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2 Pianos 4 Hands is like a Favourite Song

There are some shows you can see over and over again. They are like the welcome return of an old friend. Such is 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

The production has become a Canadian classic. It first saw the light of day in 1996 and has since toured the world to the tune of more than 700 performances.

2 Pianos 4 Hands is the brainchild of Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. Independently, both men are well known in Canadian theatre circles as actors, directors and writers. Something magical happened when they collaborated on this show.

It turns out that both had studied the piano in serious fashion, and 2 Pianos 4 Hands is dedicated to their teachers, Lillian Upright of Edmonton (Dykstra) and the late Dorothy Morton of Montreal (Greenblatt).

2 Pianos 4 Hands is about young people and their love/hate relationship with learning to play the piano. In the long run, it is also about the “right stuff” needed to have a career as a professional musician.

The most poignant scenes occur near the end of the show, when Dykstra is turned down by the conservatory and Greenblatt is rejected by the Faculty of Jazz. Until then, they’ve been the cocks of the walk, winning their piano competitions in easy fashion.

Despite the serious underpinnings of this production, namely working hard at a talent only to have the dream shattered, 2 Pianos 4 Hands is riotously funny.

The set contains two grand pianos facing each other. The men take turns playing their young selves, as well as the adults in their lives. There are two video screens to establish place, such as windows to represent piano studios and a logo for the conservatory. Quite frankly, these screens are underused. They are mainly swatches of colour.

The beginning business is Victor Borge-ish as they take time to settle in, first changing pianos, then changing piano benches. They start with scales, then riff into those old hoary piano standards for beginners, Heart and Soul and Chopsticks.

The scenes with Teddy and Richie in their early years are laugh-out-loud funny. In particular, Dykstra’s portrayal of the long-suffering Sister Loyola, Richie’s first teacher, is worth the price of admission alone.

At first, the boys chafe at having to practise the piano and there are very funny confrontations with their parents. Anyone who has studied piano will instantly sympathize with the yearly Kiwanis competitions, and the 67 entries all playing the same piece. Then come the conservatory exams and piano theory.

One hilarious vignette has the two perform what amounts to a quasi-rap song made up of musical terms. They speak faster and faster as they rhyme off fortissimo, adagio, presto and the like.

A reversal takes place toward the end, when the two teenagers become glued to their pianos. For example, Teddy’s father worries that he has no social life.

When they are rejected for advanced training, Ted becomes a piano teacher and Rich becomes a pianist in a cocktail bar. While both scenes contain amusing dialogue, there is a melancholy tone – all that work and passion poured into a dream that will never happen.

Both Dykstra and Greenblatt are engaging performers. Their comic timing is superb, and the construction of the show is perfection, flowing from youth to adulthood without missing a beat. The pieces they play during the show, particularly the Bach encore, demonstrate just what talented classical pianists they are.

The good news is that music’s loss is theatre’s gain. One hopes that Dykstra and Greenblatt will continue to enrich the Canadian theatre scene for many years to come.

And remember, this is the last time that 2 Pianos 4 Hands is coming our way before Dykstra and Greenblatt retire the show. Don’t miss these farewell performances.

Paula Citron
Theatre Critic

The Globe and Mail - Arts - Theatre

Starring in the Globe Theatre production of A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, Straker proved she was up to the task of portraying the country music superstar. The role is difficult - it's just not enough for the actor to be able to carry a tune with a pleasant voice. To bring credibility to the role, the voice has to be similar to Patsy's - it has to be husky, robust and powerful, and Straker's voice filled the bill quite admirably.

Writers Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, whom have portrayed themselves for thousands of performances over the past ten years, have written a hugely entertaining, enlightening, and enthralling piece of theatre that is tremendously satisfying not only from a theatrical point of view but from a musical point of view as well.

Stages Repertory Theatre’s production of Richard Greenblatt & Ted Dykstra’s 2 PIANOS 4 HANDS is a lot of fun to take in and experience. The humor in the show carries it from moment to moment; yet, the immaculate and remarkable piano playing is what really mesmerizes and delights audiences. Overall, it is a family friendly show with a few instances of innuendo and language that may make the show inappropriate for children under the age of 10 or so. With the talent behind the keys at Stages Repertory Theatre, it is easy to see why the show is such an international sensation.

Adroit writing, skilled performers and an inventive recollection of childhood and adult musical travails merge into a fresh and invigorating comedy, laced with insights and delivering a rich comedic and emotional experience.

Whatever happens to all those kids who are burning with ambition to become the next Renee Fleming, the next Yo Yo Ma, or the next Oscar Peterson only to find that, for one reason or another, they are not quite going to make it?

Having seen 2 Pianos, 4 Hands three times across the years (that’d be six pianos, 12 hands), I have to report that it seems better, and even fresher, than ever.

Created and performed by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, Two Pianos, Four Hands follows the careers of two budding pianists from early music lessons through music festivals and conservatory auditions.

TORONTO - Were it not for a bit of divine intervention, this is a show that could just as easily be called 2 Sticks 4 Skates, 2 Feet 4 Pointe Shoes or even 2 Snowboards 4 Feet.

There are some shows you can see over and over again. They are like the welcome return of an old friend. Such is 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt won’t be closing the keyboards on those pianos just yet. October 29, 2011 - December 4, 2011.

A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline at the Fireside Dinner Theatre, Fort Atkinson, WI, United States: May 5, 2011 - June 26, 2011

Shakespeare's Will at The Globe Theatre, Regina, SK, Canada: February 23, 2011 - March 13, 2011

2 Pianos 4 Hands at North Coast Rep, Solana Beach, CA, USA: January 12, 2011 - February 6, 2011

2 Pianos 4 Hands at the Park Square Theatre, St. Paul, MN USA: December 7, 2010 - January 2, 2011

Sexy Laundry at the Gateway Theatre, Richmond, BC, Canada November 11, 2010 - November 27, 2010

2 Pianos 4 Hands at the Perth Theatre, Scotland, UK - November 9, 2010 - November 20, 2010

2 Pianos 4 Hands at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Scotland UK - October 28, 2010 - November 6, 2010

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at the Farmers Alley Theatre, Kalamazoo, MI USA September 17, 2010 - October 9, 2010

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island, IL USA September 3 - November 6, 2010  

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at The Round Barn Theatre, Amish Acres, Nappanee IN USA June 1, 2010 - July 11, 2010

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline at Back Bay Events Center, produced by Fiddlehead Theatre Company, April 7, 2010 - April 17, 2010

blood.claat, one ooman story at the Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada April 7, 2010 - April 17, 2010

Mum's the Word United Kingdom Tour - Robert C Kelly Productions April 6, 2010 - July 31, 2010. For a complete schedule visit: 

2 Pianos, 4 Hands written by Ted Dykstra & Richard Greenblatt
at The Little Theatre on the Square, Sullivan, IL USA
March 12 - March 21, 2010

blood.claat written by d'bi young anitafrika at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  March 2 - 21, 2010

Monthy Python Meets Broadway in Robin Hood - The Environmental Family Musical

2 Pianos 4 Hands | A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline | Bear With Me | bittergirl: The Musical |
Hamlet (solo) | Jackson-Triggs Amphitheatre | Mom's the Word | Mom's the Word 2: Unhinged
Ross Petty Productions | Santa Baby | Sexy Laundry | Shakespeare's Will | The Summoned