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2 Pianos 4 Hands - Striking all the Right Chords

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?

Well, we know what happened to Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, once piano whiz kids who swept all before them on the Kiwanis circuit. They both fell short in their aims to become concert pianists, went into theatre instead, and ended up writing 2 Pianos, 4 Hands.

That was 15 years ago and 2P4H has gone on to be one of the most successful Canadian plays in history. It’s been seen by more than 2 million people, played 200 cities in 10 countries and, one sincerely hopes, brought a measure of financial security to the Dykstra and Greenblatt families.

Now Dykstra and Greenblatt are back, performing what’s said to be their last encore, at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre. The show remains as fresh and deliciously entertaining as it was the first time I saw it in April of 1996, the performers as relaxed and engaging as ever.

It tells of the travails of young Rich and Teddy, grinding away at scales and Chopsticks before graduating to Bach, Chopin and Liszt. There are tears and triumphs along the way, heated arguments with parents and hours and hours of practice by themselves while all their friends are out playing baseball and hockey.

Lavishly illustrated with classical music, the show takes us through the disaster that was the first Kiwanis concert, the agony that is musical theory, the terror of the Grade 7 piano exam and finally the moment of truth — entrance exams to the Royal College of Music (Ted) and the Faculty of Jazz (Richard).

Both are told in no uncertain terms that they don’t have what it takes to become a great pianist. They both have talent but that’s not all it takes. You need dedication, focus and discipline (which is a tough thing to ask when you are only 17).

The show offers a disturbing glimpse of what life might have been like for the two “failed” pianists — giving piano lessons at a second-rate music school, trotting out “Piano Man” at a cocktail bar filled with inattentive listeners.

Fortunately, Greenblatt and Dykstra took a different route and ended up striking a chord with anyone who has sweated over music lessons under unsympathetic teachers. Music’s loss has been theatre’s gain.

And the delicious irony is that Dykstra and Greenblatt have flung things back in their examiners’ faces. Both are disciplined and focused performers and here they are, entertaining thousands with well-played classic music and earning a good living doing so.

Cool, as the young Ted would say.

Robert Crew
Special to the Star

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