Kinosian & Moss Are A Tour De Force In Milwaukee Rep’s 2 PIANOS 4 HANDS

Big-scale entertainment, full of laughs!  Sensational acting!  Dazzling piano playing!  Talk about the best way to kick off a new theater season, and that’s just what the Milwaukee Repertory Theater did when it opened its popular Stackner Cabaret series in early September with 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

The show, written by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, has played on five continents and in over 150 cities since 1996, before arriving in Brew City.  It’s easy to see why 2 Pianos 4 Hands has been popular across the globe: billed as a comedic musical duet about two childhood pals who dream of making it big as concert pianists, the show is a vehicle for multi-talented performers who can play different characters, use a myriad of accents and, of course, play the piano.  On opening night, a jam-packed crowd witnessed Joe Kinosian and Ben Moss deliver a pair of unforgettable, tour de force performances, then rewarded them for rising to the challenge presented by the material with a standing ovation. 

As they follow their dreams of keyboard wizardry, Kinosian as Ted and Moss as Richard assume dozens of roles, all played brilliantly.  We see interactions between Catholic nun and student, student versus student, student versus parent, and visits to auditions and shows, and we hear the painful words many would-be pianists dread, such as “You don’t have the commitment, the desire,” and “You’ll never be a classic pianist.”  Yes, 2 Pianos 4 Hands offers its audience loads of fun interspersed with a lively, diverse musical score, but it also strikes a hurtful chord of sweat and sorrow that many of us who have attempted to master a musical instrument, along with those of us lucky enough to have mastered one, already know all too well. 

There was a time or two during the show when the dialogue became a bit heavy, causing the audience to grow restless.  You wanted to shout, “Enough talking!  Play!”  After all, who wouldn’t want to revel in the show’s musical score, which includes Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, John Lennon (Imagine), Vince Guaraldi (Linus and Lucy), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (“My Funny Valentine”) to mention just a few.  

At show’s end Ted and Richard ask themselves whether they’re good enough to continue to pursue their dreams.  It is here that 2 Pianos 4 Hands asks a pivotal question: Do you necessarily have to be the greatest pianist in the world in order to continue playing and making your dream come true?  By hearing Ted and Richard perform a memorable, show-ending duet by pouring out their hearts and souls, they answer that question for us.  And we hope they will both continue hitting those ivories for a long, long time.

The scenic design for the Rep’s production of 2 Pianos 4 Hands is done by Michelle Lilly, a Chicago-based designer.

2 Pianos 4 Hands runs through Nov. 3.  For details, or (414) 224-9490.  Feature Photo: Joe Kinosian (left) and Ben Moss (right) by Michael Brosilow