After seeing THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE, currently playing at the Royal George Theatre (see Review), I was so moved that I wanted to know more about the woman who created and performs in this “one woman” show. Mona Golabek has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center and the Royal Festival Hall alongside major orchestras worldwide. A Grammy nominee, she has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Avery Fisher Prize, and has been the subject of several PBS television documentaries. Golabek is the creator and voice of The Romantic Hours, a syndicated radio program, which combines classical music with readings of poetry, letters, and stories, and can be heard on 80 stations and XM Satellite Radio. Golabek and her family are founders of the non-profit Hold On To Your Music, which spreads the message of the power of the arts, especially music, to embolden the human spirit. THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is adapted and directed by Broadway artist Hershey Felder and based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Golabek and Lee Cohen.
My interview with Mona Golabek follows:
BK: In what way did living in Los Angeles influence your career?
MG: Los Angeles gave me my start in that I grew up there as a child prodigy at the piano and rose through the ranks of competitions and orchestral appearances in the formative years. Of course, it is such a center for a broad spectrum of arts and one can't help being influenced on many levels. However, I must confess that my heart really belongs to Old World Europe, and even other time periods and I thrive in cities like Chicago. I spent the day in downtown Chicago including an enthralling set of hours at Macy's. How beautiful. The 7th floor restaurant with its Viennese chandeliers gave me the perfect images for the opening of my show!
BK: The fund the you and your family started, "Hold on to Your Music" sounds very interesting. What does it do? How does it work?
MG: Our mission is to spread the story of my mother, Lisa Jura, and its inspiring message of the power of the arts to embolden the human spirit during challenging times. To date, nearly 200,000 students across America have read the book and we work with civic leaders and teachers to gift the books and provide a live performance. Our website, (www.HoldonToYourMusic.org) provides educational resources that can be downloaded for free and accessed by students and educators. (Note: See some wonderful family pictures on the site. BK)
BK: What inspired you to write the book, "The Children of Willesden Lane"?
MG: My mother, Lisa Jura. She was the most breathtaking mother. I knew in my heart, that if I could write her story and get it published, i would have the privilege of inspiring so many people. That has been my greatest joy - to see how this story has entered the hearts of people from all walks of life!
BK:. How did you meet Hershey Felder?
MG: I first knew of Hershey Felder from his highly successful artistic reputation. Then, Steve Robinson, v.p. of WFMT Radio here in Chicago, brought me to see Beethoven As I knew Him and I was stunned. I decided to seek Mr. Felder's advice about my dream to bring my mother's story to the stage. He graciously invited me to meet with him at the Geffen Playhouse and share the story. He took me under his wing and guided me to fulfill my dream.
BK: You are the creator and voice of "The Romantic Hours", a syndicated radio program that combines classical music with readings of poetry, letters, and stories. Do you this this experience prepared you for your performance in "The Pianist of Willesden Lane", which also seems to have similar elements?
MG: Well, both projects have one thing in common - music and story telling. My mother always said 'Each piece of music tells a story" and both the radio broadcasts and the theatrical show have this thread. However, the radio voice is very intimate and quite different from my inhabiting various characters onstage and projecting in a large theater.
BK: Is there anything further that you would like to share with Chicago Splash Magazine readers?
MG: Come see the show! It is an honor for me to share this story in one of the great cities of the world.
The performance schedule for THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is now through Sunday, May 25th. Performance times are: Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 2 p.m & 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $44 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $49 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are now on sale at The Royal George Theatre and may be purchased by calling 312.988.9000. Box office hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.
Photos: Courtesy of Royal George Theatre unless otherwise specified.