|Meticulous application of artistic intelligence is often necessary to tease out the simplicity from a sophisticated concept to deliver exuberant theatre.
The purest vision is frequently the most elusive to execute. Boldness, as much as the administration of intense technique, is invariably essential. Adding and subtracting judiciously, avoiding embellishment so that all the elements contribute in a muscular way in the service of the core vision.
2 Pianos 4 Hands is a splendid example of how elegance and radiant energy combine with unobtrusive technique to create rewarding entertainment. The show originated in Canada when two concert pianists, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, began comparing anecdotes from their years of tuition and the many parallel experiences encountered over years of demanding practice regimes.
In 1994 they presented a 25-minute sketch - with piano accompaniment - of interludes illuminating the tensions, triumphs and tortures that invariably occur when youngsters find themselves caught between discipline and spontaneous rebellion.
So promising was the enterprise they expanded it into the 90-minute form now on offer in Black Swan Theatre's production at the Opera House Playhouse.
Dykstra and Greenblatt are played (represented might be a better word) by Edward Simpson and Jonathan Gavin who, with great good humour, expertise and musical fluency, illuminate the trials and tribulations of talented youngsters as they progress into adolescence and mature into well-credentialled performers.
This journey entails hectoring parents, tantrums, music teachers and mentors of
|every hue, competitions, examinations, searching evaluations of theory and technique and the constant flux of confidence at odds with doubt.
It's an engaging experience, propelled by artful characterisations and lovely melodies from the classic repertoire - sheared across now and then by the discord of rebellion, self-doubt, crushing defeat and the temptations inherent in pop, rock and jazz.
Simpson and Gavin reveal a sure sense of comic timing, deft phrasing, intonation and pace to match their mastery of such skills at the keyboard.
Just as, say, Once A Catholic and Mum's The Word held enormous appeal for those with the relevant experiences in schooling and childbirth, this production is bound to strike a beguiling chord with anyone who has ever undertaken piano lessons ... not to mention singing, dance or acting.
But its appeal extends well beyond that domain. It's the stuff of life.
In the face of defeat and disillusion, in the dejection of dashed hopes, there's an inspiring sense of desire and of possibility - perfectly illustrated by 75-year-old Vladimir Horowitz in a triumphant rendition of Liszt's Mephisto Waltz at Carnegie Hall.
Artistry so overwhelming and exhilarating you could only say: "I was there!"
Dykstra and Greenblatt's duet eventually subsides into an "I could'a been a contender" commiseration when their dreams founder but the spirit that propels their journey and the warmth of Simpson and Gavin in reliving it make 2 Pianos 4 Hands a night to savour. Recommended.
Runs until May 27.
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