By Dan Golden
Since opening barely two months ago, Boogie Woogie's Restaurant and
Dueling Piano Bar is fast becoming one of the most popular downtown
destination points. Featuring unique musical entertainment and fine
Cajun food fare, this one-of-a-kind nightclub will blow your socks off!
Modeled along the lines of the premier Vegas-style casino bars, Boogie
Woogie's provides patrons with an unforgettable evening of fun and excitement.
The star attraction at Boogie Woogie's is the "dueling pianos"
concept featuring co-owners Van and Cristina Walraven. Conceived 65
years ago at the world famous Pat O'Brien's Club in New Orleans, "dueling
pianos" is a non-stop show of vocal and instrumental duets, comic
exchanges and audience participation.
Over the last nine years, the Walravens have almost single-handedly
(pardon the pun) revived this nearly lost musical art form to become
one of the top-rated duets of this type in the entire country. With
a reputed repertoire of over 2000 songs, plus countless comic bits and
impersonations, this high energy duo's goal is to "get adults to
get loose and act like kids!" The shows are definitely "audience
interactive," with singalongs, skits and contests designed to include
even the most timid viewers in the house.
Texas native Van Walraven started noodling on the piano at the tender
age of five. During his college years, the internationally ranked swimmer
and distance runner decided to "take some time off" from his
medical school studies to join a traveling rock and roll band. It's
a hiatus that continues to this day!
Throughout the '80s, Walraven led a popular Portland-based Top 40 band
known as Oo-la-la, and even recorded an album of his own material. In
1991, he witnessed an exhibition of the dueling pianos concept that
changed his musical career forever.
Van shares his "secret passion" for the piano with his lovely
wife Cristina. Meeting at a piano bar in Cancun, Mexico, the two fell
in love and began to collaborate musically as well.
Stints together on cruise ships, casinos, nightclubs and corporate
events led to a long tenure as a featured act at the famed New York,
New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Today, the Walravens are regarded
as leaders in the dueling piano field, heading a talent agency and consulting
firm that specializes in their chosen entertainment format.
Already the darling of local media critics and audiences alike, Boogie
Woogie's is a "one-stop" nightclub, offering fine Cajun cooking
along with spirited entertainment. Unique menu items such as the Ragin'
Cajun Catfish Raco, the Crawdaddy Cocktail, Bayou (alli)Gator Bites
and authentic Jambalaya are offered along with more conventional American
Incredible desserts and a fully stocked bar help provide patrons with
the fuel to enjoy the evening's high energy show. Everything is served
by "the world's wackiest waitstaff," a highly trained group
of professionals that even join the show once an hour to lead the audience
in "crazy" dance lessons.
Along with the Walravens, Boogie Woogie's brings to their stage a "cavalcade
of stars," including some of the "top gun" dueling piano
acts from across the nation. Currently, the team of James Hill and Jim
Fontano share the Thursday through Sunday night reviews, alternating
with the Walravens throughout the course of the evening.
Upcoming events include "Mitch Mondays in March," featuring
possible the "world's greatest boogie woogie piano man" Mitch
Woods and The Rocket 88's. Another talented showman, "Elton"
Joel Mason will be appearing in April.
Add this to the new phenomenon known as Speed Dating on Tuesday nights,
plus nightly happy hour sets, and you have a full slate of fun all week
Reservations are recommended for the weekend shows, as this is fast
becoming the hottest entertainment ticket in town. Get "permission
to misbehave" from the staff at Boogie Woogie's - it's one of the
most "therapeutic" venues in Portland today.