The Pianist of Willesden Lane

Adapted & Directed by Hershey Felderroyal george theatre

Staring Mona Golabek

At the Royal George Theatre, Chicago

Elegant blend of storytelling and music is an emotional triumph!

Concert pianist and radio show host Mona Golabek co-wrote the book “The Children of Willesden Lane,” about her concert pianist mother’s journey from 1938 Vienna to England on the Kindertransport (the train that saved thousands of Jewish children). Miss Golabek is an accomplished pianist having learned from her mother who herself was inspired by her mother in Austria.

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She teamed up with Hershey Felder who adapted and direct Mona Golabek’s one woman show, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, that utilizes Felder’s combination of storytelling with piano music. In this case, the story told by Golabek is the true story of her mother’s flight from Austria to England and eventually to the USA. We see the  effects of the antisemitic policies from the Nazis on the Jewish  residents of Vienna. Fourteen year old Lisa Jura, a youthful keyboard virtuoso, is selected by her family to leave Vienna to England. Miss Golabek calmly and most effectively tells her mother’s story while thrilling us with her piano skills as she plays selections from Bach to Beethoven to Debussy to Chopin.

We witness the power of music to give one a life’s purpose as well as to stimulate and calm listeners even during wartime trauma. To Lisa Jura (1924-1997), her desire and her dream to give a piano concert was a motivator that gave her the drive to not only survive but excel in her life. Mona Golabek deftly exudes the drive to succeed that was instilled in her by her determined mother.

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Lisa’s life in England during the Blitz is a tribute to her strong personality. We see Mona channel her mother as we are taken back those day through narrative and heart wrenching music. Both the power of Golabek’s presentation and the actual story of survival becomes a potent ingredient that deeply effects us. I enjoy well presented stories of survival, especially one’s that depict the power of the human spirit to persist.

Mona Golabek’s 90 minute one act solo performance is a treasure of storytelling with music that is a most enthralling. Mona’s sincerity and truthfulness quickly give her credibility. He piano skills are quite impressive. The motif of the show is Lisa’s yearning to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto that was played with zest and gusto by Golabek in a tribute to her mother.

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.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 22, 2013

For more info checkout The Pianist of Willesden Lane page at

At the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 312-988-9000

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