Theatre Review: Two Pianos 4 Hands has one great big heart

As one of Canada’s most commercially successful plays in history, there is a reason that 2 Pianos 4 Hands has endured and endeared audiences for almost 20 years.

A relatively simple concept, 2 Pianos 4 Hands (2P4H) tells the story of Ted and Richard’s quest for concert pianist stardom.  Played by the immensely likeable Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, who also happen to be the creators of the show, 2P4H follows the duo over a fifteen year period as they learn to play and work towards their goal of becoming professional classical soloists, but ultimately get a big dose of reality.

Over the fifteen years, the duo not only portray Ted and Richard from young children to young adults, but also a myriad of other characters that both helped (and hindered) their quest for piano stardom.  Dykstra and Greenblatt relish in these characterizations; broad caricatures for sure, but at times laugh-out-loud funny too.  Dykstra sets the pace very early in act one with his hilarious take on an early music teacher, Sister Loyola.  Obviously semi-autobiographical, 2P4H does take some liberties with time and space as well, but it serves the overall feel of the show.  Much like when they play their much younger selves in the first act, this is how Dykstra and Greenblatt remember their childhood as the adults they are today.

Where act one is filled with funny memories, act two does take on a more serious tone.  In one of the more dramatic scenes, Ted and Richard both face the ultimate rejection.  As a defining moment in their musical careers, the emotional impact is heartfelt.

Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra in the Arts Club Theatre Company presentation of 2 Pianos 4 Hands.
Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra in the Arts Club Theatre Company presentation of 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

What ultimately makes 2P4H so enduring and endearing though is its ability to work on a number of levels that appeal to a wide audience base.  There are those (like myself) that will sit there and nod their heads in appreciation as they remember and appreciate the trials and tribulations the two experience around early childhood music lessons; those that are currently taking piano/music lessons (some experiences are simply timeless); and of course, both music and theatre lovers (they are damn good pianists and decent actors too).

Despite everything it has going for it though, not everything works.  There is some repetition, especially in act one and the simple set of frames yearns to be used more.  But these are small quibbles, for even as they sit down for yet another piano lesson it is always tempered by us knowing that another great piano performance is just around the corner.

It may be two hands and four pianos, but this show also has one great big heart.  Currently in Vancouver as part of its cross-country farewell tour, you’ll not want to miss this final opportunity to find out why it has been around for so long.

4 Out of 5 Stars2 Pianos 4 Hands

Created, performed and directed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt.  An Arts Club Theatre company presentation of a Marquis Entertainment Inc and Talking Fingers Inc production.  On stage at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage through April 14, 2013.  Visit http://www.artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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