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2 Pianos 4 Hands Brings Two Stand Out Entertainers to the Stackner Cabaret

By Frances White

 

Have you ever watched a professional concert pianist up close? Watched as their hands danced upon the keys with such dexterity and grace that it was impossible to comprehend how these quick yet languid movements created such beautiful music? From Bach to Beethoven, to Chopin to Chopsticks there is something fascinating about two hands working together with one goal. 2 Piano 4 Hands which opens the 2019/20 Season in the Stackner Cabaret gives us a glimpse into the challenging world of professional classical musicians in a funny yet touching story filled with entertaining gusto from two standout performers. You do not need to know what a diminished seventh is to enjoy the music humor that is rampant throughout the show; you will connect as long as you have a little “Heart and Soul.”

Much like the two characters in 2 Pianos 4 Hands, artists Ben Moss and Joe Kinosian started piano lessons at a young age. Moss remembers his older sister playing and he asked to take lessons starting in Kindergarten. He bounced around teachers for a while, tried jazz, improv, and rock piano trying to find a good fit.

Ben Moss as a boy at the piano
Ben Moss

It was not until middle school that he landed on classical music and a teacher with the structure and experience to push him to his full potential. Although he admits he hated practicing, “I never really practiced, I lied to her every week, but it did make me a good sight-reader.” However his high school teacher told him as he was graduating that if he had practiced he could been playing at Carnegie Hall. “It made me wonder if it was a missed opportunity. If I had done the absolute most, I could have been a contender. I still think of that when preparing new music, that practicing is the most helpful thing I can do.”

Now a seasoned performer, having been on tour in Spring Awakening as well as host of New York credits, Moss is most excited about tying his love of piano with performing eight shows a week on the Stackner stage. “It’s combination of all the things I can do and like to do. That happens so rarely for someone who is a pianist and a performer.” Moss will inhabit several different characters in the play from student, to teachers and even parents all the while playing some of the most challenging music of his career. “I’m excited to learn all the new music and the challenge it presents. When I think about the piece I connect with the emotional journey of wanting something and feeling the pressure to do something that is so difficult.”

And it will be difficult, the play features famous works performed in ways you have never seen, including the Bach D Minor Concerto, Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, a little Jerry Lewis, Chopin and more. Something Joe Kinosian, who also music directs is looking forward to. “I love the chance to do fun and funny shows that feature a wide array of characters. However, I am particularly looking forward to the poignancy during the final moments of the show. It is a beautiful summation of the show’s message, especially since my main role of Ted is as close to overtly biographical as anything I’ve ever done.”

Kinosian is no stranger to playing multiple characters having written and performed Murder for Two which appeared in Milwaukee Rep’s 2017/18 Season. 

Joe Kinosian in Murder For TwoJoe Kinosian in Murder For Two. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

A Wauwatosa native and Milwaukee High School of the Arts graduate, Kinosian credits his high school orchestra teacher Jack Watson for cultivating his love of piano, “He welcomed me into the orchestra for our high school shows and was never anything less than kind and respectful toward all the teenage musicians in his care.”

As both men travel through their careers there is one thing they can both know for sure, piano will always be a part of it. Moss agrees, “If you had told me in high school I would be making my living playing the piano, I wouldn’t have believed you.” 

Joe Kinosian and Ben MossJoe Kinosian and Ben Moss

Catch Joe Kinosian and Ben Moss tickling the ivories and your funny bone in this delightfully entertaining night of theater in the Stackner Cabaret September 6 – November 3.

BONUS:

What are Joe Kinosian and Ben Moss’ favorite pieces to show off to a crowd?

Joe Kinosian: Zez Confrey’s novelty ragtime piece “Dizzy Fingers” from 1923. “It’s a great piece to play, just as zippy and delightful as the composer’s name, and I’ve been playing it off and on since my days of taking piano lessons. I shudder to think how much my family has had to listen to that song over the years...”

 
"Dizzy Fingers"
 

Ben Moss: Liebestraum No. 3. “It’s technically impressive yet pretty. I’m much better with romantic and emotional music.”

 
Liebestraum No. 3