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2 Pianos 4 Hands 1 Great Show

5.0 stars (out of 5)

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.

While 2 Pianos 4 Hands may be set in the world of music, the story it tells — two kids with enough talent to carry them to the top of the class, yet not possessed of the kind of gift required to make it into the rarefied atmosphere of the big leagues — crosses all boundaries. Regardless of the field, any kid who has ever dared to dream big — and fallen short — will surely identify with this tale.

The kids in question here are known simply as Ted and Richard — and just like they were back in 1996, when 2P4H first hit the stage of the Tarragon Theatre, they are played by playwright-performers Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, who have added a directorial credit to their resume here.

After a considerable hiatus, they’ve returned to their international hit show and the roles they created 15 years ago, launching something of a valedictory tour Sunday on the stage of the Panasonic Theatre, under the Mirvish imprimatur.

Now, for those who have somehow managed to miss the show in any of its previous incarnations, a word or two on the plot is perhaps in order.

Teddy and Richard are two young kids when we first meet them. They appear, almost magically, taking over and inhabiting the betuxed bodies of Dykstra and Greenblatt respectively, middle aged men, heretofore preoccupied with sending up concert pianists at the two grand pianos that dominate the stage.

And even though they’re wearing the bodies of those middle-aged men, Teddy and Richard are just a pair of normal kids who find themselves in thrall to a parental notion that learning the piano will somehow turn them into well-rounded adults. To that end, they find themselves chained to the keyboard and forced to practice, even while they’d rather be out playing with friends.

From there, we follow them through a growing love affair with the piano, proceeding from Leila Fletcher through the annual Kiwanis Music Festival (Dyksta has a wonderful meltdown here) to Conservatory exams, accompanied by a sideshow of teachers, parents and others, all brought expertly to comedic life.

But as their skills develop — and it becomes more and more obvious that these are talented lads indeed — things start to grow more serious. As each contemplates a career as a pianist — Teddy in concert, Richard in jazz — and then comes face to face with the knowledge that in the face of genius, talent is only a starting point, they are forced to set those dreams aside.

As they relive their story, they team up periodically to demonstrate just how deep those talents ran, interspersing their vignettes with musical compositions from the aforementioned Fletcher to Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Billy Joel, played with impressive skill.

But fingerwork notwithstanding, it is finally acting skills that drive this show.

While Greenblatt has a tendency on occasion to lay things on with a trowel — still flogging a routine about an adjudicator with an unfortunate accent that wasn’t that funny back in ’96 — both actors are superb at capturing the comedy and tragedy that marks, often simultaneously, so much of childhood.

Best of all, they prove that though the dream may be gone, the music and the magic linger on. And that’s a lesson every dreamer needs.

The Toronto Sun Review

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: http://www.robertckelly.co.uk/productions/mums/index.html 

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