George Street Playhouse presents The Pianist, a play with music, based on the memoir “The Pianist” by Wladyslaw Szpilman and directed and adapted for the stage by Emily Mann (Broadway: A Streetcar Named Desire, Having Our Say, Anna and the Tropics). The Pianist begins previews on September 26, with an official opening night set for September 29. The play runs through October 22.
Presented in association with producers Michael Wolk, Kumiko Yoshii and Robin de Levita, The Pianist is a new stage adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman's harrowing account of the annihilation of Jewish life in Warsaw during World War II and his remarkable survival through the transcendent power of music. Szpilman was the most acclaimed young musician of his time until his promising career was interrupted by the onset of World War II. He played the last live music heard over Polish radio airwaves before Nazi artillery hit. Though he escaped deportation, Szpilman was forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto. The play follows Szpilman's heroic and inspirational journey of survival with the unlikely help of a sympathetic German officer.
Szpilman’s memoir inspired the 2002 Oscar-winning film starring Adrien Brody.
The Pianist stars Ukrainian-Russian Jewish actor Daniel Donskoy (A Small Light; The Crown) as Wladyslaw Szpilman in his American stage debut and features Claire Beckman (The Torch-Bearers) as Mother, Austin Pendleton (Between Riverside and Crazy; The Minutes; The Little Foxes) as Father, Paul Spera (On The Basis of Sex) as Henryk, Arielle Goldman (The How and the Why) as Regina, Georgia Warner (Broadway: All My Sons) as Halina/Woman, Charlotte Ewing (Law and Order: SVU) as Magda/Boy, Tina Benko (Broadway: The Rose Tattoo) as Janina and others, Robert David Grant (Succession) as Majorek and others, and Jordan Lage (Broadway: Glengarry Glenross) as Jaworski.
Directed and adapted by Mann, the play features an original score by Iris Hond (headliner at the Royal Concert Hall in Amsterdam and New Church in The Hague) and choreography and assistant direction by Terry Berliner (The Lion King resident director; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife). The Pianist has scenic design by Tony Award Winner Beowulf Boritt (New York, New York; Come From Away), lighting design by Japhy Weideman (Dear Evan Hansen; Shucked), costume design by Tony Award Winner Linda Cho (A Gentlemen’s Guide...; POTUS), co-sound design by Mark Bennett (The Coast of Utopia; Vanya and Sonia...) & Charles Coes (Sing Street; Golden Child), and video and projection design by S. Katy Tucker (Letters From Max; Elektra directed by Francesca Zambello).
The Pianist began its development at The McCarter Theatre Center, where Emily Mann served as Artistic Director and Resident Playwright from 1990–2020, and which was honored by the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre during her tenure. The play was first presented in 2017 as a reading. It was decided to augment the innate power of the piece with an original score, and in 2018, Iris Hond was retained as composer. That same year, The Pianist received a music and sound design workshop, where the score was integrated with beginnings of the complex, layered sound effects that Emily calls “a key character in the drama.” In 2020, Tony-winner Santino Fontana portrayed Wladyslaw Szpilman in a Zoom reading, which demonstrated the impact of the material even in a virtual setting. In June 2022, The Pianist had an intensive workshop at Manhattan’s Open Jar Studios to polish the script, create a distinctive “movement language” for the piece, and enhance the integration of the score and sound design with cutting edge immersive surround-sound technology.
"The Pianist is the most important story I’ve been entrusted with as a theater maker,” said Emily Mann. “Not only is it a stunning story about the tenacity of the human spirit and the power of art, but it is also deeply personal. Since I was a child, I’ve been haunted by my mother’s family murdered in occupied Poland during The Holocaust. When I went to Warsaw to research The Pianist, I visited the Jewish Cemetery and placed a stone on my great grandmother’s grave. At that moment, I realized I, too, was a Warsaw Jew, and I had to tell this story. Seeing fascism on the rise again both in the United States and around the world gives even greater urgency to this play. We must bring to powerful life the call to action ‘never again’."
“We’re thrilled to welcome Emily Mann in her debut at George Street Playhouse,” said Artistic Director David Saint. “This powerful world premiere production will surely be a highlight of our 50th anniversary season."
Tickets for The Pianist at George Street Playhouse, priced for $25-$70, are available at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org.