2 Pianos 4 Hands by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt
Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre
Cylla von Tiedemann
Virtuoso performances by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt do not skip a melodic beat in this 2P4H.
I had the chance to see 2P4H for the first time in the early 2000s at the Royal Alexandra and admired it so much then.
Now, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt reprise their roles and return to the Alex once again, and I for one am honoured to be in their presence.
The production appears stronger than ever and struck an emotional nerve within me possible for the fact we’ve all aged, we’ve all experienced more of life’s hardships, and we’ve all lost something or someone that has altered the course of our lives forever.
‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’ is the story of the young Dykstra and Greenblatt and their wish to become classical concert pianists. We follow their lives through their practices, their recitals, their rehearsals, their exams, and their auditions. Along the journey we share with Ted and Richard, we also share in their joy and sorrow in experiencing the pain of rejection and the sense of loss that so often comes with the music industry in knowing that one may not have what it takes to make it as a classical pianist. But is that enough?
Two magnificent Yamaha Grand Pianos sit centre stage facing each other. Stage right behind the piano is a suspended gigantic vertical picture frame. At stage left hangs another gigantic horizontal picture frame. Throughout the production, these frames contain visual projections that help set the scene. Thank you to John Lott for the extraordinarily awesome sound design as I could hear everything clearly.
Both gentlemen are elegantly dressed in tuxedos – Dykstra wears a dark black tuxedo, a white dress shirt underneath, black dress shoes and a black bow tie. From my seat, Greenblatt’s is dark grey with a white shirt, white bow tie and dark dress shoes.
In between these sometimes hilarious and poignant moments of memory, we are also treated to virtuoso performances of classical music at the piano which remains one of the strong highlights of the production.
Another strong element of the production is the grounded performances of Ted and Richard. The passage of time has not diminished their work as gifted artists. The bit of shtick at the top of the show when they enter, bow to acknowledge the audience, and take their places at the pianos becomes comic gold for a few moments through their gazes and stares at each other, and in their silent conversation. To tell you what happens here would spoil the setup as you must see it yourself to witness solid comic timing live.
We are also introduced to some of the eccentrically, odd piano teachers both men had when they were boys. Early on, Dykstra assumes the role of a tired, haggard nun who was Richard’s first piano teacher when he was a boy. It worked beautifully. Dykstra hilariously assumed the voice and gait of this nun, and I could just imagine him in drag wearing a nun’s habit with the crucifix around the waist and a 12-inch wooden ruler in hand ready to rap Richard’s knuckles if need be.
In contrast, Greenblatt becomes this wildly eccentric French piano teacher to the young teenager, Ted. Pay attention to the way Richard says ‘piece’. I can’t replicate the sound in print, but his vocal context and intonation once again are a comic joy.
There was one moment where the double entendre of a joke sent the audience into raucous laughter. There was another racial reference at one point where the audience uncomfortably laughed because the ‘woke brigade’ today might (could?) take offence, but come on, folks. The context and setup for the joke are not malicious in intent at all. If anything, this joke becomes a reminder that through this reference we must not say something like this at all today. No offence is intended or meant whatsoever.
Final Comments: What makes ‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’ still resonate today is it doesn’t skip a melodic beat at all. Dykstra and Greenblatt remain in tip-top and fine performance mode. The production most assuredly put a smile on my face.
Terrific all around. Welcome back, Ted and Richard. 2P4H is stronger than ever.
Running time: approximately two hours and five minutes with one intermission.
As of the writing of this article, Covid protocols remain in effect.
‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’ runs to July 17 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West, Toronto. For tickets visit www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333.
David Mirvish presents The Marquis Entertainment Inc & Talking Fingers Incorporated's production of 2 PIANOS 4 HANDS
Created and Performed by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt and featuring alternate performers Richard Todd Adams and Max Roll
Production Designer: Steve Lucas
Sound Designer: John Lott
Stage Manager: Andrea Bragg
Produced by Robert Richardson and Colin Rivers
Directed by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra