Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Theatre) 2 Pianos 4 Hands

(photo by lucetg)
Round of applause for 2 Pianos 4 Hands
Dykstra-Greenblatt classic is still delightful and appealing nearly 20 years later
Sarah Deshaies

Who knew piano lessons could impart such a universal message? 

As a former, rather weak music student, I never thought that I would look back on those hours of practicing and agonizing conservatory exams with fond memories. Last weekend, I found myself waxing nostalgic about those years after a performance of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, a simple show about the challenges that come with having a dream, whether it’s to play an instrument or a sport or have a hobby.

I’m a newbie to the play, which was first performed nearly 20 years ago in Toronto. Since then, the show has been a certifiable Canadian theatre hit, touring round the world to 2 million people in more than 200 cities, including Montreal in ‘97 and ‘99.

It’s clear why: 2 Pianos is hard to mess up and hard to hate. It’s got zippy writing, slapstick comedy and an entertaining premise. A series of musical vignettes illustrate the highs and lows of embracing a skill, and the life lessons that come along the way. It’s both quirky and elegant. 

The grand challenge, it seems, is casting performers up to the task of taking on the roles of the original creators, Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra. (Greenblatt, who was born and raised in Montreal, is an excellent hand at directing this production.)

The partners wrote about two dozen myriad roles for two performers, with the main heroes as the eponymous Ted and Richard, who we follow through childhood and adolescence. 

“Ted and Richard” need to be able to sing and play piano proficiently, have excellent comedic timing and act, to boot. They need to be the young student, the nagging parent, the sleepy teacher, the nervous high school student. 

Here, the multitalented Reza Jacobs and Bryce Kulak are incredible as Ted and Richard.

They perform a myriad of composers, from Bach, Chopin and Billy Joel with aplomb. The comedic moments are sharp, and the dramatic ones are dark and difficult without being too treacly. 

The design is simple, leaving expressive lighting and two grand pianos to fill the stage and set the mood while Jacobs and Kulak flit about them, having fun and making music.

April 29 - May 25
Running Time: 155 minutes including intermission

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