There’s a reason the production 2 Pianos 4 Hands – now playing at the Citadel Theatre – is one of Canada’s most commercially-successful plays.
It’s a killer production that strikes a chord with people on all levels.
Show creators and stars, Richard Greenblatt and former St. Albert resident Ted Dykstra, have built a show around a cocktail of madcap energy, meticulous piano playing, empathetic characters and split-second comedic timing.
The natural comedy duo has refined a deceptively-simple idea. Tell the story of two young boys Teddy and Richie and follow them for 15 years as they strive to become the next Glen Gould.
For two hours the show moves briskly from the befuddled kid years competing at Kiwanis festivals to the dreamy adolescent years practicing to become concert pianists to an eventual dose of harsh reality.
From the second Dykstra and Greenblatt appear on stage in tuxes with tails and sit behind their Yamaha grand pianos, it’s a whirlwind ride in the lives of two Canadian kids dreaming of playing Carnegie Hall instead of the NHL.
The duo plays about 20 characters – all with relatively broad brushstrokes. Teddy, for instance, is cocky, a show-off, goofy and always tries to get away with as little practice as possible. Richie, on the other hand, is eager to please, gets very excited and is more serious, to the point of being anal.
Dykstra sets the tone early on with a hysterical characterization of Sister Loyola, one of young Richie’s first music teachers. The muddled Richie just can’t seem to get the notes. Each time the good sister repeats an explanation, her headache rises a notch.
In complete exasperation, she walks out saying, “Sister has live pain in her eye. I’m going upstairs for a cup of tea.”
The stunned, open-mouthed Richie stares after her with the squirming wide-eyed innocence of a lost boy.
In another sequence the duo is playing a duet at a Kiwanis competition. Upon seeing the crowd, Teddy shrivels with terror and forgets the piece while Richie rages at him for losing their competitive edge after they’d practiced for six months.
Not only do Dykstra and Greenblatt play piano prodigies at different stages in their lives, but also a motley crew of eccentric teachers, adjudicators and parents who bully, blackmail and bribe their sons into practicing.
Throughout 2P4H the pianist duo displays impeccable skills. On Thursday’s opening night their piano chops were in great form as they played medleys ranging from Bach and Chopin to Billy Joel and Elton John.
What gives the show its heart, its appealing charm is the production’s ability to work on numerous levels. Anyone who has ever taken a lesson in music, dance or sporting activity will see a snapshot of their childhood practices, performance anxieties and preachy parents who want to get their money’s worth.
It’s a shame the duo is on a farewell tour. Fortunately, it continues playing at the Citadel until Sunday, Nov. 17.
However, on Thursday’s opening night, Dykstra reminded everyone that 2P4H is not gone for good. In a special presentation, St. Albert’s Mayor Nolan Crouse gave Dykstra a key to the city.
During a tongue-in-cheek thank you, Dykstra added, “We certainly hope the show goes on to make us royalties for many years.”
2 Pianos 4 Hands
Runs until Sunday, Nov. 17
Shocter Theatre in Citadel Theatre
9828 – 101 A Ave.