2 Pianos, 4 Hands -- And a House Full of Piano Teachers, May 5

News   2 Pianos, 4 Hands -- And a House Full of Piano Teachers, May 5
Firemen, politicians, judges -- these folks are honored and celebrated all the time, but what about piano teachers?

Firemen, politicians, judges -- these folks are honored and celebrated all the time, but what about piano teachers?

Well, the Off-Broadway hit 2 Pianos, 4 Hands both lauds and lampoons piano teachers, but on May 5, the instructors get their reward. Anyone who can prove he's a legit piano teacher will get a free ticket (subject to availability) to 2 Pianos -- and can bring along the student of his choice. Not coincidentally, May 5 is National Teacher Day.

How to qualify? Just fax a letter from a school or a student to (212) 246-5461. Include a reachable phone number and the name of the student you'd take to the show.

2 Pianos, 4 Hands, which has been making music at Off-Broadway's Promenade Theatre since Oct. 21, 1997, ended its engagement there, Mar. 22, and moved to the Variety Arts, Mar. 24.

The show was originally supposed to close on that date after 173 total performances and go on tour. Instead, understudies Jed Rees and Andrew Lippa continue in the New York production, while creators Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt began a 45-week national tour at Washington DC's Kennedy Center (Apr. 7) for a four-week engagement. It will then move on to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Honolulu, Toronto and other cities. The show may even reappear in New York around holiday time this year. Also, June will see a second production of the show in Birmingham, England, which will transfer to the West End this fall.

Creators and performers of 2,4 Dykstra and Greenblatt premiered the piece with much success at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre, March 1996, and since then have toured Canada with it. The Vancouver Playhouse opened its 35th season (Sept. 18, 1997) with this production, where it was fine-tuned before the 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, Billy Joel and Elton John.

Dykstra, 36, 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 Tonys) 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 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 Pedaling 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 ($40-$45) to Two Pianos, Four Hands at the Variety Arts Theatre, call (212) 239-6200.

-- By Harry Haun and David Lefkowitz

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