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"2 Pianos 4 Hands" is one of the most successful Canadian theatre productions of all time and it has toured to over 100 cities worldwide over the past few years and received rave reviews. I went to see the show at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh in October 2010 having been given free tickets to go and see it. My daughter was really excited about seeing the show as she had heard of the pianists who also play musical comedy under the name Katzenjammer thanks to good old YouTube and I thought the play sounded promising.
"2 Pianos 4 Hands" is the story of two boys, Ted and Richard, and their experiences growing up as aspiring piano players. The stage is simply set up with two grand pianos facing each other and just Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra playing various characters with a couple of picture frames which provide some effects which set the tone for each scene.
The play opens with Ted and Richard as young boys who are taking piano lessons, the action switches between each boy with the other man playing the teacher. Moving on in time the boys start to become more serious about their playing with competitions, music festivals, exams and auditions to attend. They have to juggle piano playing with school, parents and a growing interest in girls but do they have what it takes to be the best?
The dialogue was witty and fast paced but became repetitive as the boys play out very similar scenarios over and over again simply becoming more advanced in their playing each time. The men did a really good job of playing themselves as little boys and teenagers with the mannerisms and body language of little boys and teenagers being extremely amusing. Ted Dykstra in particular has a brilliant stage presence and in parts his mimicry reminded me very much of the British impressionist Rory Bremner.
I am someone who took years of music lessons growing up so I could identify with a lot of the material in the show. There is a fair bit of technical music talk about associated board exams and musical language in general which bored the non musician in our party but even musicians don't really want to hear endless scales and arpeggios played in the context of music exams.
There were two beautiful grand pianos on the stage and I don't feel they were used to the best effect. There were snippets of lots of different types of music played reflecting the types of music a pianist would play as they developed from Mozart's Sonata Facile to Beethoven to Bach to jazz numbers but because the pieces were so interspersed with dialogue then we never got to hear more than a couple of minutes of music at a time. The pianos had a lovely warm and earthy tone and I would have loved to have heard them played to their full potential instead of hearing lots of jokey little tunes.
We all love a happy ending in a play but the ending of "2 Pianos 4 Hands" seriously confused me as it seemed to just stop mid scene with no real conclusion to the story. The theme of the play seemed to be that being good but not brilliant is fine, ok that is a realistic message but hardly an inspirational one.
I was a bit disappointed with "2 Hands 4 Pianos" while it was a reasonably entertaining way to spend a couple of hours I think it could have been much better. Canada's biggest musical theatre extravaganza was very average and not a bit hit with this Scottish theatre goer.
"2 Pianos 4 Hands" is an international touring production, for venues and prices see http://www.2pianos4hands.com/index.html