THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE
SILICON VALLEY -- The perfect blending of Music and drama, a historical event and a superb actress/concert pianist under a masterful direction, makes "THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE" one of the best productions presented on the stage of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, last year's winner of the REGIONAL THEATRE TONY AWARD for excellence in its productions.
THE PIANIST of WILLESDEN LANE, the play with music, is based on the book "The Children of Willesden Lane Beyond the Kindertrnsport: a Memoir to Music, Love and Survival by MONA GOLABEK and LEE COHEN, adapted and directed by HERSHEY FELDER. The book tells the story of the Jewish children, between 14 months and 17 years old, living in Nazi-occupied Austria, that in l938, for their safety, were sent alone by their parents, in the Kindertransport, a train, to London, England, to a hostel where groups of nuns, rabbis, Quakers, pastors of all denomination and Red Cross workers had prepared the Jewish Refugee Agency at the Bloomsbury House to board them, to find them sponsors to board them in their homes and even work, until they could be reunited with their families again. The humanity of these English people saved thousands of Jewish children from dying with their parents, in the Concentration Camps.
On the musical part, the historical play has masterful piano interpretations of BACH, BEETHOVEN, DEBUSSY and RACHMANINOFF, by concert pianist MONA GOLABEK who plays the role of her mother Lisa Jura, in the one-woman performance.
At the beginning of the play, in her role as Lisa we see GOLABEK, very excited, as she crosses Vienna, in the street car, heading for Professor Isseles's studio for her weekly piano lesson. Malka, her mother was a pianist and Lisa's dream was to become a concert pianist and play GRIEG's Piano Concerto in a-minor at the MUSIKVERAIN, Vienna Symphony Hall.
The family, which included an older sister than Lisa and a younger one, lived in Franzensbruckerstrasse, a Jewish neighborhood in Vienna, Austria. They were upper middle class. They owned a piano and they could afford private piano lessons for their daughter. Her father, Abraham, was a well known tailor and he owned his own shop. Malka a pianist who recognizing her daughter talend prepared her for success in life by telling her that all she needed was a single goal (and be passionate about it), perseverance, and determination.
But all future plans changed for the family when in October, of l948, Jewish business started being labeled and even destroyed. The turning point for the Jewish people coming on Kristallnacht, a month later, when on November 9th Jewish houses were looted and destroyed , Synagogues burned by Nasi soldiers, and Lisa's father's glass on his shop smashed, and he was beaten and humiliated. Determining the Austria was no longer safe for her, her family decided to send Lisa 14, alone in the train to London.
More than 10,000 children coming from various regions streamed across Europe. From Berlin, the children travelled to Holland and from there they were shipped to English homes.Upon arrival, Lisa was sent to live at the Jewish Refugee Agency at the Bloomsberry House and then to Brighton-by-the Sea, a Summer Resort, to a rich family's private mansion, to work as a maid.
For years, GOLABEK remembered the moving story of her mother living in Englad during the war and the bombing of London, when teaching her to play piano. She remember that her mother, Lisa, interrupted the music, and told her bits and pieces of it. She was now a concert pianist performing with major orchestras around the world, but convinced that her mother's story could be an inspiration for many "refugees" she co-wrote her book with COHEN. The book was a success. In 2012, FELDER made her a star, when he created the "stage book" from the book, with GOLABEK playing the role of her mother Lisa perfectly blending the music she loved with bits and pieces of the life she experienced.
And in a play where the words blend into music, and the musical notes into memories that seem to answer our question of : "How can we face the challenges in our life? The answer comes in a paraphrased words of Malka, her mother, telling goodbye to Lisa at the train station: "Hold onto your music, because music is going to be the best friend you ever had. It will be with you every step of the way."
And the story of her "dream" helping a young girl survive the horrors of war is what this play is all about. A combination of love, sacrifice, heroism, destruction and rebuilding. With the wrods, enriching our souls, and the musically soothing the pain in our hearts.
As a solo performer representing Lisa, her mother, GALABEK must absorb her mother's soul on the stage, every night. Bring back many memories (some with the help of images projected in the different frames) and share them with the audience melting them into music. It probably is not easy for her, but she is a great pianist and a wonderful actress. She does it so seamlessly.
On the back of her book she also explains her reason: The tragedy of what we see repeating itself in every refugee crisis is heartbraking. I tell my mother's story because we need to remind ourselves of man's humanity to man."
THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE will continue at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041 until February 16, 2020. For information or to order tickets call (650) 463-1960 or go online to theaterworks.org