Stepping out of the performance of THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE currently premiering at the Royal George Theatre, I overheard a woman remark, as she wiped tears away, “Talk about theater!” The standing ovation minutes before, was testament to the fact that the audience agreed with her. I certainly did. This one-woman show starring internationally acclaimed storyteller and pianist, Mona Golabek, in a limited engagement, so get your tickets immediately. It is a rare opportunity to see such an amazing, remarkable performance, which was well executed, moving and compelling. The Chicago premiere follows successful productions in Los Angeles and Boston.
The production is adapted and directed by Hershey Felder and based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane by Golabek and Lee Cohen. Mona Golabek’s performance was remarkable. The way in which the two characters, the piano and Golabek interacted to move the story forward was mesmerizing. Golabek began her story, telling about growing up in Los Angeles and having a mother who played the piano. I grew up in Los Angeles and my mother played the piano, but then her story moved in a different direction, Set in1938 and London during the Blitzkrieg, THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE features Mona Golabek as her mother, noted pianist and author Lisa Jura.
My companion, and I enjoyed this production thoroughly and thought it was one of the most amazing productions we had ever seen. I was so glad I followed my own instincts and decided to attend this performance even after my friend pointed out that she had seen Hershey Felder so many times and she was almost tired of stories about the Holocaust and the kinder transport. Large frames of different sizes and shapes lined the back wall and into the frames films were projected and effectively transported the audience through history. When the kinder transport experience was described, I thought back to a recent walking tour I was part of in London. It concluded at Liverpool Station where a I viewed a monument depicting the children of the Kinder Transport. (The tour)
With her background, it is no wonder that the production is wonderful. American concert pianist 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. In addition, Golabek and Lee Cohen are award-winning authors of The Children of Willesden Lane, the book upon which THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is based. It is a riveting tale of hope that is a powerful testament to how music helps us survive through our darkest times. I felt I had a rare opportunity to see a performance well executed, moving and inspiring. To read and interview with Mona Golabek (Click Here)
The artistic team for THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE is led by Director Hershey Felder with Associate Direction by Trevor Hay. Scenic Design is by David Buess and Trevor Hay , Sound Design is by Erik Carstensen, Lighting Design is by Chris Rynne, Projection Design is by Greg Sowizdrzal and Andrew Wilder, and Scenic Construction is by Christian Thorsen and David Buess. Erik Carstensen serves as Production Manager and the Production Stage Manager is Brett Taylor.
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 THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE unless otherwise specified