Good day to those of you who are reading this column for the first time – those of you who may have just come to Tokyo for school or work.  It is spring time when everybody is excited and feeling like traveling.  I hear that many students these days decide to go abroad for their March graduation trip.  I myself wished to travel abroad to inspire my Rakugo with some fresh ideas, but as I grow older I often find myself, or my body, not necessarily responding to my wills.  However, there is an opportunity to taste the atmosphere of New York while you are in Tokyo.  Just think about purchasing an airplane ticket to somewhere abroad and you will realize that JPY 7800 is quite inexpensive. 

After attending 2 Pianos 4 Hands at Le Theatre Ginza I felt like I had just taken a day trip to Broadway.  How happy I was to have been able to see the production that ran for 6 months Off-Broadway with the original cast.  On leaving the theatre, I deeply regretted not having honoured the production with a standing ovation, knowing as a performer myself that that kind of response is the strongest way an audience can truly show their appreciation for great performers.

This play is worth an Academy Award, a Nobel Prize, a Monde Selection…no, since it is a stage production we should honour it with a “2004 Shinosuke Tony Award.”

It has a very simple stage set – just two Grand Pianos.  The playing and acting of the two performances is absolute excellence.  I felt a touch of jealousy to know that God can bless people as talented geniuses in not only one area, but two.  One night while speaking at a bar the performers learned of each other having shared the same experiences piano study (at first unwillingly) throughout their childhood.

They took these mutual stories and developed a show which premiered in Canada in 1996, which was followed by over 700 performances throughout the world including the runs in New York and London.  The show received great reviews everywhere it went.

The two performers are superb.

More than the fact that they are both excellent actors who have mastered the many characters, you can see their childhood experiences played out on stage and you can listen to their extravagant piano technique which is top class.  Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin…not only did their 4 hands teach us to appreciate how wonderful classical music is, they took their audience into the world of Jazz and Pops.

More than anything, being a Rakugo performer, I was envious of their sophisticated and classy sense of humour.  It has been long since I last thought JPY7800 was this reasonable for anything.

Just to remind you, I have nothing to do with this production – no one has asked me for this favourable opinion.  This is a show that I would really recommend if you do have the time and money…no, even if you have to borrow money, or if you have to take a day off from work, or even if you have become ill you really must see it.

I’m a little angry at myself for not being able to properly express my enthusiasm any more succinctly.  Now that I reread my column, it feels a little one-note.  I guess what I want to say is that the show was wonderful beyond words.  I can write anything, but it will never express what they do on stage.

I just wish and pray that everyone will be able to get a ticket.

Everyone must have experienced a period during their childhood in which they were completely absorbed by some activity – whether baseball, soccer, games, manga comics, music, films…  This play, which premiered 8 years ago in Toronto, Canada, is the story of two men who once wanted to be professional pianists. 

“Why can’t I go out and play with friends?” a boy says while grudgingly sitting at a piano at the beginning of his lesson days.  The same boy later on is completely absorbed by music as he begins to win regional contests.  The first half of the show includes many humourous scenes.

Being the writers and directors of the play, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt play the two pianos and each situation through a series of sketches.

The latter half of the play contains more heartfelt scenes that explore the difficult reality of serious musical study.  The teenagers hit the wall of talent and learn how difficult it is to realize their dreams of becoming professionals.  So while the play begins as a straight comedy, it evolves into something more real and sad - this play is the epitome of life’s reality.  

The basic storyline is very simple to follow, sometimes it may even seem too easy, but with the addition of the two pianos the play is infused with depth and a sense of poetry. 

In one scene, the two children play a duet romping about on the piano.  In another scene, the boy gives up classical music and decides to audition for a jazz music school.  In this scene, when he plays the jazz composition, you understand that the student has a shallow sense of jazz by the way he interprets the audition piece.  In other words, the show stars a masterful four hands that play a diversity of styles, genres and levels of capability. 

In the final scene, the two boys who are both now over 40, listen in awe to a CD of a Horowitz recording.  They sit at their pianos, and say to each other: “We’re not bad piano players at all.” 

Bach D-Minor Concerto for Piano Forte:  As they play you will sense the warmth they now feel towards life and their deep affection for classical music.  The ideas of this mature play resonate long after the curtain closes…