lauderdale. As soon as you walk in, you can tell it's not your typical bar. The friendly staff immediately greeted me, but the smiles and small talk didn't stop at the door. Whether it was a server twirling a couple during a Queen song or the "shot girl" dishing out advice on after-hour pizza joints, the staff went above and beyond to make sure customers had a memorable evening.

Let's begin with drinks: From mouth-puckering lemondrops to mix-and-match buckets of domestics and imports, there is something to tickle everybody's tastebuds. On this Saturday night, a frozen margarita ($6.50) became my drink of choice, and they provided the perfect amount of pucker for my palate. My friends seemed more excited about the Woodchuck pear cider ($6.50), a rare sight at most bars. For those seeking fun while still staying on budget, Sopranos offers happy hour specials Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m. This includes $2 domestic beers, $3 well drinks and $5 glasses of wine and frozen drinks.

Then there's the dueling piano show, of course. Every seat in the house offers a great view of the back-to-back pianos that form the bar's main attraction. On this night, Larry Klass of Fort Lauderdale and Orlando residents Rob Vandivier and Tod Kimbro performed, tickling the ivories and belting out audience-requested tunes with ease. Playing artists like Billy Joel, Journey and the Beatles to one-hit wonders, the pianists were like encyclopedias of chords and lyrics. They even simultaneously beat-boxed and sang Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back." Now that's skill.

It's not just the high-energy rock music performed on pianos that makes Sopranos unique. The audience participation adds to the bar's atmosphere; crowds were encouraged — even expected — to chime in with lyrics to popular requests and clap where the beat allowed.

On this Saturday night, a patron named Anna, who was having her bachelorette party, was asked to join the performers. With goading from the crowd, the embarrassed Anna cautiously strolled her way onstage and took a seat on a piano, where they sang her a colorful parody of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." While she turned all shades of red, the audience laughed and cheered.

I've been to my fair share of piano bars and I have to say Sopranos tops my list. The performers' high energy never let up. The wait staff was fun and friendly. And the drinks were both tasty and reasonably priced. But my favorite thing about this bar was its ability to unite different groups of patrons. The singing and clapping and laughter not only helped us have a good time, but it ensured that everybody left with some of the same stories.

Sopranos Dueling Pianos Bar, 17 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, is on the third floor of Beach Place. Hours are 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, For more information, call 954-533-7973, or visit http://www.sopranosduelingpianobar.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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