Music, Lessons Learned, and a Life-Long Friendship
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
It’s always fun to see the creators of a work present it on stage. You know that what you’re seeing is exactly what was intended.
I have seen 2 Pianos 4 Hands twice before, both with different actors. So this time it was especially nice to see it presented by the original storytellers themselves. Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt are live on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.
They first started working on the show in 1994 and premiered it to sold-out houses and rave reviews in 1996, winning the Dora Mavor Moore award for Outstanding Production.
They toured and took the show Off-Broadway, and even had a farewell tour in 2011. Yet here they are back in the same roles, like old friends getting together again.
Anyone who has ever taken piano lessons and hated it when your mother forced you to practise every night for one full hour, will appreciate the opening of 2 Pianos 4 Hands. Or any parent who has paced in the hallway, straining to listen while your son or daughter struggles through a Conservatory piano exam, will enjoy this show.
The story is semi-autobiographical, written by the two Canadian actors/pianists who realized that they had the same experience growing up and learning to play piano.
The story starts off with Richard and Ted as little boys. While one is at the piano, the other plays a strict parent or a strange piano teacher. We’re with them as they prepare for the music festival, and the elderly Kiwanis member stumbles through the introductions while the bizarre adjudicator offers words of advice. There is an assortment of eccentric piano teachers as the boys cram for conservatory exams and practise their ear training. Somewhere along their journey, the emphasis shifts from trying to avoid practise to spending every spare minute at the piano. As nerdy teenagers they are told to find other interests and get out more. Finally comes the crushing blow – reality sets in and they realize they aren’t going to be classical concert pianists. Harsh teachers tell them they are good, just not good enough.
The music played ranges from Bach, Beethoven and Mozart to Heart and Soul and Chopsticks. Among the great classical music is a pop medley including Chariots of Fire and even Linus’ song in the Peanuts movies.
It’s a poignant everyman story – from the kid on the hockey rink who’s sure he’ll make the NHL but gets cut from the try-outs, to the smart university student who can’t quite get the marks for med school. Sometimes the dream doesn’t always unfold as hoped, but the journey is always interesting, and in this case funny, emotional and entertaining.
As actors, Dykstra and Greenblatt give flawless performances. They move from bratty kids challenging their parents, to geeky teenagers, to accomplished adults. You ache for them and feel their disappointment about not getting into their chosen universities. You know how much they are hurting when they make the decision to abandon their dreams.
But fortunately for Richard and Ted, they do move on in the world of entertainment – acting, directing and writing a wonderful musical comedy. And since they are still performing together 28 years later, we can assume the friendship is solid. The result is certainly worth seeing.
2 Pianos 4 Hands continues with eight shows a week at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W., Toronto, Ontario until June 30 or may be extended. Call TicketKing 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.
Photo: Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt
2 Pianos 4 Hands
Created and Performed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt
Directed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt
Produced by Robert Richardson and Colin Rivers
The Marquis Entertainment Inc. & Talking Finders Inc.
Presented by David Mirvish
Royal Alexandra Theatre, Toronto
June 4 to July 17, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson