At The Stanley until April 14
Posted on March 21, 2013
2 Pianos 4 Hands. Right: two guys, four hands, two pianos. But Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt are so good they could each do a show that might be called 2 Hands 4 Pianos – but why would they? A couple of Canadians who co-wrote this show back in 1990, Dykstra and Greenblatt have such a great time together, why wouldn’t you put both of them on stage at the same time?
Anyone who has ever taken piano lessons can relate to this show. Judging from the laughter of recognition from the audience, I suspect that would be a fairly large number of opening nighters. Who didn’t fib to their weary piano teacher during a piano lesson, “Yes, I practiced every single day.” Or who didn’t whine, “It sounded a lot better at home.” Or shrieked in protest during a gruelling piano exam, “Why do they make us do this?” What piano teacher hasn’t wanted to interrupt a tedious lesson for “a cup of tea and a little lie down”? And what parent hasn’t hollered that the lessons are “a waste of your time and my money”?
But these two make it so much more fun than it really was and, of course, the music is wonderful once ‘Teddy’ and ‘Richie’ get past playing – badly – scales. As youngsters, Greenblatt and Dykstra sprawl at the bench, make faces, squirm and convince us entirely that they are reluctant little boys stuck at the piano while all their friends are outside playing hockey.
As they become adolescents, we see them battering each other on the piano bench during duet practice and, later, at the Kiwanis Festival – along with sixty-seven other pairs playing the same song – one of them gets stage fright leaving the other to play both parts. Which he enthusiastically does.
While Dykstra and Greenblatt recognized in their teens that they were never going to be “Vlad” (Horowitz) they did come to understand they were the best piano players not in the world, not in the country or city, but definitely in the neighborhood. Very large neighbourhood, say I.
The piano performances are wonderful and include Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, 1st movement, Mozart’s Sonata for One Piano, Four Hands in D Major, 1st Movement, and Chopin’s Ballade No. 2 in F Major. But what 2 Pianos 4 Hands clearly shows is the commitment on the part of music students, their parents and their long-suffering teachers, to reach excellence. And, even more to the point, when excellence is not enough, what next?
Greenblatt and Dykstra have performed this show together over nine hundred times in Canada, the US, the UK, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa and beyond. The amazing thing is how fresh it still is. Each punchline sounds like the first time. Each howl of outrage against Dad feels new. Each rejection looks as if it just happened.
There’s the music and then there’s Dykstra and Greenblatt whom we come to love over the course of the evening. What’s not to love? They open their hearts to us and invite us in. They remind us of the fantastic pleasure we got, if we were ever music students, at finally mastering a piece of music. And they bring back to most of us the day we had to agree with Dad or Mom, we were wasting our time and their money if we thought we were going to be concert pianists.
Produced by Marquis Entertainment Inc. and Talking Fingers Inc., there’s no sex, no drugs, no obscenity, no violence. Pure delight. And if you applaud long enough, they’ll reward you with a piece so serene, so calming that you’ll think you’ve died and gone to Heaven.