The Canadian hit show Two Pianos, Four Hands, begins its final home engagement with previews Sept. 15 at the Vancouver Playhouse before making its American premiere at the Off-Broadway Promenade Theatre, Oct. 30.
"I've never done anything like this before in my life," says Ben Sprecher about committing his Promenade Theatre to a show a good 10 months in advance. "David Mirvish invited me up to see it in Toronto, and I was blown away." He will produce the American premiere with Mirvish and William P. Miller.
Creators and performers of 2,4, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt premiered the piece with much success at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre in March of 1996 and since then have toured Canada with it. The Playhouse opens its 35th season (press opening Sept. 18) with this production, where it will be fine-tuned before its New York debut.
Beginning with Bach's Concerto in D Minor, the accomplished actors and musicians regress to the days of their first piano lessons, when they played pieces like "In My Little Birch Canoe." Dykstra and Greenblatt, or Ted and Richard, as the audience comes to know them, take turns switching in and out of character to play piano teachers, music festival adjudicators, examiners, parents and other characters from their pasts. Ted and Richard grow up through their playing and their passion for music grows too as they tackle composers ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Elton John.
Dykstra graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in 1984 and went on to play leading roles at regional theatres across Canada, including several seasons at both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals. He played Cousin Kevin in the Toronto production of The Who's Tommy and received a Dora Award (the Canadian equivalent to the Tony's) for his performance as Cale Blackwell in Fire. He shares a second Dora with Greenblatt and Tarragon for 2,4. As a composer, he is currently at work on two new musicals; Dorian, based on the Oscar Wilde novella, and Club Lafayette, based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. His song "Never Doubt I Love" can be heard sung by his wife Melanie Doane on her album Shakespearean Fish. Greenblatt returned home to Canada in 1975 after studying at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Since then he has directed, acted and written for theatres across Canada as well as worked in film and television. He toured Canada with his solo show Soft Pedalling for two years and at Tarragon Theatre, he co-created and performed in The Theory of Relatives and directed True West, Public Lies, Gravity Calling, By A Thread and Paradise Express. Along with his award for 2,4, he has won three other Dora's for acting and directing.
Gloria Muzio directs 2,4 with Andy McKim as associate director. Muzio recently directed Judd Hirsch in Death of a Salesman in Toronto and at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Her Broadway credits include revivals of Fifteen Minute Hamlet/The Real Inspector Hound, Candida and The Play's the Thing. Other New York credits include Other People's Money, Below the Belt and Grace and Glorie. McKim serves as associate artistic director at Tarragon and has directed productions across Canada.
Steve Lucas, who has worked with Robert LePage and Tarragon, designs the show with lighting by Tony Award-winner Tharon Musser.
For tickets ($28-$39.50) to the Vancouver engagement, which runs through Oct. 11, call the Playhouse box office at (604) 873-331 or Ticketmaster at (604) 280-3311. Ticket information for the engagement at the Promenade will be released shortly.