‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’ mixes humor/classical music at North Coast Rep
By Diana Saenger
“2 Pianos 4 Hands,” the musical comedy opening Jan. 15 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, has been hailed by critics and audiences alike since its inception in 1996 by Canadians Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. The story of their lives – two musical prodigies with similar upbringings who meet during their showbiz careers – became fodder for the play they wrote and starred in for many years.
Playing Ted and Richard at NCRT are Mark Anders as Ted and Carl Danielsen as Richard, directed by Bruce Sevy, associate artistic director of the Denver Center Theatre Company. Sevy has directed Anders and Danielsen in “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” since 2001 at theaters across the country. Casting the show with actors who are also skilled concert pianists is difficult said Sevy.
“I really felt lucky coming up with Mark and Carl,” he said. “I found Carl through a casting agent in New York and Mark in Seattle. I knew him as an actor and a piano player, but I didn’t know how well he really played. The three of us have an incredible 10-year history together. They are both amazing performers.”
For anyone who’s been to the intimately delicious North Coast Repertory Theatre (located in the Ross Department Store plaza at Lomas Santa Fe, just east of I-5 in Solana Beach) it’s hard to imagine accommodating two baby grand pianos, but that’s required for this show. Sevy said he’s been in all kinds of theaters and made it work.
“We began communicating with the design team by e-mail so I’ve known the logistics of the NCRT stage for some time. The environment for the audience will be like attending a concert,” he said.
Lighting plays a key role in the show, signaling the scene changes. The actors, wearing tuxes throughout, fill the evening with impersonations, playing themselves as children, teachers and parent figures. In between, they dazzle with their piano skills.
“They start out with pieces written for kids — rudimentary and simple — but then they move into playing extraordinary pieces by Chopin, Schubert and Beethoven, as well as contemporary selections. Changing quickly from playing classical works to acting takes an incredible versatility,” Sevy pointed out.
What surprises him after each performance is the reaction from the audience. “They really get what this is about,” he said. “People will tell me or the actors that it brings back memories in a good way. Whether they had to take piano lessons, play soccer or baseball, or whatever, they can identify with the parent and teacher struggles.
“It’s a fun show that connects with the audience, but also offers a message about growing up.”
If you go
What: Musical comedy ‘2 Pianos 4 Hands’
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, some 2 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15-Feb. 6
Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
Tickets: $30-$47 (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org
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