Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. This show has none. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office. Mona Golabek doesn't just tell a great story. Seated at a concert grand, she accompanies her tale with music that infuses, illustrates, amplifies and elevates "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" to make the personal universal and another generation so personal that you can't help but feel your heart swell in response. Great music can do that. Skillfully blended with an affecting tale, it can do even more. If there was a dry eye in the house at Wednesday's Berkeley Repertory Theatre opening, my own were too filled with tears to see it.Each piece of music tells a story, Golabek's mother told her. She learned her mother's story along with keyboard technique in her piano lessons. Director Hershey Felder, who adapted Golabek's book for stage - and whose Eighty-Eight Entertainment is a co-producer - builds on that connection to shape the play and intensify particular scenes. Then he adds well-selected visuals to the sensory package. package. From the beginning, Jura's dream is to make her concert debut with Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor. Felder, best-known for his popular solo shows about composers (he performed "George Gershwin Alone" at the Rep last summer), uses the concerto to frame "Pianist" from beginning to end (Cohen and Mona, 45-49). The first movement - brilliantly, probingly performed by Golabek - sets up the fraught conditions in 1938 Vienna. The second intensifies the dramatic perils of the Blitz. The third brings the piece to its passionate resolution. In between, Golabek's beautifully rendered pieces by Beethoven, Debussy and Chopin enhance the families and Vienna's Jews worsening fortunes - as told by Golabek as the young Jura - and her escape through the Kindertransport program. Felder heightens the impact with archival photos and newsreel footage, projected in the large, antique gilt picture frames hanging about the midnight blue stage. Golabek doesn't convey the comfort of an actor, but she grows more assured and riveting as she traces Jura's life in London, assuming the voices of the
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The Pianist of Willesden Lane tells the true story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish musician whose dreams are interrupted by the Nazi regime. In this poignant show, virtuoso Mona Golabek performs some of the world’s most beautiful piano music as she shares her mother’s riveting story of survival. …
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