2 Pianos 4 Hands, King's Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Katzenjammer with King's Theatre and Perth Theatre
Richard Greenblatt (writer and director), Steve Lucas (designer) Ted Dykstra (writer)
Steven Worbey, Kevin Farrell
Running time

2 Pianos, 4 Hands is a clever, comedy, musical-drama, written in 1995 by two young Canadian pianists, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt,  immediately receiving rave reviews and top awards for playwriting and for outstanding production. Since the premiere in Toronto, the show has been performed 1,000 times and played to two million theatregoers worldwide.

Now, thanks to Producer, John Stalker, a new production performed by Katzenjammer and directed by Richard Greenblatt, has come to Scotland.

The heart of the story will ring a chord with anyone who has ever learnt to play the piano or musical instrument as a child. Especially if you hated practicing scales and learning notation - remember the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour"?

On the stage are two grand pianos.  After some amusing clowning with piano stools, we are introduced to the two characters, Ted (Kevin Farrell) and Richard, (Steven Worbey),  who in the early scenes are young boys aged around 7 or 8.  As one boy is given his piano lesson, the other actor quickly shifts roles between child, teacher and parent.  It is quite uncanny how Kevin and Steven adopt the child's frustrations as they practice, practice, practice, matched by the mannerism of the often bored instructor. 

In a series of fast moving scenes, we observe piano lessons with eccentric teachers (suffering either headaches or bad back), and arguments with pushy or cynical parents. But it’s the  music which carries the story along with a rich medley of familiar classical pieces, Mozart’s Sonata Facile (not as easy as it sounds!), Beethoven, Bach and the dramatic Peer Gynt suite by Grieg.  There’s an occasional shift in mood and tempo with some virtuoso playing of pop, jazz and blues tunes to vary their repertoire.

The boys take part in under-11 concerts and under-16 festivals and then it’s time to audition for entry to a Music Conservatoire. From the fun of playing duets as school friends, to ambitious teenagers, Ted and Richard are now rivals competing against each other to see who may succeed in the professional world of classical music. Who will be the best concert pianist in the world?

Through comic sketches with an amazing cast of characters and superb piano playing, the double act Katzenhammer prove their unique acting and musical talent.  Behind the humour, this a truthful and emotional story (based on the writers’ own childhood experiences), which creates a moving, inspiring and extremely entertaining show for all ages.

King's Theatre 28 October to 6 November

Perth Theatre 9 - 20 November