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Feb. 23, 2015

'The Pianist of Willesden Lane' is coming to the Allen Theatre

Mona Golabek performs during the play "The Pianist of Willesden Lane"

The Hershey Felder play, “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” will be performed at the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square from Feb. 27 through March 22.

Starring in the play is Mona Golabek, who plays the role of her mother during her troublesome adolescence in Nazi-occupied Austria. Golabek learned to play the piano from her mother, Lisa Jura, who was taught by her mother.

Though Golabek’s acting skills are on display throughout the performance, she’s not an actress by trade. Golabek is a show pianist who has received one Grammy nomination for her work.

The play begins with Golabek introducing herself as a 14-year-old Jura, on a sunny 1938 Friday morning in Vienna, Austria preparing for a piano lesson. After a German soldier with a rifle greets her at her instructor’s front door, it becomes apparent that this lesson won’t go as planned because her instructor has been forbidden to teach a Jewish student.

The farewell she bid to her instructor was the first of many. Her father, who was once a tailor, turned to gambling to keep the family afloat and earned enough winnings to buy one seat on the Kindertransport.

The Kindertransport, a children’s train, was supported by British charities and moved thousands of children in war-torn Europe to safety in England as the tensions began to grow prior to World War II.

When she arrives to England, she is sent to live with her father’s cousin. Ironically, the family has to leave London and doesn’t have enough room for Lisa in their new home, so she is forced to live in a group home uniquely for children of the Kindertransport.

The play received positive reviews from the New York Times and earned five stars from Ticketmaster’s fan reviews. The L.A. Times speaks highly of Golabek’s acting, calling Golabek’s ability to recall her mother’s survival “enthralling,” and praises her skills as a pianist.

They also praised her musical selections. According to the New York Times, the classical favorites are representative of what a young woman of Lisa’s age and background would have learned on the piano.
The reviews also note the story has both dark passages and romantic turns.

‘The Pianist of Willesden Lane’ made its New York City premiere after critically acclaimed shows in Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. The Chicago Tribune states that the production remained dignified down to the last solo.

Artistic Director for Cleveland Playhouse Laura Kepley is ecstatic about the performance.

“Legacy is a central theme of each Cleveland Playhouse performance,” Kepley said. “Through this performance and the book which it is based, Mona is carrying forth legacy by sharing her mother’s triumphant story with audiences all across the country. It is an honor to bring this important event to Northeast Ohio.”

Ticket prices are available at discounted rates for Cleveland State University students. For more information, visit playhousesquare.org.