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  Play Details

The Pianist of Willesden Lane

Royal George Theatre
1641 N. Halsted Chicago

Set in Vienna in 1938 and London during the Blitzkrieg, The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the true story of noted pianist and author Mona Golabek's mother, Lisa Jura. As a young Jewish pianist, Lisa dreams of a concert debut at the storied Musikverein concert hall. When Lisa is swept up in the Kindertransport to London in an attempt to protect her from the Nazi regime, everything about her life is upended -- except her love of music. Golabek performs some of the world's most beloved piano music in this poignant tribute to her mother's experience in wartime Europe. Adapted and directed by local favorite Hershey Felder, The Pianist of Willesden Lane is a riveting tale of hope that is a powerful testament to how music can help us survive through the darkest of times.

Thru - Sep 1, 2013

Wednesdays: 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sundays: 3:00pm



Price: $44-$49

Show Type: Drama

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins; one intermission

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  The Pianist of Willesden Lane Reviews

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...In many ways, the simple act of Golabek sitting down at the Steinway piano that occupies the stage of the Royal George Theatre is a perfect statement of the play's main themes and enough to make your mouth fall open with a certain wonder at the way of the world. In watching this middle-aged woman's hands move in service of the creation of beautiful music, the sacrifices of her grandparents are made manifest. The Nazis succeeded neither in wiping out this family nor its accomplished artistry, here passed down to the next generation. The Nazis are gone. The piano playing goes on. It's all laid out before you in the most immediate, theatrical way."
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Chris Jones


Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...'The Pianist of Willesden Lane," Mona Golabek's exquisitely rendered musical memoir - now in a limited engagement at the Royal George Theatre - begins, fittingly enough, with an exhilarating description of her mother, Lisa Jura, as she boards a trolley in Vienna and heads off to the highlight of her week - a piano lesson. She is 14 years old."
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Hedy Weiss


Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...Golabek is a marvelous pianist--bright, strong, agile, and emotive. But as an actress, she's, well, a marvelous pianist. Physically and vocally unsophisticated, she lacks the chops to handle a character who ages from 13 to about 20 in the course of the story. What's more, the story itself isn't that remarkable in the lore of the Holocaust. All Golabek has to say is "Jewish," "Vienna," and "1938," and we've pretty much got the gist. Her obvious urge to valorize her mother doesn't help, either. Ironically, Golabek seems to have a much more intriguing story in the romance and marriage of her parents--but she only gets to that toward the end and leaves a lot of questions unanswered."
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Tony Adler


ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...The Pianist of Willesden Lane is a story we need to hear as it begs the question concerning how many other children that didn't survive who had much to contribute to humanity? We are grateful that Lisa Jura did survive and we see how her music became her beacon of hope. First Lisa and now Mona do indeed channel their departed relative through the power of music. When Golabek made her beautiful music, I recalled memories of long-gone relatives and friends. The power of music does catapult memories. Mona Golabek's story stimulates us. That is the power of the live stage, especially when it combines rich narrative and music. Miss Golabek tour de force performance is a treasure not to be missed."
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Tom Williams


Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Based on the book, “The Children of Willesden Lane” by Mona Golabeck and Lee Cohen, this 90 minutes is sheer artistry, by the clever adaptation by Felder and the stunning performance by Golabeck. After all, this is her mother’s story and she tells it with great heart and when she sits at The Steinway, I for one can see the emotions that cross her mind as she tells this story of hope, dreams and survival. She opens the play by introducing us to the portrait of the times- that we begin in Vienna in 1938. Her mother, was one of three daughters, but the only one that had the talent of her mother at the piano. All her life, that was her dream- to be a concert pianist. Her mother’s name was Lisa Jura. Her dream was to play in concert at Musikvere. When Lisa goes to her final lesson, filled with happiness, she is greeted at the door of her teacher by a German soldier, and finds that her teacher can no longer teach her, because she is Jewish."
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Alan Bresloff


Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...This once in a lifetime show is important for many reasons. Not only is the story one that should be told over and over again. All must hear how lives were tossed, like seeds, in all directions; families torn apart and lives lost. It is a story of love of music, and piano that helped a young girl cope in such a difficult time. And finally, as the years move on, a real connection from mother to daughter to audience will be lost. Mona Golabek's beautiful love letter to her mother is moving, and rich with moments that will resonate with all audience members for years to come."

Lazlo Collins


Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"..."The Pianist of Willesden Lane" came to Chicago with little fanfare but it has found an audience (the show has been extended to May 25). Part of its success resides in the humanity of its story and part in the perfect pitch performance by Mona Golabek. It makes for a glowing, heartening evening in the theater."
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Dan Zeff


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