John Bayless returns to his beloved New York for the World Premier
of his new show “One Hand One Heart” at Landmark On Main Street in Port
Washington. John delivered a powerful, dynamic and thought-provoking
performance. This one man show chronicles John’s memories of his formative
years in Texas through today as a stroke survivor.
In Part I - we learn of his evolution from young prodigy to
international music sensation. The audience meets John in what he referred to
as Part II - the stroke survivor who fought his way back to take the stage
Saturday night playing his beloved music with one hand.
On Saturday evening John Bayless and his long-time collaborator
Stewart Schulman brought to fruition a show that was a life-time in the making.
Stewart and John’s first successful collaboration took place over 30 years ago.
Stewart is a natural choice as a co-writer; he knows the emotional nuances of
stage performance as a producer, director and independent filmmaker. “One Hand
One Heart” is a nostalgic trip down memory lane discussing the life and times
of one of today’s most influential pianists.
As the curtain rose we were transported to 1980; Bayless and his
audience relived his Carnegie Hall debut. As the video ended and the spotlight
illuminated the stage, John delivered a heartfelt and emotional reaction as he
shared memories of that fateful night in 2008 when he suffered a stroke and
life as he knew it changed. This was an agonizing time; since his birth, music
has shaped John’s life. John, the fighter, gradually regained his ability to
speak and play his music. John’s ability to effectively engage each member of
the audience was incredible! This is what we go to the theater for! Thus began
an unforgettable biographical conversation set to the music of John’s life.
John’s life, like his music, is dynamic. This show provides a
unique glimpse into the life of a young prodigy fulfilling his destiny. John’s
monologues paint vivid memories of his early life in rural Texas. He fondly
remembers his parents, siblings and his first church. We learned John’s mother
was his first piano teacher and at the tender age of 4 he discovered his gift
to play music by ear.
We are introduced to the memorable church pianist chewing her gum and
encouraging John to play music his way.
As John’s musical prowess develops he found himself crisscrossing
the Great State of Texas sharing his musical abilities with the faithful of all
denominations and religions. John’s extraordinary hard work and musical talent
earned him entry into the prestigious Aspen School of Music at 15 years of age.
While he excelled musically, his transition from childhood to
adulthood left him questioning his sexuality. John grew up in a time and place
when society wasn’t ready to discuss the questions he had. His music provided
comfort and consolation during this time of isolation and loneliness.
At 17 years of age John headed to Julliard to continue his
studies; while attending master classes John’s talents in improvisation and
composition impressed Leonard Bernstein and a lifelong friendship ensued.
Throughout the years John has written and composed music for television shows,
orchestras and sporting events. His music continues to touch countless lives.
Throughout the evening John pondered the answers to some of his
life’s deepest questions. John asks “Why me?” when he discussed the loss of his
husband Bruce Franchini who he referred to as his angel. He also discussed his
journey from Christianity to Judaism as well as the challenges he faces as a
stroke survivor. His monologues were honest,
courageous and there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater.
Throughout the evening a series of monologues led Maestro Bayless
back to his beloved piano performing such favorites as Fascinating Rhythms, Amazing Grace, Gabriel’s Oboe, Moon River-Rachmaninoff,
just to name a few. The evening also provided John the opportunity to perform
several original works including Bach
Meets the Beatles, and Winter
Tableau where he was joined by dancer Meredith Fages whose dance
routine was choreographed by Heidi Latsky. He also welcomed special guest
singer Mia Pinero to the stage who sang while he accompanied her on piano.
John shared the importance of his role as Artistic Director for
the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition after suffering a stroke.
He also described his role as a Yamaha Artist and played a rousing rendition of
Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue.
This performance allowed him to showcase the incredible technology he has
helped Yamaha develop which essentially allowed him to perform with both hands.
This amazing technology must be seen to be believed!
Fans and friends were thrilled to join John for his triumphant
return to the stage. Anyone who has ever wished for an intimate and honest
conversation with one of the great musicians of the world should add this show
to their itinerary. It is my hope that this stage sensation will build momentum
and theater goers, music lovers and anyone looking for an inspirational story
will be able to experience this show in person. John’s greatest gift remains
his ability to bring joy to an audience. Throughout the evening John reminds us
to embrace the future and make the most of each day.
Additionally, John and his team are preparing for the release of
his highly anticipated film documentary “Left Alone”. This unique theatrical
experience will inspire everyone to fulfill their destiny whatever it may be.