The Shmooze

Theodore Bikel, Tevye Extraordinaire Celebrated at Symphony Space

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

The stars illuminating Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater at the December 2 “Miracle of Miracles” Hanukkah Gala were “Sunshine Boys” (almost 90) Theodore Bikel, (91 year young) Fyvush Finkel and (102 year sharp-as-a-tac stunner) Bel Kaufman. Honoree Bikel — who has portrayed Tevye more than 2500 times worldwide — witnessed the arrival of Hitler in Vienna and escaped to Palestine. It was noted, “When the Jews of Russia needed advocates, Bikel was the prominent vociferous voice performing their songs of defiance.”

Bikel, with irrepressible Emmy Award winner Finkel, performed a scene from “Fiddler on the Roof,” the Sheldon Harnick-Jerry Bock blockbuster musical which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Emcees Joanna Borts (who appears in the award-winning Broadway production “Once”) and Rachel Yucht joined in singing an ethereal Ladino song “Ochos Kandelikos” (Eight Candles).

Looking like a fashion plate in a pale silk lilac jacket over maroon silk pants with a Hermes scarf around her shoulders, ad-libbing Kaufman introduced herself to the sold out audience as the “granddaughter of Sholem Aleichem,” creator of the character Tevye. When the thunderous applause subsided, she joshed, “You greeted me before I said a single word…. Bikel is our personal, private Tevye. But, there was a real Tevye, a small, slight man. He had no daughters.” There was a murmur in the audience. Author of the blockbuster “Up The Down Staircase,” which was made into an award-winning film, Kaufman concluded, “I am truly happy to be standing here in front of you. I love you Theo.”

Karen Leon
Fyvush Finkel, Bel Kaufman and Theo Bikel

“Never in my life did I have a love declaration from a woman who is 102 year old,” said a beaming Bikel. “I love music. I love Yiddish. It keeps me young.” Yiddish-lover and Academy Award nominee (for “The Defiant Ones” starring Tony Curtis and “Sidney Poitier”) Bikel can boast an acting portfolio that includes a fake Hungarian count in the classic film “My Fair Lady,” a Russian submarine captain in “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” and an adoptive father of a Klingon in the TV series “ Star Trek: Next Generation.” The audience was on a high.

Produced by the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, the event was conceived by Folksbiene director Zalmen Mlotek. The evening offered a lineup of talent that included Elmore James — who, it was noted, was inspired by Paul Robeson — in a beautifully articulated Yiddish singing “Vi Azoy Trink der Kayzer Tey” (Here’s how the Tsar drinks tea); Greek-Israeli singer and bouzouki virtuoso Avram Pangas offered Sephardic Hanukkah medley; multiple-threat cantor Magda Fishman — voice, trumpet, drum and more —bringing a bit of Woodstock to the event, getting the audience to join in singing a wall-vibrating “This Little Light of Mine — Let It Shine!”

Following the curtain calls, a crush of photographers, well-wishers, fans jammed backstage as the trio—elated and exhausted—bravely posed for photo-ops and smiled, smiled, smiled.

Isaiah Sheffer, founder of Symphony Space, who died last year, must have been kvelling — wherever he may be producing another extravaganza.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: theo bickel, tevye, symphony space, fiddler on the roof

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.