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It's Fun Fun at Sing Sing

CLUBS in and around Orange County | WANNA DANCE?

Irvine nightspot's pianists go out of their way to incite audience participation.

September 10, 1998|ZAN DUBIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To say that Sing Sing is a piano bar is like saying the Irvine Spectrum, with its glut of shopping opportunities, restaurants and double-digitplex movie palace, is a strip mall.

Yes, the new nightspot has two pianos. Two grands, in fact. And, yes, the two guys who play them get patrons to sing along. But that's a massive understatement too.

The out-of-control crowd bellows, shouts and cheers along, and the guys at the ivories are as much stand-up comedians and yell leaders as they are lyric-meisters.

Stand-up is the operative word. The other night, mike in hand, Don Bruner rose from his piano bench, clinked over the keyboard in his running shoes, and climbed atop his piano to lead the throng through old favorites from the '50s to now.

His partner, Roger Hunt, who looks like Weird Al Yankovic , but cuter, helped.

"If you can't stand up and party like everyone else," roared Hunt, a veteran with the Sing Sing chain, "get the hell out of here."

Nope, subtlety isn't big at this ear-splitting haven for the tone-deaf, the third Sing Sing to open since the original got going about two years ago in Denver.

Its operators seem to have a fine sense of timing: Clearly, people have been interacting only with their computers for too long, and Hunt and Bruner, who, with their tattered black pianos, occupy a raised stage at the club's focal point, had no problem whipping up participation.

As they crisscross the stage, singing a cappella and clapping, the mixed-ages crowd clapped with hands raised over their heads, then screamed with laughter at the duo's jokes: Bruner sang a song too speedily to follow, then Hunt interrupted: "It's too fast! It's too fast! There's people from UCLA in here."

Employees get involved too. Hair flying, a bartender belted out a heartfelt rendition of "Come Sail Away" that would have overcome even the most Styx-phobic; two talented, body-beautiful waiters rallied the troops for the "Rocky Horror" "Time Warp" anthem.

Other crowd collaborations included a cancan line, an extended sing-along involving a medley of Neil Diamond songs (barf not, the duo takes requests) and a schmaltzy "Grease" reenactment wherein a bunch of guys on bended knee serenaded a birthday girl.

Birthdays are indeed bruising here. In another instance, a now-sweaty Bruner had a female celebrator stand butt-to-hip bones behind him so that she could stick her arms under his pits and out in front of his chest to execute slightly obscene hand gestures illustrating a dopey song. Yep, everybody sang and motioned along.

These celebrators, dragged center stage, seemed only a tiny bit embarrassed by it all. There's no question that Sing Sing devotees, packed in the aisles and standing on top of their own tables, are hungry for let-loose revelry.

Will it continue at this pitch? Who knows. Karaoke endures. And this is way wild and crazier.

P.S.: Inhibited sing-along wannabes might want to try one of several freshly brewed beers from the also new Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery next door.

BE THERE

Sing Sing, the Irvine Spectrum, 65 Fortune, Irvine; (949) 453-8999. Tue.-Thur., 7 p.m.-1 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Cover: $5 on weekends.

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