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."
Apparently so. On Oct. 30, 1997 -- after a week of previews -- Sprecher, Mirvish and William P. Miller will give 2 Pianos, 4 Hands its North American premiere there. Created and performed by a couple of Canadians -- Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt (specifically for themselves)-- the unusual theatre piece is described as a musical entertainment about a lifelong obsession with 88 keys.
"It's kinda like Love Letters with pianos," Sprecher offers by way of an explanation. "I'll tell you what happens: On the stage are two grand pianos, and behind them is a beautiful red velour drape. Each of the men comes out from different sides in complete black tie and tails. They sit down. They proceed to play absolutely brilliant four-handed piano. Then, at one point in the concert, there is a lighting change -- and one guy becomes a 6 year-old and the other guy becomes his piano teacher. Throughout the course of the play, they change roles, and we learn about these two guys as they grow up.
"Dysktra and Greenblatt are basically musical theatre performers who happen to be brilliant concert pianists. This is, like, their life. At the end of the pl ay, we see these two 35-year-old guys sitting around a piano, hanging out, listening to Vladimir Horowitz play a brilliant piano concerto -- then, one guys says to the other guy, 'Jeez, how does he do that?' At that moment, you realize what this is really about is two guys who didn't make it as concert pianists, but, in the process of getting there they fell in love with the music."
The two-act play is a crazy quilt of memories that all budding and emerging pianists harbor: Eccentric teachers, piano exams, Kiwanis competitions, parental negotiations and the love/hate of practicing. It premiered at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre in March 1996 to a generally enthusiastic critical reception -- and has been touring Canada ever since. Dykstra graduated from the National Theatre School in 1984 and went on to play title roles in Amadeus and Hamlet at Theatre Calgary. Greenblatt appeared in The Great Hunger and The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail at the Globe. The show is designed by Steve Lucas, who has worked with Robert LePage and Tarragon Theatre Center. Andy McKim serves as dramaturg.
2 Pianos, 4 Hands, developed at Tarragon, will play at Saskatchewan's Globe Theatre March 13-March 26, with an opening set for March 14. For tickets to that engagement call (306) 525-6400.
-- By Harry Haun and David Lefkowitz