Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Richard Greenblatt. Playwright, Actor, Pianist, Composer, Educator


“A recipient of many nominations for his body of work, he won six Dora Awards and two Chalmers Awards.”

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Richard Greenblatt


Music Online. Under the Radar.

Welcome to our Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

TORONTO. July 24/22 – If you’ve never seen the musical 2 Pianos 4 Hands, you’ve missed a fascinating theatrical experience.  The four hands of this extraordinary duo are attached to co-writers/performers Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra.

Greenblatt was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1953 to secular Jewish parents.  He attended Dawson College and studied piano under the late Professor Dorothy Morton at the McGill Conservatory of Music.  But he’s more than a musician.  He also trained as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England.  His older brother is the composer, musician, actor, and director Lewis Furey who has lived in France since the late 1970s.

After graduating, Greenblatt spent a season working at the Leeds Playhouse.  In 1975, he returned to Canada and while based in Toronto, has steadily been working as an actor-director, writer, musician, and educator since then.  His portfolio to date includes directing more than 100 productions for theatres across Canada.  Most have been original and/or Canadian works including plays by Shirley Cheechoo, Rob Fothergill, Diane Flacks, Michael Healey, Adam Pettle, Jason Sherman, Judith Thompson, and George F. Walker, among others.  He’s directed classical productions which include plays by Brecht, Chekov, Shakespeare, Shaw, and Shepherd.


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His written works include a solo creation called Soft Pedalling in 1981; he co-wrote The Theory of Relatives with Daniel Brooks, Leah Cherniak, Diane Flacks, Leslie Lester, and Allan Merovitz in 1994. That year he and Dykstra created 2 Pianos 4 Hands.  Add a Y2K 2000 production Sibs and in 2006, another solo effort titled Letters from Lehrer.

2 Pianos 4 Hands is enduring.  It opened at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre in April 1996 and that’s where I first saw it.   I had an opportunity before the Covid pandemic shuttered theatres, to see it at the Gananoque (Ontario) Playhouse – it hadn’t lost its lustre.  Since then, the co-creators have performed this production across Canada and in New York City, Washington, DC, London England, and Tokyo Japan.


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They’ve racked up well over 1,000 performances dazzling audiences across the globe. According to the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, there are two kinds of piano duet –“those for two players at one instrument and those in which each of the two pianists has an instrument to themselves.  In American usage, the former is often referred to a “piano four hands” wrote Diane Kuhn and Nicolas Slonimsky in Music since 1900. The one-piano duet has a larger repertory but is regarded as a rather modest, domestic form of music-making compared to “the more glamorous two-piano duet”, says Jane Bellingham in the Oxford Companion to Music.

City Theatre reported, “Most recently, Greenblatt co-directed and starred in Yichud (Seclusion) at Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille/Magnetic North Theatre Festival, appeared in the four parts of The Mill for Theatrefront, and toured to Galway, Ireland with Mackenzie Ro’s production of Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s bedbound.”  Over the years, “Greenblatt was the Resident Director at Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre, Deputy Artistic Director at Canadian Stage, and Artistic Director of The Hour Company.”

Residing in Toronto with his family, Greenblatt has mentored many young actors, and taught acting, directing, and play creation at various Canadian theatre training institutions including Toronto University, the University of Alberta, George Brown College, and the National Theatre School of Canada.  A recipient of many nominations for his body of work, he won six Dora Awards and two Chalmers Awards. He has also published a handbook for script work, Text and Context: The Operative Word in 2021.

Credits: Photo GrandTheatre/YouTube; NAC English Theatre/YouTube

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Reader’s Comments

-Having never seen “2 Pianos 4 Hands”, my spouse and I have missed something special.  This Canadian Jewish artist has a curriculum vitae that is truly amazing.  Thanks, David, for introducing us to another extraordinary talent. – ME, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

-Another notable Canadian Jewish musical success story. Very interesting!  – HMS, Los Angeles, California, USA

-So enjoyable! I am learning a lot and never imagined we have such a musical and theatrical richness in Canada. – SA, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What a terrific article! … David’s research and writing are a weekly highlight. – SK, Thornhill, Ontario, Canada


A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in our category section. Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David Eisenstadt  at cjnonline@protonmail.com  or deisenstadt@tcgpr.com

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David Eisenstadt is the author of Under the Radar, 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians. He is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

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