Cape Playhouse Rocks and Roars with Classic Duo
Racing up and down the piano keys through comedy and pathos
By Libby Hughes
The 81st season of the Cape Playhouse in Dennis has no geriatric symptoms. The first show, 2 Pianos 4 Hands, is young, fun, and vibrant. It rocks the theatre with musical hilarity and is a roaring--yes--roaring success. Two standing ovations on opening night said it all.
Haile's secret talents
What's different about the show is one of the stars--the Cape Playhouse's artistic director, Evans Haile. Mr. Haile has ripped off his cloak as administrator and shown the audience the naked truth about himself. He is a talented concert pianist, comedian, and charismatic performer. Now that the secret is out, Mr. Haile (on left and below), we want more, more, MORE. Next season, you have to star in another blockbuster and set a precedent!
This is a Canadian creation by two pianists, who became co-playwrights/composers in writing their musical biographies. They are Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. The show has been around since 1994 and performed 5,000 times. The two musicians were comparing notes about their early years of studying piano. An artistic director overheard their comparisons and hired them to put their life experiences on paper. A show called Talking Fingers eventually became 2 Pianos 4 Hands. The two creators have starred in it all across Canada, off Broadway, and far flung places. Many others have played the parts, too.
The plot of two boys pressured into taking piano lessons by their pushy parents strikes a chord in every heartThe plot of two boys pressured into taking piano lessons by their pushy parents strikes a chord in every heart. Who hasn't had that very experience as a child and as a parent? Some kids live out their parents' dream of becoming a celebrated concert pianist. Most don't. Most quit in middle school or high school and wish they hadn't as an adult. The story is woven so well into a classical medley of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, and a host of others, including a few lightweight melodies. To play even one sonata or concerto is hard enough, but to combine multiple acting roles of small boys, European teachers, and parents is a monumental and exhausting task for two pianists/actors.
Gerle is equally great
The boyish co-star, Andrew Gerle, is equally charming and talented as a musician and actor. Gerle and Haile have performed together in concerts, so it was a natural choice for Evans Haile to cast Andrew Gerle in the part of "Richard" and himself as "Ted." The two were in sync as actors and pianists. Gerle was particularly engaging as a small petulant boy and as a gossipy, untalented woman, Mrs. Billingsley.
Despite the humor, there is a certain feeling of pathos beneath the surface. In striving to become a concert pianist, failure lurks in the shadows. A promising career could end up in a piano bar or teaching others. It is sad to see dreams flutter and fall in anyone's life.
The classic simplicity of Richard Chambers ' set design made us believe that the small Cape stage was Carnegie HallDirector Tom Frey deserves enormous credit for the minute bits of stage business, mostly comedic, that keep the performances alive and moving and surprising.
The classic simplicity of Richard Chambers ' set design made us believe that the small Cape stage was Carnegie Hall. Christopher Chambers' lighting design complemented the set by changing the mood from dawn to sunlight to twilight in subtle tones.
You have to see it
The encore was a medley of old favorites and the audience burst into song. Don't miss this unique piece of classical, musical theatre with two accomplished pianists. The show runs from June 18-June 30, Monday through Saturday at 8:00pm. Matinees are Wednesdays at 2:00pm; Saturday 6/23 at 4:00pm; Thursday 6/28 at 2:00pm. Cape Playhouse Rte 6A. Call 508-385-3911.
Above right photo left to right: Evans Haile and Andrew Gerle in "2 Pianos, 4 Hands" at the Cape Playhouse. Photo courtesy of the Cape Playhouse.