Eighty-Eight Entertainment announced Wednesday the Chicago premiere of "The Pianist of Willesden," starring internationally-acclaimed storyteller and pianist, Mona Golabek, is now extended through May 25 at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 North Halsted St. in Chicago.
The production is adapted and directed by Hershey Felder and based on the book "The Children of Willesden Lane" by Golabek and Lee Cohen. The Chicago premiere follows successful productions in Los Angeles and Boston.
I caught a performance last week, and was mesmerized by this 90-minute, no intermission true story. I've already secured tickets to take my parents and sister to share this stage experience for Mother's Day weekend.
Set in Vienna in 1938 and in London during the Blitzkrieg, "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is a one-woman-show detailing the true story of Golabek's mother, noted pianist and author Lisa Jura.
A young Jewish pianist, Lisa dreams of a concert debut at the storied Musikverein Concert Hall before she is sent on The Kindertransport to London (trains carrying select children away from their parents to far away safety) to protect her from the Nazi regime. Folded in with the story segments, Golabek performs some of the world's most beloved piano music in this poignant true story of wartime Europe.
American concert pianist 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 subject of several PBS television documentaries. Golabek is also 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 nonprofit Hold On To Your Music, which spreads the message of the power of the arts, especially music, to embolden the human spirit.
She does a remarkable turn in this production, seamlessly shifting from character to character as she narrates a fantastic story of survival and achieving dreams.
The artistic team for "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is led by Felder as director, with associate direction by Trevor Hay. This duo creates a history-filled, emotional journey the audience shares, drawn to hang on every word and moment. The scenic design by David Buess and Hay, coupled with the sound design by Erik Carstensen and lighting by Chris Rynne, set the tone and atmosphere, with help from the projection design by Greg Sowizdrzal and Andrew Wilder, and scenic construction is by Christian Thorsen and David Buess.
The performance schedule is 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $44 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $49 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at (312) 988-9000 or theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.