The Piano Lesson: A Musical About Piano Prodigys

Review: Samuel L. Jackson stars in a not-always-in-tune Broadway revival of ‘The Piano Lesson’ that offers an intriguing twist

When actor Samuel L. Jackson took over the part of the piano teacher in “The Piano Lesson,” he didn’t actually teach the piano. The film is a musical about pianists who, after decades of waiting, begin to perform their beloved pieces again, in live performances — and in the form of a movie. “The Piano Lesson” is a charming if somewhat underwhelming musical that, after its initial run, has gone on to become a cult-favorite, thanks in no small measure to the acting talents of its two leads, John Lithgow and Jackson. Here’s the story. The piano is played by a piano prodigy who’s been playing since he was 3 years old. He lives with his parents, and his father dies, leaving him $10,000. He wants to buy a new piano and use it to play in public, a move his school prohibits, in the interest of maintaining the school’s reputation. When a piano prodigy gets together with his friend and fellow musician, a student and classmate of his, to pick up a piano in the “piano lesson” they’re taking, they decide to perform it in public and make lots of money doing exactly that. They also decide to use the name they came up with: “The Piano Lesson.”

Why go to the trouble of performing a piece you didn’t have in front of an audience? Well, you have to have the talent, the technique, the technique, the technique, the technique, the technique — but you also have to have a sense of style or, as Lithgow, as we see him in the film, puts it, “a sound.”

The film is a musical about pianists who, after decades of waiting, begin to perform their beloved pieces again, in live performances — and in the form of a film. A big deal is made of Lithgow’s method, which is to have the piano prodigy (John Lithgow) perform the music for his class without knowing what the music actually

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