Article by Sherehe Hollins
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” is a remarkably performed, soul stirring account of war, hope and survival. Told through classical piano and the family narrative of critically acclaimed pianist, Mona Golabek. The riveting play, which made its San Diego premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theatre on September 6th after sold out shows in New York, Boston, Chicago, Berkeley and Los Angeles, provides a heart wrenching account of Golabek’s mother, Lisa Jura, who at the tender age of 14 was sent abroad, aboard the Kinder Express in hopes of finding freedom, and in pursuit of her dream to become a classical pianist.
Set in Europe during World War II, Jura’s parents made the seemingly impossible decision in 1938 to select Lisa, amongst her two other siblings, to board the Kinder Express, which was the government relocation program that sent nearly 10,000 Jewish children by train to Great Britian, in an attempt to escape the devastating ordinances imposed upon Jewish families by the Nazi regime. After the regime passed a law, which made the instruction of Jewish children in Vienna, Austria illegal, the weekly piano lessons for a brilliantly gifted child with a promising future were suddenly halted.
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane”, though filled with immense tragedy, devastating loss and uncertainty, recounts the courageous journey of an adolescent determined to hold on to her music, her dream and her humanity. The one act monologue, interwoven with Golabek’s touching renditions of renowned classical compositions by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, is accompanied by a digital backdrop of family photographs and actual footage of the Nazi regime’s invasion throughout Europe.
The play, which first premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in April 2012, was adapted and directed by Hershey Felder and is based on the book, “The Children of Willesden Lane”, co-authored by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen. This intimate, historical tale is eloquently compelling, and provides the audience with an opportunity to experience the passion of a girl determined to honor her dreams and the desire of a daughter to honor her mother’s legacy by retelling her story. “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” runs until Sunday, September 28th at the Lyceum in downtown Horton Plaza. For more information visit www.sdrep.org